The playwright, actor and producer talked to People CHICA about his fascinating projects and his fulfilling roles of dad and husband.
Lin-Manuel Miranda talked to People CHICA from Wales, where he is taping the new HBO series His Dark Materials. “I get to play this cowboy who flies this hot air balloon, and it’s this incredibly imaginative fantasy world,” he says about the show, premiering in November. He will also be directing his first movie, a film adaptation of the musical Tick, Tick…Boom! by American composer Jonathan Larson. At the same time, the creative genius and multitasker, 39, will be producing and acting in his hip-hop musical Freestyle Love Supreme on Broadway.
“I struggle,” he admits with a laugh about juggling his work projects and family life. “We all struggle with the work-life balance! Right now I’m in Wales and they are in New York,” he says about his wife, Vanessa Nadal, and their kids Sebastian and Francisco. “But I will leave tomorrow because my son starts kindergarten at the end of the week and I’m not missing his first day of kindergarten. I will go home for the first days of school and the first ride on the school bus and all of that.”
No matter how busy his schedule gets, it never distracts him from staying connected to his loved ones. “It’s a lot of checking in. I celebrate nine years of marriage to my wife and it’s a constant dialogue. We are really lucky that our kids really like each other. They are about to be 5 and 2, and Sebastian is a really good big brother, they get along really well. I got a picture from my wife at 5 a.m. with the headline ‘Jail Break,’ and my son had taken the baby out his crib and brought him to his room and they were just playing together,” he recalls with a laugh. “They also get really surreal experiences like driving all over Wales on my days off. I’ll be curious to read the book they write some day!”
The renowned playwright, actor and producer, of Puerto Rican descent, is also excited about being a global ambassador for the innovative app TheaterEars, which allows people to watch movies in the movie theater in Spanish. “This is so that you and your abuela can go see the same movie. When I heard about the app and how it worked, I just thought, ‘I wish this was around when my abuela was around so that she could take me to the movies and have the same amount of fun watching as me,” he says. “It allows families that speak different languages to all go see the same movie together, you pick your language and you go. If you look at statistics of moviegoers, people who are going to movies, it’s Latinos. We are the ones who go out to the movies and we go as a family. The fact that you now have this app that allows you to enjoy the film in your language of choice is really exciting.”
Dan Mangru, the CEO of TheaterEars, said about Miranda supporting the app, “We are truly honored that someone of Lin-Manuel’s talent and intelligence has recognized the value of our efforts. He is an innovator and a disruptor, exactly who we wanted to work with. We’ve seen what a powerful voice for good Lin-Manuel can be, especially with all of the great work he has done for Puerto Rico and the Hispanic community. We share a common mission: to empower movie-going audiences everywhere, regardless of language.”
Working on the film adaptation of his hit play In the Heights is another dream come true. “It’s so exciting. We spent the summer doing principal photography and filming the movie, it’s in edit right now. You have no idea how validating it is. The show, which I wrote with Quiara Hudes, was a love letter to our neighborhood. We both lived in Washington Heights. I grew up in northern Manhattan, just a little north of Washington Heights, and the show is a love letter to that community — in the way in which it’s always changing, in the way in which it never changes — but its debut was on a Broadway stage, so it was a Broadway version of that neighborhood. Now to go and take those same songs and those same characters and actually put them on the screen is amazing,” he says. “We filmed entirely on location. We took over a block on 175th Street and filmed there all summer, and the way we were embraced by the community was so incredible. I can’t wait for the world to see it.”
The film is the epitome of Latino representation, with a stellar cast that includes Jimmy Smits, Anthony Ramos, Dascha Polanco, Daphne Rubin-Vega, salsa crooner Marc Anthony, and Miranda himself. “It was so emotional,” he says about seeing this film come to life. “A lot of the time when you are Latino working in Hollywood, you are one of a few on screen. There are very few where everyone — in front of and behind the camera — has that same shared experience. It’s a party con pay. It’s a party but they are paying us to do it.” One particular anecdote that comes to mind is recording the song “Carnaval del Barrio” with the cast holding up the flag of the country they are from and continuing to dance and laugh way after director Jon Chu yelled “cut” to end the scene. “We just kept going and singing and cheering and chanting and stamping and crying and laughing, and I’ll never forget that experience,” Miranda recalls.
How does he share his Latino pride with his kids? “You share it by telling them stories and by cooking them food and by taking them. We lived in Puerto Rico for a month while I was doing Hamilton there back in January,” he says. “We will go back again to reconnect with family at the end of the year for the holidays, keeping them very connected with their cousins on the island. My wife is from the Dominican Republic so it’s not just my family in P.R. but her family in D.R., and making them understand that’s a part of who they are, of their heritage. It makes me so proud when my kids recognize that.'”