The cast of “Hamilton” assembled on the “Zoom where it happens” for a Screen Actors Guild Q&A on Saturday afternoon, their first stop on the awards circuit.
Tony Award winners Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Leslie Odom Jr came together along with Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Okieriete Onaodowan, Phillipa Soo and director Thomas Kail.
Originally released in 2015 on Broadway, the hip-hop-infused musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton was an instant smash for Disney Plus when released on the platform in July.
This was the first time the cast has come together since the virtual Georgia fundraiser in early December. After recalling their auditions for the smash hit, Kail talks about capturing the essence of the story and knowing that his job “was very clear…honor and capture the thing we’ve been making the past few years.” The film was shot during three performances from June 26-28 in 2016.
Miranda and Odom’s chemistry is palpable on screen. “One of the secrets to the success of the relationship is that we’re wired differently,” says Miranda. “I think he has a resting pulse rate of 6, and I’m a very high-strung guy. We’re friends, and we love each other. It works.”
“I’m no fan of myself, but I can look back and be proud of that performance,” says Odom. “So much of the performance I owe to Lin. Not just in words he gave me, but his eyes and his soul. He’s the other half of it. Tommy [Kail] has allowed us to see it.”
Portraying the Schuyler sisters, three very prominent women, Goldsberry, Cephas Jones and Soo had a strong bond. For the next generation of girls coming up in the space of film and theater, Soo says, “Join us, we’re waiting for you to be the next filmmaker, the next screenwriter, the more voices, the better.” Goldsberry, who was celebrating her birthday, gives great advice: “Don’t say ‘No’ to yourself. You have to show up.” She adds about the importance of allies in the arts, “Don’t let the world lie to you and tell you that you are in competition with your sisters.” Jones says, “Dream as big as you can. Your fear will always be there, but it’s learning to work through your fear, so it doesn’t stop you from what you want to do.”
By the time they were shooting the film, Groff had left the production to film Netflix’s “Mindhunter” with David Fincher. It didn’t really register for him that he was reprising his role for a movie camera. “I was just living what I learned from Lin and the company,” he says. “You can be as big or small as you want [on stage]. You’re just free to fly. Even when I did see it, I didn’t think it was going to look that good.”
Diggs passionately shares being in love with the entire cast and having fun with his multiple roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. There’s a scene in which Jefferson walks by Aaron Burr (Odom Jr.), holding a pamphlet. Each night, Diggs would try to snatch it from Odom’s hands, and he would be able to do it every three or four nights. The filming captures one of those rare moments that prompted a text to Kail “thanking him.” Diggs was location scouting for his upcoming “Blindspotting” television series, in which Cephas Jones will also be starring.
Jackson, who plays George Washington, the most iconic and recognizable historical figure of the story, discusses making the role his own and the musicality saying, “It was a huge responsibility to sing notes the composer knows you can sing.”
Onaodowan, who adoringly goes by “Oak,” fell in love with the show after seeing the workshop production at Vassar College. Also playing dual roles throughout the film (Hercules Mulligan and James Madison), he says, “I wanted to make them distinct. It was a challenge to embody two different people and keep my voice flexible. It forced me to stay on shit.”
The event was attended by members of the SAG nominating committee with invitations also extended to other voting groups, including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which holds the annual Golden Globes every year.
“Hamilton” is currently streaming on Disney Plus.