TRANSCRIPT Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lin-Manuel Miranda

We’ll revisit our conversation with the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda! He’s probably best known as the star and creator of the biggest musical in the last 20 years – “Hamilton.” The award-winning, massively influential musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton. You’ll be able to watch a film version of “Hamilton” on Disney Plus starting July 3rd. Later that month, the documentary “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” will premiere on Hulu. The film tells the story of the hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme, which he co-founded long before “Hamilton” fame. And if that wasn’t enough – Lin’s starring in the HBO show “His Dark Materials.” It’s a fantasy series based on the book by the same name. Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about how his career has changed since “Hamilton.” We’ll also talk about the time he turned down a part in a Marvel movie.

Guests: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Transcript

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Gentle trilling music with a steady drumbeat plays under the dialogue.

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Speaker: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR. [Music fades out.]

jesse thorn

I’m Jesse Thorn. It’s Bullseye.

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jesse

Lin-Manuel Miranda grew up in a working-class neighborhood, north of Harlem. He went to a fancy school for gifted kids, on the Upper East Side. He went to college at Wesleyan, and not long after he graduated, he had a hit Broadway musical: In the Heights. He’s also the creator and star of Hamilton, the award-winning, massively influential musical about the founding father. I mean, [laughing] not that I have to explain what Hamilton is, on NPR. These days, Lin-Manuel is in a spot in which not many artists find themselves. He can do pretty much whatever he wants. Take on any project. So, what did that mean for him? He started another show on Broadway. Freestyle Love Supreme is an improvised hip-hop performance where the performers get their prompts from the audience. Before Broadway shut down, I got to see it, in New York. It’s a delightful show: a combination of improv comedy and freestyle hip-hop that you won’t see almost anywhere else. There’s a documentary about the show coming out in July, on Hulu. It’s called We Are Freestyle Love Supreme. When I talked with Lin, last year, he was doing something completely different: the HBO show, His Dark Materials. It’s a fantasy series, based on the book of the same name. It centers around a young girl named Lyra, who is trying to find her kidnapped friend. Lyra grew up in Oxford, UK. But her journey takes her far from her home, to a desolate and dangerous region known as The North. There, she meets a guy named Lee Scoresby, played by Miranda. In this clip, Lyra and Lee realize they’re looking for the same thing: a bear.

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[Sounds of a crowd—voices and clanking in the background.] Lee Scoresby (His Dark Materials): [Yelling over the din of sound.] Has anyone seen a bear?! [The crowd chatters and shouts among itself but does not answer.] Lyra Belacqua: What do you want with a bear? [Beat.] You’re bleeding. Lee: Hazard of the job. Lyra: And what job do you do? Lee: I’m in Aeronautics. Lyra: What part of being an [sounding it out phonetically] air-o-naut— Lee: Let me give you a tip, kid. Never upset a seagull. [He sits down with a heavy thump and a sigh.] Lyra: [Exasperated.] You’re not serious. Lee: [Strained.] Not if I can help it. Lyra: [Beat.] Will he want to see you? This bear? Lee: I hope so. You know where he is, don’t you? Town’s no place for your— Lyra: How do you know him? Lee: [Amused.] Well, she’s just a sprung box, isn’t she? She just keeps asking questions. Lee Scoresby. Can you tell me where to find him?

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jesse

Lin, welcome to Bullseye! I’m so happy to have you on the show!

lin-manuel

Thank you! Long-time listener, long-time fan. Happy to be here.

jesse

Aw, that’s very kind of you. And I apologize for canceling on you, the last time, [chuckling] when my child was born.

lin-manuel

That was—that was a very valid excuse and I was happy to have the hour. It was during a very hectic time in my life, too. [Laughs.]

jesse

Is His Dark Materials another one of these things where you weaseled your way in because— [Lin-Manuel breaks into startled laughter.] —it was something that you’ve always loved?

lin-manuel

[Completely shocked and delighted, his voice pitched high from laughing.] I weaseled my way!?

