The filmed version of the original Broadway hit Hamilton is coming during a timely moment—not just because we’re stuck in our homes during self-isolation amid a pandemic, but because it allows us an opportunity to revisit and reckon with the history of this nation’s founding fathers during a national uprising.
So, as we watch this extremely popular reimagining of American history created and told by people of color, we can’t help but state the obvious: These are men lauded as American heroes who fought for freedom, but many of those same fighters proved themselves hypocrites by owning enslaved Black people.
I sat down via Zoom to have a virtual conversation with show creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson), Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler) and more to discuss this historically important time in our lives, and they certainly had a lot to say about it. The passion jumped out!
“If this history belongs to all of us and this is what you want us to parrot the way it happened, well fine, then we’re going to take it and we’re going to say it and use our own words to tell it!” Odom mused.
“Our problems are not new, but to me, what strikes me as new about the conversation is that the work that everybody has to do, personally,” Goldsberry noted. “What is privilege? Who is responsible? What is complicity?... These are the things that we have to answer and when we look at the forefathers and foremothers of our country, they did not answer some of these questions. They did wonderful and miraculous things, but these problems are inherited.”
“Originally, this was a concept album,” Miranda explained. “I wanted to write a hip hop album, so I was never picturing the guys on the statues that are being torn down right now. I was picturing, ‘What are the voices that are best suited to tell the story’ and I was picturing hip-hop and R&B voices because what Hamilton did is what my favorite hip-hop artists do, which is to write so well that they transcend their circumstances. All of these guys [in the musical] are complicit in the brutal practice of slavery, slavery is the third line of our show...that is just a prerequisite for the story we’re telling.”
Hamilton debuts July 3 on Disney+.