Okay guys! It is not everyday when you get a chance to meet Lin-Manuel Miranda. And to do it twice in a year span is truly amazing! I had the chance to meet him for his music in Moana and recently for the Mary Poppins Returns Event. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the role of Jack the lamplighter, similar to the role played by the iconic Dick Van Dyke. Lin-Manuel is simply amazing in this role and I can’t wait for you to see him in this role when it comes out next week!
Question 1: It’s been a long time since you professionally performed work other than your own, right? So how did that work for you, doing Mary Poppins Returns?
He said it was the fruit of the harvest. He told us he began by writing Into the Heights because he wanted his dream musical at 18 years of age. He said Hamilton was an extension of that, not his beginning.
“ And then to have Rob Marshall call you and tell you, it’s Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and you’re the only other person we have in mind and we’re going to build from there. It felt like the fruit of the harvest. The harvest I began when I was eighteen years old.”
Question 2: How is it different being in musical theater versus starring in a musical movie production?
He told us in musical theater you finish and you get instant applause. For the big dance number in the movie, you finish it and then wait a year and a half for applause.
“But honestly, you’re trying to tell the truth on stage and you’re trying to tell the truth in film. The difference is the energy source. Doing eight shows a week you get your energy source from the audience and your feelings that day.
The energy source in making a film, especially a film like this, is today you’re dancing with penguins. Tomorrow you’re singing with Meryl Streep. Friday you’re shutting down Buckingham Palace with 800 bikers. And you’re not coming back. We’re not going back to the penguins next week. You don’t get two shows a day with Meryl Streep tomorrow. So the adrenaline source becomes this is once-in-a-lifetime moment and you have to be completely present. And so it just shifts from the audience to the sheer one-of-a-kindness of it.”
Question 3: Which scene are you most proud of?
He said there are so many scenes he is proud of. One of the ones he is most proud of is Trip A Little Light Fantastic because there were so many moving parts of this.
“There are three minutes of the song that are getting to that abandoned playground, and that was on location throughout London. And now we’re here, and now we’re in the sewer, and now we’re here. And then there’s that sequence. And that sequence was run as if it was a Broadway musical number. From jumping on the lamppost to the flaming sticks balancing on my foot, that was all run of a piece with hundreds of cameras around. And I’m very proud of that. I’ve never danced like that in my life.”
Question 4: Did you find the costumes comfortable or uncomfortable, especially with dancing in them?
“Sandy Powell’s a wizard and she’s sort of a Mary Poppins herself. She comes in with this orange hair and these amazing outfits. The next thing you know, you’re wearing an amazing outfit, which is very Poppins-esque. Dancing was always given priority. So even in those hand-painted suits in the Royal Dalton Ball and that is painted, it is acrylic paint on the suits, there’s give and there’s stretch in the pants so we can sort of do our work.”
Question 5: Do you remember the first time you saw Mary Poppins and what that meant to you?
“I remember seeing the first two-thirds of Mary Poppins. We had the V.H.S. cassette. They had their own section in the home library because they were fluffy and white, a little bigger than your shelf. And then I remember turning it off during Feed The Birds. Feed The Birds is the most emotionally devastating melody in the history of cinema.
And I was not ready for it as a kid. So I remember crying and turning it off. I didn’t see the end of Mary Poppins until I was in high school because that song was just too sad. It was just too sad for my tender little heart. So I remember the first two-thirds of it on repeat. And then Feed The Birds was like, “Oh, okay, I’m gonna go play.” That was my experience growing up with it.”
Question 6: So you were taking on the Bert-esque role. What was that process of it?
“ I had an amazing dialect coach named Sandra Butterworth, which is a very Poppinsian name in and of itself. And she became my closest friend and ally on set, whispering in my ear between takes.
And also music. She realized that music was my way in. So it was not just listening to music sung in the east end Cockney accent, it was music in the 1930s. Because it’s not just about the part of the world, it’s about the time of the world. It’s about the when as well. So I listened to a lot of Anthony Newley, who was a big sort of music hall star who then also wrote a Broadway musical called Stop the World, I Want To Get Off in the 1960s.
But I listened to a lot of his early stuff and that was my sort of north star for the accent.”
Question 7: How do you feel that you can inspire children, your son, that everything is possible?
He said he was very inspired by it all. He made this movie when his son was turning 2. He was just beginning his language. Jack is one of the only characters who doesn’t forget what it was like being a kid. His biggest research was watching his son play in Princess Di park in Kensington Park in London, watching his boundless imagination.
“We are all born with that. That is inherent in us until life does what it does. And so you know, that was my secret weapon in finding Jack was I had a two-year-old research assistant who kept me childlike and kept me in that mode.”
Question 8: And how was it to be in the upside down actually with. Meryl Streep?
“I mean, every day with Meryl Streep feels like you’re in the upside down. It’s like, how is this my life? How are we on the ceiling? It was a joy. I think that’s the sequence that I watch more closely every time because it’s a triumph of production design, the way every ceiling element becomes a floor element. And then Meryl, I talked to Emily Blunt about this.
You know, she’s done three films with Meryl. She’s gone from being her assistant to being the lead of the movie. It’s been kind of an incredible product. And what Emily told me going in was that like Meryl just kind of stays in the character, but not like method Daniel Day Lewis cobbling shoes. Like she’s just kind of in the spirit of it. And I felt so lucky that she was in the spirit of a character that’s so mischievous and flirty and fun.”
It was such a pleasure interviewing the iconic Lin-Manuel Miranda!
Mary Poppins Returns opens everywhere on December 19th and you can buy your advanced tickets on Fandango now. Be sure to check out my red carpet post and Emily Blunt post here: Mary Poppins Returns
*I walked the red carpet thanks to Disney. I collaborated with Disney to help promote this new movie. All opinions are my own and not swayed by outside sources. Photo credit Disney and Jana from Whiskey and Sunshine.*