jesse

Or is this a regular acting job, where you—you know…

lin-manuel

This was a straight-up offer out of the blue. I was in London at the time, filming Mary Poppins Returns, and Jane Tranter—the producer of the series—and Jack Thorne—the writer—invited me to dinner and sort of thought of me for it. And I would not think of myself as a natural fit for this role. I don’t think I’m anyone’s first choice [chuckling] for a Texan aeronaut. But Jane Tranter said she had seen me at a thing. She was—she was a fan of my work, but she had seen me at the closing night of In the Heights, in London, and she said that she saw me bound up on the stage and she said, “You looked like a human rabbit, and I thought—is that Lee Scoresby?” [Jesse chuckles.] So, I guess the answer to your question is yes. I was a big fan of these books before I got this offer.

jesse

There was movies of these books, before. You know, five years ago or seven years ago. And the part that you play was played by a guy who I’m sure you’re all constantly sitting next to at auditions, in one of those things: Sam Elliott.

lin-manuel

[Teasingly.] Sam Elliott. I mean, he was almost Hamilton. He was almost Usnavi. [Jesse laughs.] I mean, we just constantly [laughs]—going in for each other’s gigs.

jesse

Why did you not think of yourself as this kind of guy?

lin-manuel

Well, honestly, I’d seen the movie and I thought Sam Elliott’s about as perfect as it gets! And what was—what was interesting about their take on it was, they’re big fans of Once Upon a Time in the North. Which was this novella prequel that Philip Pullman wrote, where Lee is much younger and it’s, sort of, where he meets Iorek Byrnison—who’s the armored bear in the series. And so, they were—they were just sort of thinking in an entirely different way, and I was a big fan of Jack Thorne’s Harry Potter adaptation, for the stage. So, I was like, “Well, if he sees it, I’m gonna—I’m gonna fake it ‘til I make it.”

jesse

I mean, it—I think it… speaks to your relatively unusual priorities, in having, perhaps, accidentally gained what here in Hollywood they call heat— [Lin laughs.] —by making, you know, the biggest hit musical of the last 20 years, or whatever. Which is, like, I think most people would just go straight to, “Yeah, I guess I should try and be a movie star!” And you starred in a movie, but it feels like you are making choices on an entirely different basis, and a little bit—maybe—it feels like you have—you have decided to, like, take this moment and… almost play, like, you know, show business fantasy camp. [Lin-Manuel laughs.] You know what I mean? Like, just do little things that you would always have loved to have done.

lin-manuel

If it had—you know, In the Heights was a successful show that recouped its money and won the Tony. And that’s about as good as you can expect from a Broadway musical. We don’t get off the Arts and Leisure page, necessarily. But, you know, we get done in high schools and the show lives on. And I thought that was as big a success you got, and then Hamilton happened. And by then I was married with a kid. I had done some TV shows, with mixed success. I’d done a little movie stuff. And… frankly, I don’t have to do anything ever again. I know it’s the first line of my obituary! That’s what Hamilton is. So, okay. So, if that’s—that line is handled, then what else can I do with my time here?

jesse

Is it hard when opportunities present themselves that are, like… public-facing, famous-person opportunities to maintain the part of your identity that is… maybe even more a writer and composer than a performer? Though, you certainly have always been both.

lin-manuel

At this point, I know who I am, and I know what is for me and then what is not for me. Or what will stretch me or what I can learn from. I mean, I’ll give you an example. Like, I did get a Marvel call that I said no to. And I may kick myself about it forever. [Jesse laughs.] But I got the call and it was for a part [chuckling], that will remain nameless, and I said—and I was still in Hamilton, at the time. And I said, “When does it film?” And they said, “We’d probably start immediately after you finished. Like, July.” I finished the show July 11th of 2016, and it would—I would, like, be getting into costume July 12th. And I said no! ‘Cause I want to stay married! [They both laugh.] And I, you know, realized I just—I really need to get off the merry-go-round, because the year of Hamilton was such a loud year.

jesse

I think if I got you to reveal what Marvel part you had turned down, that would be the first line of my obituary.

lin-manuel

[Lin-Manuel breaks into delighted laughter.] Well, I— [They both chuckle.] I would hate for that to be the first line of your obituary, so let’s leave it at that.

jesse

Let’s talk a little bit about your growing up. So, you grew up in pretty far uptown New York and you went to Hunter College, elementary and high school. Which is like a fancy school for smart boys. And girls. And you went there with, like, a—with other fancy people.

lin-manuel

Yeah, we were—I mean, we were eating paste like everyone else. We were subsequently fancy [laughing] when we got out of school.

