Lin-Manuel Miranda has been doing the most these days — but we mean that in the best way possible. Things have really been taken off for him after the success of his Broadway musical Hamilton, which has been running for five years now accompanied by a number of awards and nominations. He has since acted in the 2018 remake of Mary Poppins alongside actress Emily Blunt, he’s been filming the movie adaptation of his first Broadway hit In The Heights, revived his hip-hop improvisational show Freestyle Love Supreme for an off-broadway run, is directing the new adaption of Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick… Boom, was recently honored by Michelle Obama with the National Portrait Award, and in case you missed it — he’s also in HBO’s His Dark Materials. Seriously, what isn’t he doing right now? In a recent Q&A for last night’s screening for His Dark Materials in NYC, Miranda got real — and even a little emotional — about how he was basically destined to direct Tick, Tick… Boom.
Fans of Phillip Pullman’s fantasy series His Dark Materials along with die-hard Lin-Manuel Miranda fans have been waiting a while for a screen adaptation of the books. Miranda doesn’t appear in the first three episodes of the series but last night’s screening at Warnermedia revealed that we can expect to see him in episode four, playing Texan aeronaut and adventurer Lee Scoresby. The writer and actor revealed that landing the role was in many ways a dream come true considering he actually read the books back when he was in high school.
“I love these books, I love these books, I love these books so much and um it’s not often you get asked to jump into one of your favorite fictional universes,” he said during the Q&A. Miranda had a very similar relationship with Jonathan Larson’s (the writer of the original musical Rent) Tick, Tick… Boom, which he saw off-broadway back in 2001. In fact, his decision to pursue theater all started with Rent, which he saw with his high school girlfriend for his 17th birthday.
“I was a kid who wanted to be a filmmaker all my life. And if anyone of you follows me on Twitter, you have seen the YouTube videos of my childhood to prove it. Lots of VHS cassettes of just me filming myself while in my house. I was the kid who found it easier to have a camcorder on my arm than to engage with people my age,” he tells the audience. “So when I watched Rent and there’s a character who’s always spinning a camera, and at one point, another character goes, ‘You just film us because you’re scared of connecting’… I went [gestures to looking uncomfortable], in the last row of Nederlander Theatre was Jonathan Larson attacking me and my adolescence.”
He goes on to say, “It was the first musical I saw that felt truly contemporary. I loved being in the school plays but they were always written about old white people about some other time. And it was like this takes place in NY — downtown. And so I started writing musicals because that show gave me permission to write musicals.”
Rent is what inspired Miranda to get into theater. He also shared with the audience how he chose to be a theater major instead of a film major because it was significantly cheaper. He then goes on to share how seeing Tick, Tick, Boom after already beginning his theater studies, completely changed his life.
“So I started writing theater really hardcore in college and then as a senior — as a theater major — the fall of 2001, the month after September 11 and I go into the city to see Tick, Tick… Boom off-broadway,” he says. “Tick, Tick… Boom is a musical Jonathan Larson wrote before Rent. He was on the verge of turning 30. His friends were all dying of HIV and Aids. It was 1990 and he was the only one banging his head against his childhood dream while all his friends had moved on to other gigs or had left the city. And it was just like a message in a bottle. I just felt as attacked as I did in the back row of the Nederland Theatre.”
Lin-Manuel saw the play a total of three times off-broadway and believes him directing the film adaptation (which is heading to Netflix) was something he was ultimately meant to do. “I went in the direction I went and then Julie Oh of Imagine Entertainment was like, ‘We have the rights to Tick, Tick… Boom. Are you interested in directing it?’ And I said, I feel like I was preparing all my life to direct it.”