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‘Hamilton’ Star Phillipa Soo Lives Out Her ‘Secret Dream’ of Beatboxing in Broadway Debut

by Stacy Lambe 5:09 AM PDT, June 08, 2016
Photo: Joan Marcus

Phillipa Soo can sing, she can dance, and she can beatbox, as she holds her own opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of Hamilton, the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton.

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As Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton -- one of three Schuyler sisters played by Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica) and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy) -- the 26-year-old actor brings levity and romance to the show as the unsuspecting desire of the founding father, eventually becoming his wife. And the three women together bring a much-needed R&B influence to the production.

While Soo gets a moment to show off her pipes (“Burn”), it’s not all ballads as the Schuyler sisters bring some Destiny’s Child-like fierceness to the stage, with the actress even jumping at the chance to live out her “secret dream” of beatboxing. “When the opportunity presented itself, I was so excited to learn to beatbox,” Soo, who earned her first Tony nomination for the role, tells ET. “I’m definitely not as good as people who consider themselves beatboxers.”

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Not only did she learn to beatbox, Soo also picked up some rap skills backstage at The Public Theater, where the show originated before going to Broadway. There was a moment when Soo, Miranda, and Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson) were all backstage together and they would freestyle to one of the numbers, “The Room Where It Happens.” “Lin and Daveed were amazing and then I would jump in, and sometimes I would totally nail it,” Soo says, “and then sometimes it would totally flop.”

“However, I will say, I can definitely throw down a sick beat once in a while and provide an amazing backup track for somebody who can really, actually freestyle,” the actress says, defending her hip-hop skills.

While the show has received a number of accolades (the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for one), made fans of President Barack Obama, among other politicians and celebrities, and even traveled to the White House for a special performance, Soo says her favorite part of the past year goes back to the beginning of it all. “The creation of the show, when we were developing the show from pages in front of a music stand to putting it up on its feet, those were some very special moments in just discovering the show for the first time,” she says, recalling days of workshopping the production at The Public and getting to know her fellow castmates. “I look back at that time very fondly.”

Now that most of the cast has been performing the show for over a year -- the Off-Broadway run started in February 2015, while Hamilton opened on Broadway in August -- some of its stars are already looking ahead to what’s next. Jonathan Groff officially left the show in April to film a David Fincher series while Miranda is reportedly leaving the production in July to pursue other projects. Diggs has been cast in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series, The Get Down, and squeezed in a few episodes of Law & Order: SVU over the past year.

“I feel like because we’re all coming to this place where the show will be shifting and changing, we’re all kind of thinking about that,” Soo explains, adding that no decisions about her run have been made at the time of the interview.

“You have a little bit of sadness, because you’re like, ‘Oh, this means it’s the end of something,’” Soo says, particularly about Groff, who she was friends with before Hamilton and introduced her to fiancé Steven Pasquale. “But it’s the beginning of something else. That’s kind of just the nature of our business, is that you’re really putting a lot of energy and time and care into something that isn’t necessarily going to last forever.”

The 2016 Tony Awards hosted by James Corden airs live on CBS on Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. ET. 

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