jesse

[Chuckles.] At what point did you realize that your life at home and in the context of where you grew up was kind of a different lane from your life at school and your peers there?

lin-manuel

When I was five, because the pronunciation of my name changes [laughing] depending on where I am. So, to be Lin at school—because I couldn’t take Lin-Manual or Lin-Manwell. I was like, “Lin—Lin is fine.” And then Lin-Manuel, in my house, and speaking mostly Spanish at home and English at school. So, my first musical—In the Heights—there’s a character named Nina and it’s her first time off to college. And she’s so at sea with the, like, cultural code-switching that has to happen. Because she grew up and went to school in her neighborhood and is now in this, like, elite school. That happened to me at a really young age. So, I learned the two languages when I was in kindergarten.

jesse

And I think I probably have mentioned this on Bullseye, before, but I had a friend come visit me, from my middle school. He came to my house, in San Francisco, and he lived in the suburbs south of San Francisco. My mom gave us some money to go get ice cream, literally, and we were walking down San Jose Avenue, in San Francisco, and… he looked at me and he was like—and he said something like, “Hey, is this okay? Like, is—are—I’m a little nervous,” or something. And I wasn’t upset with him for being nervous in my neighborhood—maybe I was, a little bit. But what I—what shocked me, in that moment as a 12-year-old or 11-year-old or however old I was, was I was like, “No, dude. If we had gone left at the corner, not right—” [Lin-Manuel laughs.] “That’s when you should be [chuckling] nervous.”

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Lin-Manuel: [Chuckling]. Right, right. Jesse: Who, like—like there’s places to be nervous! Lin-Manuel: It’s that block, not this block! Jesse: Exactly! Like everyone knows, this is—this block is FINE!

lin-manuel

Totally. [Laughs.] I had my version of that. It was like, “Don’t go down Academy! What are you, crazy?!” [Jesse laughs.] “Go up this street!” Um, yeah. I had my version of that, but my school was so far that I just—I did—my—kids really, very rarely came to my house. Like, everyone lives—lived on the Upper West Side or Upper East Side, or there—or there were, like, outliers who lived all the way downtown. But, yeah. I mean, it was just—the playdates were one-sided. I was going to the kids who lived closer to school.

jesse

Did you notice that, at the time?

lin-manuel

Yeah! It’s funny. Someone was—asked me, “What’s the significance of 96,000?” Which is the—it’s sort of the arbitrary number I picked for the lotto winning, in In the Heights, my first musical. And, one it just sings nicely, “Ninety-six thousand.” But I think—I think subconsciously, the reason is 96th Street is just, like, such—was such an invisible… like, barrier of, like, rich versus less so.

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“96000” from the musical In the Heights. USNAVI Ninety-six thousand! SONNY Dollars? Holler! USNAVI Ninety-six thousand! BENNY Yo, somebody won! USNAVI Ninety-six thousand! BENNY Yo! [Music fades out.]

lin-manuel

I remember getting a McDonalds meal on 86th Street for $3.49. And then you cross the street to 106th Street McDonalds, and it’s $2.99. Like, [chuckling] it’s literally—that’s the jump between ten blocks, from our school. So, like, that’s always been this line of, like, “Will you cross it to come to my house?” Where, you know, folks don’t have as much money and it’s not the richest zip code in America?

jesse

I didn’t know until I read it, today, that you directed a high school production—when you were in high school—of West Side Story. I mean, that’s a little on the nose, Lin.

lin-manuel

[Laughs in surprise.] Little bit! Lil’ bit!

jesse

[Laughs.] I—like, so on the one hand—here’s the thing about it, right? Like, on the one hand, West Side Story is as good as it gets! You know what I mean? Like, West Side Story—it rules! [Lin-Manuel laughs.] You know? [Lin-Manuel agrees.] It’s spectacularly good. On the other hand, what a weird… what a weird thing—

lin-manuel

[Amused] To make my largely white and Asian class—cast—class play Puerto Ricans? [Laughs.]

jesse

Yeah! I mean, like, I feel like it might even be better if—it feels to me like it could even be better if you were, like, getting them to record their own version of a Big Pun album or something like that. [Lin-Manuel laughs.] You know? Like, something that is—

lin-manuel

[Rhythmically] Come on, guys! It’s hard to ana-lyze which guys espise. Be advised, people!

