A report by Sam Moore for NME.
The creator of the hit US musical is giving fans the opportunity to attend ‘Hamilton”s opening night in London – and it’s all for an excellent cause
Sounds like a great deal, no? We caught up with Lin-Manuel this week as he was navigating the “legendary London traffic” on his way to Hamiltonrehearsals to get the low-down on the Prizeo campaign, Hamilton’s future and Miranda’s very special cameo in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
NME: Why did you and your wife get involved in this charity campaign with Prizeo?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: We’ve had a good amount of success centring campaign drives around our various Hamilton openings around the United States, [and] we’ve raised money for Planned Parenthood and immigrants’ rights groups. As we looked ahead to London, we thought: “Let’s tackle an international issue, since this is our first international production.” My wife is a scientist as well as a lawyer, so climate change was immediately at the top of our list, and we found great partners in 10:10 and the NRDC. So it’s been full speed ahead since then.
And the other component of it is that we’ve worked really hard to make this new campaign as international a contest as possible. We’ve been limited in the past by location: you were sort of only able to enter [competitions] if you were in the US. But with this, we’ve tried to open up the contest to as people from around the world as possible. [Climate change] is a subject that affects the entire world, and so it makes sense to centre our first international production around that cause and raise money for it.
Climate change is clearly a cause that’s very close to your heart.
We’re seeing the real effects of it every day: most devastatingly in the increase of the intensity of the hurricanes this past year, particularly Hurricane Maria, which is the worst hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history. We can point to climate change [as the cause] – warmer temperatures mean winds with greater intensity, which can pick up more water and do more damage. So it’s a very clear A-to-B connection, and we’re seeing it happening all over the world.
Were you distressed by the current US administration’s stance on climate change – such as the controversial decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord – especially as we’re only a year into the Trump presidency?
Yes and no. I was of course dismayed at the President’s actions, but you know one election does not change the will of a people. I’ve been heartened by some many people in the US continuing to stand behind action regarding climate change; cities and state governments picking up the slack where our national government has left off. There’s been lots of action, big and small, as a result of that decision. There’s been people standing up and saying: “This is real, and this affects our neighbours all over the world.”
The other thing that’s sort of lost in the bustle of all of this is that this is also good business. Innovation in solar energy and innovation in practical ways to be environmentally friendly are growers of business and growers of new sectors in global economies. So it also makes good business sense to just think about the future of our world.
Trump is somewhat surprisingly expected to sign a bill which states that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States” before the year is out – but can his attitude on the subject be changed for good?
Yeah – so Giving Tuesday was this week, right? We talk about, well, if you don’t have money to give, you still have your focus, you still have your energy and you still have your voice. And I think that that’s a direct result of hearing a multitude of voices.
Hamilton premieres in the UK on December 21, while previews start next week – are you excited to finally bring it to the UK?
I’m thrilled. Our UK company is just incredible. I’ve been with them for a few days now – they’ve all been in rehearsals for a few weeks, but I’ve just joined them this past weekend. There’s an incredible pride of ownership with this company, and they’re very aware that they’re the first company to represent Hamilton to the world outside the US, and that comes with enormous pride and responsibility.
But they’re just an incredible team of actors, so I’ve just been enormously proud of the job my creative team has done, and proud of this incredible company. My only previous experience in London – prior to living here earlier this year – was theatre, because London has some of the greatest theatre in the world – and so to get to be a part of that is really thrilling.
Were you happy with the response to the initial ticket sales? There’s clearly an appetite for the musical here in the UK.
Yeah, it’s amazing. Like, I always knew we’d get school groups in the seats – do you know what I mean? (laughs) When I started writing this thing, I was like: “Well, history teachers would really appreciate us just speeding through like a semester of 18th century US history.” I don’t know about anyone else. That was sort of my thinking that I was being clever, thinking: “Oh, well, we’ll [just] have school groups and it’ll have a nice run.” But everything since has been… nothing can compare you for the appetite people have for seeing this show. It’s just extraordinary.
It’s the first international production of Hamilton. Are there plans to take it to even more cities and countries in the future?
Yeah, I think so. I’ve been very encouraged by the response to the London production so far, and I can’t wait until we start performances. I was talking to a friend last night about how King George III is like three-quarters of the show now (laughs). It’s basically called ‘King George’ now.
I’m really curious to see the response though, and I hope it’ll strike the same chord here that it has done in the States. But y’know, you never know – it’s live theatre!
Hamilton’s London production is also combatting ticket touts by partnering up with Ticketmaster to launch ‘Paperless Ticketing’. Is it an important issue for you to try and kick out the touts?
Yeah, it’s been our ongoing issue in the States, to be perfectly frank. I get tweets from people saying: “I can’t believe you’re charging $2000 for your show!” And I go: “I’m not!” That’s just what the secondary market is daring to do. It’s been a source of frustration, and I’ve been involved whenever I can be helpful. I did a push for pushing anti-bot legislation – bots are these apps that allow someone to essentially buy out [all the seats of a] venue – so we’ve worked very hard on the tech side of things in the States. But this Paperless system is new for us, and we’re hoping it’ll be effective here in London so that fans of the show can pay what the ticket actually costs so they don’t have to go to the secondary market.
The other horrible downside which happens as a result of [secondary tickets] is that you get counterfeit tickets, and then you have to break the news to families that they don’t have tickets to the show because they bought them on some unverified website from a scalper. You’re never gonna end scalping, but we’re trying this system out and I hoping it’s going to be effective – all signs have shown that this has been very effective so far.
And finally – your hilarious Curb Your Enthusiasm cameo aired last Sunday (November 26). How was it filming that, and working with Larry David?
It was a joy. That was my best-kept secret of this year – the episode you saw, I filmed that in February on the day before the Oscars. I’m a New Yorker and I’m never in LA, and I’d had a very busy year, so [Curb] sort of made it work. It was thrilling to know that it was coming up, and nobody really had any idea that it was coming. It was also thrilling to have America Ferrera play my wife, because my wife and America are actually very good friends in real life. So when Larry approached me and said “Does your wife wanna play herself?”, my wife was like: “No! Get America to play me!” And I was like: “That’s a really good idea!” And then it actually happened!
Working with Larry was a joy – I knew him a bit socially prior to filming the episode, but that stare-down scene was probably the hardest scene I’ve ever filmed! It makes me laugh so hard when I see it on the show, so to actually be exposed to it at point-blank range – I broke, like, fifty times. So that was probably the toughest little bit of acting in my career so far.
Hamilton officially opens at the the Victoria Palace Theatre in London’s West End on December 21, while previews start on December 6.