By now, theater lovers around the world — American or otherwise — have gotten their shot to see Lin-Manuel Miranda's acclaimed Broadway hit, Hamilton. Through Disney+, the musical's original Broadway cast has been seen on television screens worldwide, allowing everyone to witness what made the production such a phenomenon — the likes of which have rarely (if ever) been seen before.
Taped over three nights in 2016, a lot has changed between this recording and its streaming debut. Reflecting on the show, its legacy, and the cultural conversation surrounding Miranda's musical in 2020, Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes On You, the new Disney+ special hosted by Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, gives the cast, director Thomas Kail, and Harvard historian Annette Gordon-Reed a chance to discuss Hamilton and what it means in today's political climate.
It's an interesting discussion with keen insights gleaned. Here are a few noteworthy things we learned.
The Hamilton Cast Visited The Gravestones Of Alexander And Eliza Hamilton, And They Discovered That Eliza's Grave Was Much Smaller
The method through which a performer embodies a character, especially a person who once lived and breathed, is different for each person. It's clear that a lot of research, time, and education went into making this show, but when it comes to Phillipa Soo, it was one moment in particular that helped the actress play the part: visiting the graves of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton. As she notes, the gravestones of this founding father and the woman by his side were notably different in size and structure, and Soo felt that was telling for who they were and how the Hamiltons lived their respective lives.
Daveed Diggs Said Starring In Hamilton Was 'The Most American' He Has Felt In His Life
As it's explored in this Disney+ special, Hamilton is a meaningful show for how it incorporates a cast primarily composed of people of color to tell the story of our country's founding. It provides a hopeful, inspiring new examination through the lens of the founding fathers' original values and how we can incorporate them into new time periods and eras, particularly with a diverse cast of talented people. The film version of Hamilton is interesting in that it's of two different eras — it was filmed in 2016, at the tail-end of the Obama presidency, and it arrives in the midst of another presidential reign. Reflecting back on his time with the show, Daveed Diggs claims that being in this acclaimed Broadway show is "the most American" he has ever felt in his life.
Lin-Manuel Miranda Explains Why Hamilton's Final Scene Is So Quiet
Lin-Manuel Miranda certainly took his time making Hamilton a reality. He reportedly spent two years writing and composing the first two songs in the musicals, and he waited until the last minute to write Alexander Hamilton's final moments, which he credits as the hardest song to write in the piece. As noted in this special, Hamilton was mere days away from the first performance and the actor-writer-composer still hadn't finalized this key part of the musical. The problem was simple-yet-tough: how do you sum up a person's final moments, especially a man as monumental as Hamilton? After spending so much time trying to find the words for this scene, he realized what this moment really needed: silence. Here's how Miranda explained it.
Renee Elise Goldsberry's Son Saw Hamilton Cast As Aunts And Uncles
When you do something like a hit Broadway play, you're bound to become either very close or very distant with your fellow crew members before the final curtain call. Thankfully, the former was the case for Hamilton. Oftentimes, a close-knit group of actors will be like family to one another. That was the case for Hamilton, particularly for Renee Elise Goldberry's son, who saw the whole Hamilton cast as family as the production went on Broadway.
Leslie Odom Jr. Believes Someone Will Write Another Play Someday That Makes Hamilton Look 'Quaint' In Comparison
When it comes to looking back on Hamilton's legacy, we're already at a curious point. Hamilton is, at once, new and dated, a product of its time and a product of today. In some respects, the conversation around Hamilton has evolved. In different respects, there's still a lot of fresh life inside this show. Leslie Odom Jr. knows that this show is a product of its time, but he knows it's a powerful piece of work that'll hopefully influence future generations to make their Tony-winning musical seem "cute" and "quaint" in comparison. But he says there's "protest" inside Lin-Manuel Miranda's acclaimed hit.
Daveed Diggs Had An Altercation With A Police Officer A Week Before Hamilton
As Daveed Diggs also notes in this special, the cast felt they were on a "trajectory" when it came to making the reality seen in Hamilton come to life. The actor claims that the audience who watched. enjoyed and felt patriotic pride while watching Hamilton have a responsibility to make the world more reflective of what is seen on the stage in that show since that version of America still doesn't exist yet. Alas, Diggs admits that the feeling "has been derailed" because he hasn't seen any concrete change in his life. It was around this point that he revealed that a week before he performed the show, he had an altercation with a police officer. Here's what he said.
Leslie Odom Jr. Says We Look At History Through A Small Iris
Later on in the special, when the cast is asked what white people seeking to become better allies learn — or unlearn — about America's history, Leslie Odom Jr. provided one key bit of insight: open up the iris. History is richer and deeper than what we're often told, and we need to learn how to explore the expansiveness of our country's past, as well as the horrors and tragedies that came along with it. Here's what Odom said.
Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes On You is now available exclusively on Disney+.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.