jesse

[Giggles.] But, like, to be directly responsible for translating something that is directly of your experience as a Puerto Rican American, in New York, right? But to be responsible for—both for translating that experience to these, you know, white and Asian kids in your high school—and hopefully some Latino kids, too.

lin-manuel

Two, I think. I think I had two, female, Latina Sharks. And I would have had Dane Martinez, but he did basketball that year! And I may never forgive him.

jesse

Aw. But the other piece—the other piece of it, Lin, is that—like—you are—you’re responsible for that translation, but you’re already—you’re already translating, you know, a secondary text. You know what I mean? Like, this is something that’s already translated through a bunch of white Broadway dudes in 1955, or whenever that musical was written.

lin-manuel

Fully. Fully. And that’s always what I say is sort of the great blessing and curse of West Side Story, is it’s one of the great musicals. Full stop. And for a large segment of the world—and I literally mean the globe—that’s their first image of a Puerto Rican character, is a Greek guy with brown makeup on, in the movie! So, it’s a false representation, not an authentic one. But that becomes the default stereotype. Because of the success of the show. And so, yeah. I mean, directing it my senior year was enormous fun! But I also used it as a teaching experience. I brought my dad in to do dialect work [laughing] with the white and Asian Sharks that I had at my disposal. Because, again, Dane Martinez—who was great as Paul, in A Chorus Line, the year before—decided to basketball! But, yeah. I mean, that was—that was—I guess it is a little on the nose. [Laughs.] But it was also so interesting, for me, because it was the beginning of my pulling Lin-Manuel from Uptown into Lin at school. And integrating those and using theatre to do that and I don’t think it’s an accident that I started writing In the Heights two years later—my sophomore year in college—because I also recognized the limits of using an existing show to… try to get anything close to an authentic experience, onstage. I realized, “I’ll never dance well enough to play Bernardo, and that’s about it, in the canon, if I really wanna do this for a living.” So, no one’s gonna write your dream show.

jesse

It’s pretty audacious to… write your own musical. [Lin-Manuel agrees with a laugh.] I have a buddy in—I had a buddy, in college, who—he, like, disappeared into his room for four months and when he came out, he had made a rock-n-roll EP? And—we didn’t really know that was a thing that he did. Like, we knew he played guitar. [Lin-Manuel chuckles.] But we didn’t know he wrote songs or anything. And I remember just being like, “Who has the temerity to think that their creativity [laughing] is worthwhile?” [Lin laughs in the background.] [Laughing.] You know what I mean?

lin-manuel

Well, I—but—I felt the same way for so long. But I thought nothing of people who started their own rock band or started their own hip-hop groups. It’s sort of like that barrier is lower, right? But somehow musicals are, [mockingly] “Oooh, la-de-da! You write musicals! Look at you, Mr. Bernstein!” And the thing that tore that barrier down, for me, was seeing Johnathan Larson’s RENT, for my 17th birthday. RENT was the first musical that truly felt contemporary. For better or for worse, it felt like, “Oh! This guy wrote this downtown. And it—some of these songs only have three chords. And he’s writing about his own experience and he’s writing about being scared of selling out and being an artist and being scared of dying. I’m scared of all those things!” And that—after I saw RENT, I started writing 20-minute musicals for this thing we had at our high school called Brick Prison. We have a windowless school, and so Brick Prison is the name of the theatre program that’s all student directed, and student written. But, again, it’s that, “Who are you to have the temerity to write a musical, the great American art form!” And RENT was the thing that was like, “It’s—why is this different than your friends who are making, like, their own mixtapes in the basement?”

jesse

I went to performing arts high school, and I—we’re about the same age. So, RENT came out and became a cultural phenomenon at a similar point in our lives. Even as, at the time, an actor, I definitely was deeply uncomfortable with the RENT people. [Lin-Manuel cackles in the background.] Like, becoming a RENT guy—at the time—was a real line in the sand. [Lin-Manuel laughs.] It meant that you were willing to commit to a level of musical theatre… I’m speaking from the perspective of an anti-RENT person. I’m probably in the middle, at this point in my life. But, like, a level of musical theatre corniness... [Jesse agrees several times as Lin-Manuel speaks.]

