EXCLUSIVE: 'Hamilton' Cast Opens Up About Diversity, Beyonce, and Crashing the Phone Lines
By Meredith B. Kile
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It’s the hottest ticket on Broadway, and with a newly announced U.S. tour in the works, it seems like everyone’s clamoring to see Hamilton.
The story of the “ten-dollar founding father without a father” told through song and rap -- with music, lyrics, and book written by Broadway wunderkind Lin-Manuel Miranda -- is sold out every night, with $70 million in advance sales and fans waiting for hours in front of the Richard Rodgers Theatre every day just for a chance to be “in the room where it happens.”
In fact, when the show announced their second off-Broadway extension at The Public Theater back in the spring of 2015, high demand for tickets crashed the theater’s phone lines.
“We've crashed the Internet before, but to crash the phones is a whole other thing,” Miranda, who plays the titular leading role, told ET at BroadwayCon in New York City last week. “That's when I was like, ‘Oh, this is just going to be a ride. I gotta hang on.’”
Miranda, 36, started writing the musical after reading a biography of Hamilton on a vacation from In The Heights, the 2008 Broadway hit for which he wrote the music and lyrics and won a Tony for Best Original Score. He previewed one of the show’s first songs, which would go on to become the opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,” for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word in May 2009.
In telling the story of America’s inception through one of its lesser-known founding fathers, Miranda -- a 2015 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient -- also made a point to cast a diverse group of actors in the historical roles of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Aaron Burr and more, with the only white cast member (Looking’s Jonathan Groff, in the original cast) playing the reviled King George III.
“There was no name needed to make this vehicle happen, which freed them up to actually cast a diverse group of people,” explained The Good Wife star Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Hamilton’s sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler Church.
“[Broadway] is looking more and more like America this season, which is really exciting,” Miranda agreed.
As a musical, Hamilton not only packs an intense history lesson into two acts worth of rapid-fire raps and beautiful harmonies, it has also become one of the hottest tickets among Hollywood celebs. Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas have stopped by, Matthew McConaughey and James Corden went backstage, and Selena Gomez, Cate Blanchett, and Emily Blunt, to name a few, have all fawned over the cast after seeing the impressive live show.
One of Groff’s most starstruck fan moments came when Beyonce singled him out after a show to admire his King George strut, which Groff demonstrated for Stephen Colbert on a recent Late Show appearance. Queen Bey apparently even performed her own imitation!
“She did your walk. I watched her do it,” Daveed Diggs -- who pulls double duty in the musical as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson -- teased Groff during their ET interview. “It was almost as good...Sorry, Bey.”
While cast members say they’ve been offered everything from first-born children to marriage proposals for the hard-to-get tickets, they connect with fans regularly at the now-infamous Ham4Ham ticket lottery sidewalk performances, which take place daily outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and at conventions like BroadwayCon, where some Hamilton die-hards even came out in period costumes to show their love for the show.
"It's great to see that kind of enthusiasm 'cause what we do is about them,” said Christopher Jackson, who plays George Washington. “It's for them.”
Hamilton is pretty much a lock to score multiple nominations and trophies at the Tony Awards in June, and while Miranda is not “throwing away his shot,” he’s not worried about an acceptance speech just yet.
“I’m just trying to stay alive for seven shows a week!” he said with a laugh.