Lin-Manuel Miranda always seems to have this child-like grin on his face. He walked into our interview room last month and told us he was the highlight of his day. The last time I was able to interview him, he saw us in the hallway afterward and said, “Hi, Squad,” so he definitely has a soft spot for our style of interviewing.
Read on to learn more about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s role as Jack in Mary Poppins Returns.
On performing his own works vs. other people’s
Lin-Manuel Miranda, while certainly known for myriad things, is wildly popular currently for his hit musical “Hamilton: An American Musical.” If you’re not familiar with it, at least by name, you’ve likely been hiding under a rock for the last few years. Since he’s been creating his own works since the tender age of 18 when he started working on his first big hit, “In the Heights,” Miranda hasn’t done much in the way of performing other people’s works.
“I started writing “In The Heights” because I very quickly realized at age 18 that no one was gonna write my dream musical,” Miranda said. “I did not have the ballet training to play Bernardo in “West Side Story” or Paul in “A Chorus Line.” And if you’re a Puerto Rican dude, that’s all you get, in the cannon. So “In The Heights” really was the beginning of creating my own opportunities. “Hamilton” is an extension of that.
“And then to have Rob Marshall call you and tell you it’s Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and you’re the only other person we have in mind and we’re gonna build from there, it felt like the fruit of the harvest. The harvest I began when I was 18 years old.”
On film vs. stage work
One of the funniest things I’ve heard Lin-Manuel Miranda talk about in person is the difference between performing on stage and working in film. Having been in the theatre, I can appreciate that aspect of it. We all laughed at his response.
How is it different being in musical theater versus starring in a musical movie production?
“You finish the 8-minute dance number and you wait a year and a half for applause,” Miranda said.
I suspect the wait was worth it.
“But honestly, you’re trying to tell the truth on stage and you’re trying to tell the truth in film. The difference is the energy source. Doing eight shows a week is a yoga. You’re gonna hit the same positions every night but you’re gonna hit ’em differently depending on your energy, the audience, you’re fellow performers. And you have two the next day,” Miranda explained. “The energy source in making a film is, especially a film like this, today you’re dancing with penguins. Tomorrow you’re singing with Meryl Streep. Friday you’re shutting down Buckingham Palace with 800 bikers. And you’re not coming back. We’re not going back to the penguins next week. You don’t get two shows a day with Meryl Streep tomorrow. So the adrenaline source becomes this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment and you have to be completely present. And so it just shifts from the audience to the sheer one-of-a-kindness of it.”
On moments Lin-Manuel Miranda is most proud of
Miranda explained there are moments he is proud of because he just is and then there are moments he’s proud of because of all the practice and mastery that went into making them just so.
“Tommy Kail, who directed ‘Hamilton,’ said that he was most moved when he saw me slide down the banister in ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’ because I’d been doing,” Miranda said. “That’s the one thing I actually know how to do really well. As Tommy Kail put it, ‘You don’t know how to land a joke or sing a note or grow a beard without practice. But man you were born to slide down banisters.’ And then there are moments that represent hours and hours of hard work from the 8-minute, continuous dance sequence in ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’.”
Miranda explained that Rob Marshall ran it as an 8-minute dance sequence. There is about 3 minutes of the song that are getting to that abandoned playground, and that was on location throughout London. And now they’re in a park, and now they’re in the sewer, and now they’re elsewhere.
“And that sequence was run as if it was a Broadway musical number—from jumping on the lamppost to the flaming sticks balancing on my foot, that was all run as one piece with hundreds of cameras around. And I’m very proud of that. I’ve never danced like that in my life,” Miranda said. “None of my shows, you know, there’s incredible dancing with ‘Hamilton.’ Hamilton doesn’t do it. You know what I’m talking about. And so I was very proud of that because it was a lot of hard work to get there.”
On watching Mary Poppins as a child
Lin-Manuel Miranda divulged a fascinating secret to us about watching Mary Poppins as a child—he never watched the whole movie!
“I remember seeing the first two-thirds of Mary Poppins. We had the V.H.S. cassette. And then I remember turning it off during ‘Feed The Birds’,” Miranda said. “‘Feed The Birds’ is the most emotionally devastating melody in the history of cinema, and I was not ready for it as a kid. So I remember crying and turning it off. I didn’t see the end of Mary Poppins ’til I was like in high school because that song was just too sad. It was just too sad for my tender little heart. And so yeah. So I remember the first two-thirds of it on repeat. And then ‘Feed The Birds’ was like, ‘Oh, okay, I’m gonna go play.’ That was my experience growing up with it.”
MARY POPPINS RETURNS arrives in theatres everywhere on December 19th! Grab your tickets now!
Thanks to Walt Disney Studios for bringing me to Los Angeles on an all-expense paid trip. As always, all opinions are my own.
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