lin-manuel

I think as you grow up—and I wasn’t there yet, in high school. Like, I sang RENT with my friends in jazz chorus. But I wasn’t playing RENT out of my boombox on the courtyard steps. I was playing Marc Anthony and Big Pun. You know? I also could read—you know, part of code-switching is reading the room [laughs], and I wasn’t bringing all of myself into every room, when I was still in high school. It was sort of like, “I play theatre with these kids and then I can go hang out and, like, freestyle with my friends—terribly—with these friends.” And then, you know, the one memory I share with my wife, from high school, is that she remembers me blasting Marc Anthony on the steps and we had, like, a dance together. ‘Cause she was another, like, Latina in a school with not many Latinos in it. And so… I could contain all these things, but with separate cliques, in high school. And then as you grow up, you kind of say, “[Censored] it.” And you just try to bring all of yourself in the room. And In the Heights was my first attempt at that. It was my first attempt at writing the Latin music I’d grown up with, but also mixing it with a storyline that—in the college version—was pretty RENT-arific! I mean, [laughing] it was just sort of this love triangle that was set in this neighborhood. And it wasn’t until I started working with Quiara, years later, that it became its own thing and that really became about the neighborhood itself.

jesse

When did you start rapping?

lin-manuel

Oh. I have—I mean, I have, like… crappy little kid raps, when I was little, that were modeled after Run-D.M.C. and all the stuff we were fed, in the 80’s. And I really liked Fat Boys and Disorderlies. I liked funny rappers. Like, I loved Biz Markie and I loved Slick Rick. And then I started, like, earnestly writing not very good raps in high school. Like, during far—you know, it’s funny. Like, I think of ’91,’92—I listened to your interview with Daveed, which was so fantastic, but the east coast, west coast divide means we really listened to different [censored] on the radio. [Chuckling. Like, it was very—I did not know UGK existed until college.

jesse

Were you mostly doing writtens or were you freestyling, when you were a kid?

lin-manuel

I was—I was doing poor writtens. And then when my friends would freestyle in high school, I would beatbox. And be like, “Pass it, pass it, pass it.” [Laughs.] “Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me.” And then it wasn’t—it wasn’t ‘til college that I started freestyling seriously. ‘Cause I realized—well, one, I was just writing a lot more and so I found that when I freestyled, it was better.

jesse

More with Lin-Manuel Miranda when we come back from a quick break. Still to come: so many times, Hamilton fans would tell Lin how much they love the show, despite the fact that they weren’t usually hip-hop fans. And he’ll tell me why that didn’t always feel that great. Stay with us. It’s Bullseye, from MaximumFun.org and NPR.

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jesse

Welcome back to Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. We’re listening to my interview from 2019, with Lin-Manuel Miranda. He has a lot going on right now. July 3rd will mark the premiere of a filmed version of Hamilton, the show that he crated. It’ll show on Disney+. Later that month, We Are Freestyle Love Supreme will premiere on Hulu. It’s a documentary about the improvised hip-hop comedy show that Lin co-created, called Freestyle Love Supreme. Let’s get back into our interview. Were you auditioning for stuff when you got back to New York, from college?

lin-manuel

I was teaching at my old high school. I taught fulltime, the first year. And then I basically became a professional sub, while I was writing In the Heights. ‘Cause I found I could—if I subbed like five times a week, I could cover rent. Six, I could pay for cable. [Laughs.] And, yeah. And then I was doing—I was doing some voiceover auditions. I was very rarely getting called in on, like, musical theatre auditions. I think I remember auditioning for The Wedding Singer, the musical?

jesse

Mm-hm. To play the rapping granny?

lin-manuel

[Stuttering.] I—uh, of course! Type-cast, as usual! No, I sang half a ballad, and I don’t think they even looked up. And they said, “Thank you so much.” And, oh [laughing] I actually auditioned for Shrek, too! But that was a little later. I think Heights had already existed. I really auditioned for that because I’m a fan of Jeanine Tesori and I wanted to hear, “What [censored] does Jeanine Tesori’s Shrek music sound like?!” And so, I got to hear some of it, and I got a call back and I didn’t get it, but I got to hear, like, her pretty [laughing] cool songs for Shrek!

jesse

I wanna play you performing… a song from—when at the time was something you were working on. [Lin-Manuel laughs.] Called The Hamilton Mixtape. Which you performed at a—at a night of performance poetry and spoken word at the White House. And…

lin-manuel

Yep. Not many of those happening, these days! But… [Jesse agrees.] [Laughing.] It used to happen!

