‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recalls email from Aretha Franklin, moment with Prince Harry

Published July 2, 2020, 8:23 AM

by Janet Nepales

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Los Angeles — Everything that Lin-Manuel Miranda touches turns into gold.

This multi-talented, multi-awarded, multi-hyphenated creative genius is simply churning one hit after another from his Broadway musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” to his songs in “Moana,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” among others.

We recently interviewed the talented actor-director-composer-writer-singer while he was isolating at his home-office in Washington Heights, New York and he talked of “Hamilton,” the movie, which is going to be shown in Disney+.

The Puerto Rican-American creator, who just turned 40 last January 16, revealed to us when he realized “Hamilton” was an extraordinary hit.

“I realized very early at the Public Theater when we were still off-Broadway,” he revealed. “We announced our second extension that we would be extending from April through the end of May.  And the day that the second extension went on sale, we broke the phone banks at the Public.  And I remember the people at the Public Theater saying we had a website crash before, we never had our literal phones break.  So that is when I knew that we were in for a ride.  I could not even have anticipated it then how wild the ride would be.”

Aretha Franklin (Instagram)

As for his weirdest ticket request, he recalled, “It was probably an email from the late, great Aretha Franklin.  I don’t know how she got my email. I was thrilled she got it. I was thrilled to get her the tickets. But no one ever expects an email from Aretha Franklin and that was probably the most amazing thing to land in my inbox in that first year. Because it didn’t even go to the producers, it landed in my personal email inbox.”

Another memorable moment for Lin-Manuel was when no less than Prince Harry joined him on stage in London when he tried to persuade the Prince to sing “You’ll Be Back.” Lin-Manuel recalled, “It’s very surreal because his sixth great-grandfather is a character in my show.  So let’s just start by acknowledging that surreal moment.  But his charity does wonderful work and we were honored to be able to help in raising money for that work.  I look at the pictures from that night and I think I am playing it so cool, but you can see how stressed out I am in every picture.

Prince Harry (AP/Manila Bulletin)

“They had actually seen the show before. They had gone into a secret box and they were fans of the show.  And so I was able to talk to them about that and that took away some of the surrealism of the moment itself. In terms of him singing ‘You’ll Be Back,’ I couldn’t believe he even sang the two notes he sang, he actually joked about doing that and I said if you would like to do that, I can write some lyrics.  But he also knows he only has to sing two notes for it to make international headlines. They are very aware of their effect on the world.  So I think he did it exactly right. He was like ‘You Say,’ and that was all he needed to do, and then there was just deafening noise and tears. So he has a very firm awareness of what needs to be done.”

Casting Vanessa

For his upcoming directorial feature, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” which is based on the autobiographical musical by playwright Jonathan Larson about an aspiring composer in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice, Lin-Manuel explained to us his choice of Fil-Am actress-singer Vanessa Hudgens for the role of Karessa.

He said, “I met Vanessa when she was working on ‘Grease Live’ for Tommy Kail, and I will never forget the tragedy of her father passing away, and then the next night, she’s on national television and bringing everything she has to this role. It was one of the more heroic acts I have ever seen and left me in awe of her and I have had the pleasure of seeing her play Vanessa in ‘In the Heights’ and I saw her in the same Kennedy Center production where I saw Anthony Ramos and we realized our Anthony playing is in the movie, it’s a wrap.  So yeah, we actually hadn’t gotten to film any of her scenes yet in ‘Tick Tick… Boom!’ because we closed down production ten days in.  But looking forward to starting up again.”

So does he see more Broadway productions being turned into films and preserved for eternity?

“Yeah, I mean if the legacy of this is that more original productions, filmed versions of original productions with this love and care and are able to release it theatrically, I would be so thrilled with that,” he disclosed. “I think that’s a win for musical theater. I think that’s a win for cinema.  The magic and the tough thing about a show is that it’s ephemeral right?  Theater artists are always writing in the melting snow. And the challenge is often price, just the expense of being able to do this and like doing it while you are also just mounting your show.  It’s just really hard to mount a piece of theater anywhere, so to add an independent movie budget on top of that is very tricky.  It was tricky for us and we are the biggest hit show for years.  But we managed it. So yes, I would love to see more of that, because speaking as a theater writer, you don’t write it so only a few people can see the work, you want as many people to see the work as possible.  At first you want them to see it in the live way that you intended it, but I am thrilled that we were able to provide access in this way.”