jesse

It’s a great performance and, you know, everyone is liking it. But I wanna talk a little bit about what it was like to do it, after we hear a bit of it. And this is—this is, like—the Obama administration was relatively new when you’re doing this.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda singing “Alexander Hamilton” from The Hamilton Mixtape. Well, the word got around, they said, This kid is insane, man! Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came And the world is gonna know your name What’s your name, man? Alexander Hamilton [The audience laughs.] His name is Alexander Hamilton And there’s a million things he hasn’t done But just you wait, just you wait

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jesse

So, here’s the thing I wanna ask you about, Lin. It’s not… it’s not what’s it like to perform at the White House for the President. ‘Cause I bet that’s great. I don’t know. You know. I presume it’s great. He enjoyed it. He obviously enjoyed it, so there you go. You’re winning at the game of life when you’re doing that. But the bigger question I had was—there’s a lot of laughter, in the room, as you’re doing that. [Lin-Manuel agrees.] And… you’ve got a line ready. You—when everyone laughs when you say what it is. I mean, you kind of…

lin-manuel

I—which I—I mean, honestly, if you wanna see what I look like at my most terrified, play the first minute of the tape [laughs], because I’ve never stammered that much in my life.

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Lin-Manuel: I’m actually working on a hip-hop album. Uh, it’s a concept album about the life of someone I think embodies hip-hop. Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton. [The audience chuckles and murmurs amongst themselves.] Lin-Manuel: YOU LAUGH! But it’s true! Um. He was, uh. He was born, uh, a penniless orphan, uh, in Saint Croix, of illegitimate birth. Um. Became George Washington’s right-hand man, uh. Became treasury secretary. Caught beef with every other founding father! [The audience laughs.] Lin-Manuel: Uh, and all on the strength of his writing. I think he embodies, uh, the word’s ability to make a difference. Uh, so… [Clip fades out.]

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lin-manuel

This is a thesis. I’m presenting a thesis that I’m testing out… in [laughs]—in the—in front of the leader of the free world. [Jesse chuckles.] But also, weirdly, Zach Braff and George Stephanopoulos and Saul Williams and Spike Lee. It was a pretty Mad Libs-y room.

jesse

I actually—I won’t perform unless Zach Braff is there.

lin-manuel

[Laughs.] Oh, I think that’s a great rider to have. But yeah, it was—it was… I needed to push through it. And I’m nervous until the music starts. Because I’m really proud of what I’ve written, and I think it presents a case for—this guy went through a lot of [censored] and he wrote his way out of it. And that’s what… most of my favorite rappers have managed to do, is go through some kind of struggle and rap about it so eloquently that people all over the world can understand it, or [censored] with it. And so that was—that was the thesis. The thesis was, “He’s a writer. And my favorite hip-hop artists are writers. And so, there’s a connection, here.”

jesse

You heard my interview with Daveed Diggs, who starred in Hamilton, in the original cast and is a professional rapper, otherwise, in addition to being an actor. And one of the things that he and I agreed upon, immediately, is that if anyone said to you, “I’m doing a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton, your first reaction would be: what a horrible idea.”

lin-manuel

[Laughing through his words.] Yeah! He had the grace not to say that to my face. [They laugh.] I’m sure he said it to Tommy, but uh…

jesse

I think what he described saying to your face was, “Does it pay?” [They laugh. Lin-Manuel confirms.] I think if we’re hungry enough, we’ll take our—we’ll take our jobs. But I wonder if you—how, where you were that you were like, “Oh my god, I’m—” Like, I mean, certainly we all tip our caps to Carmen: the Hip-Hopera, the MTV television musical starring Mos Def and Beyoncé. But, like, this is a terrible idea! I understand all the reasons why it's a good idea, as well, and I agree with them. And I saw it and I thought it was great. I’ll—so, I’ll also stipulate that. [Laughs through his words.] But, like! At every point in this, you have to convince people to give you money to do this, and stuff! What a bananas thing to dedicate your life to, Lin! I guess that’s my question.

lin-manuel

[Chuckles.] One of the—one of the—my favorite—or, one of the most moving pieces of writing on it was actually—Mike Schur wrote an essay about Hamilton. And he wrote a description of it where he said, “I’m sure, for six months, Lin’s friends would all kind of check in with each other being like: Is he alright?” [They laugh.] And it is to the eternal credit of my wife that I finished the second chapter of that book and thought—and pitched it to her. I’d be like, “Oh my god! This guy wrote his way from the Caribbean to New York!” And she went, “[Beat.] Cool!” Like, just totally non-fazed. Not, “That’s a terrible idea.” Not, “That’s the best idea you’ve ever had.” Just like, “Alright, cool. Write it.” Because, I think, that’s—you know, you look to your loved ones first, but again, at the same time I saw—I had that idea two chapters into the book, and then it kept proving me right. You know? And then I get to the Revolution, and he’s writing under a pseudonym: Publius. Not the best hip-hop name, but pretty good pseudonym. [They chuckle.] As pseudonym’s go. And he’s writing revolutionary tracts. That thesis was strong enough to pull me through the worried looks of my friends.

jesse

What was it like for you—and this another question that I also asked Daveed Diggs—what was it like for you to deal with the consequences of making a hip-hop thing in a social context where many of the people who are... watching it and listening to it are not... hip-hop people? And may, literally, have no experience with hip-hop.

lin-manuel

Yeah. I mean, I think you actually put it more bluntly to Daveed, which is—you know—what do you say to people who go, “I don’t like hip-hop, but I love this?”

crosstalk

Jesse: Yeah. [Chuckling.] Lin-Manuel: And my answer to that was… Jesse: I’m trying to be nice to you, Lin. [Laugh.]

lin-manuel

Yeah, no, no, but my answer to that—‘cause I got that a fair amount—and my answer to that is, “I’m so sorry you’re missing so much of the show.” And I would say that to them. Because this is a show with a lot of on-ramps. And, again, it gets back to that “bringing all of yourself into the room”. There are as many musical theatre references in this as there are hip-hop references.

jesse

Didn’t you ever… Let me restate this. Lin, you are famous for your generous spirit and warm spirit. And in the time that you and I have interacted, in life, I have found that to be accurate.

lin-manuel

[Laughing.] Why does this sound like an insult?

jesse

But—no. It’s not leading to an insult. But, like… didn’t you ever just run out of patience with that mess? Like… with, just… people’s weird sideways talk about hip-hop that was disguised as a compliment to your, like, [laughing] the culmination of your life’s work? The thing that’s gonna be on your tombstone?

lin-manuel

Yeah. But, again, at the same time we’re inviting everyone into the room. And, uh [laughs] you know, I think that throughout my career, I’ve run into purists and snobbery from purists from both sides of, “This is hip-hop; this isn’t hip-hop. This is musical theatre; this isn’t musical theatre.” And I think the vast majority of us… the silent majority, if that weren’t such a politically loaded word, the silent majority of us just like good [censored] that speaks to us. And—in whatever form that comes in. And I just, you know, I really—sort of—if there’s any side-mission I have in this career, in terms of writing for theatre, it’s that popular music and theatre music used to be the same thing. I wasn’t alive during it. It’s 70 years before us, but the Gershwin’s—you’d hear them on the radio and then you’d hear their song in the Broadway show, that night. Or you’d hear Rodgers and Hammerstein on the radio. And at certain point, those things split. But I think it’s my side-mission to be like, “I wanna play musical theatre music you can listen to loud in the radio. Or loud in your car stereo.” And so, I just bring everything I love to what I’m writing.

jesse

So, you are a producer and sometime member of Freestyle Love Supreme, who have a show on Broadway, right now. This is on the long list of things that you and your colleagues have pulled off that I read about—once was happening in New York—and thought, “What a terrible idea.”

lin-manuel

[Laughing.] Thank you.

jesse

[Laughs.] This is theatrical performance group grounded in freestyle rapping. And since you’re on my show, I’m gonna make you rap. I hope that’s okay.

lin-manuel

You didn’t make Daveed rap. But…

jesse

That’s true! I didn’t! I should have. Well, you know what? Can I tell—

crosstalk

Lin-Manuel: Yeah, go ahead. Jesse: Can I tell you the truth? Lin-Manuel: Yeah.

jesse

I asked Daveed if he would—if he would go off the dome and he said, “No.” [Laughs.] [Lin-Manuel cackles in the background.] You made the mistake of saying yes, Lin!

lin-manuel

Daveed’s incredibly good at it, but he gets—he’s still really nervous about it, before every show.

jesse

Well, we’re gonna drop a beat that you will hear over the telephone. You and I are separated, right now, by 3000 miles. So, this will be like—this will be like one of those rap records that somebody records while there’s—you know, this is like one of those Shine albums that he recorded while he was still in prison. [Lin-Manuel dissolves into startled laughter.]

crosstalk

Jesse: ‘Cause you’re rapping over the telephone. Lin-Manuel: Okay. Jesse: It will sound—it will not sound like that, to our audience, ‘cause there’s microphones on both ends, but— Lin-Manuel: Alright, don’t you—don’t you link me up off-beat, man.

jesse

Yeah, no. No. We’ll get you on beat. Kevin—my producer Kevin’s a drummer. He gets it. So, Kevin—and you can rap about what—you can rap about whatever you want. Do need any—do you want anything more than that?

lin-manuel

How ‘bout I just sort of sum up what we’ve talked about in the past hour?

jesse

Gorgeous.

music

A thumpy, steady beat plays, interspersed with claps and snaps.

lin-manuel

Can you turn it up? [Doing a nasally voice.] Where’s my snare? [Laughs.] Okay. Before I was I was in bloom, we talked about what do you bring to the room? Do you stay up late nights, wondering who you are when you’re in [censored] Washington Heights, or do you go down to the Upper East Side? When they say Lin-Manwell, do you let that [censored] slide? Or do you say Lin to get real excited, and say “Okay, one day, I’ll be a writer.” Then you figure it out and you [censored] push through your fear and your doubt. You go to college and you realize, “I like musical theatre and hip-hop.” I’m scared to go off the top, like Daveed was. Because that’s the [censored] buzz. You just say whatever it is, because you keep going! You try to write a [censored] show, because you can’t be Bernardo. You don’t have that flow, and you don’t have that extension in your leg. You’re not a Greek guy with brown makeup up on your face. You just [censored] keep going until you write In the Heights. Turns out nice. The beat’s coming in and out, but I’m trying to stay light. And on it. Is that enough?

jesse

Yeah! Absolutely. More than enough. God bless you, sir.

lin-manuel

Sorry, I was—I was—the beat was coming in and out while I was doing it.

jesse

That was technical—that was technical difficulty level 12 out of 10. [Lin-Manuel laughs.] You know what, that’s like—that’s like when… when my man from—uh, what’s the dude from Kimmy Schmidt called?

lin-manuel

Tituss?

jesse

Yeah, Tituss. That’s like when my man Tituss was in Guys and Dolls[Lin-Manuel laughs.] —on the Tony Awards, on television and his mic went out.

lin-manuel

Yeah. [They laugh.] Yeah, it was very tough to hear that. [Laughs.]

jesse

You—you killed it, Lin. God bless you for—god bless you for doing that. And I sure appreciate you taking the time to come be on Bullseye. I’m glad we—I’m glad we made it happen and thanks for—thanks for all your kindness and support over the years.

lin-manuel

Awesome. Thanks, man.

jesse

Okay. Talk to you later, Lin.

lin-manuel

Kay. Bye!

jesse

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the one and only. The film version of Hamilton will premiere on Disney+, July 3rd. Later that month, the documentary We Are Freestyle Love Supreme will go live on Hulu. And if you haven’t streamed His Dark Materials, which features Lin, you can watch it now, on HBO.

music

Upbeat, thumpy interstitial music.

jesse

That’s the end of another episode of Bullseye. Bullseye is produced out of the homes of me and the staff of MaximumFun, in and around greater Los Angeles, California. Here at my house, my three-year-old recently informed me that he is married to his brother, my six-year-old. And also, that he glows in the dark. The show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our producer is Kevin Ferguson. Jesus Ambrosio and Jordan Kauwling are our associate producers. We also get help from Casey O’Brien. Our interstitial music is by Dan Wally, also known as DJW. Our theme song is by The Go! Team. Thanks to them and their label, Memphis Industries, for letting us use it. You can keep up with the show on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Just search for Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. And I guess that’s about it. Just remember: all great radio hosts have a signature sign off.

promo

Speaker: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR. [Music fades out.]

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

If you would like to pitch a guest for Bullseye, please CLICK HERE. You can also follow Bullseye on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. For more about Bullseye and to see a list of stations that carry it, please click here.

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