Want to know what it was like for Lin-Manuel Miranda to go from Broadway to being a lamplighter in Mary Poppins Returns? Get insider information from Lin-Manuel himself on what it was like to act with Meryl Streep, his biggest challenges, and more in this exclusive interview!
I was invited by Disney, ABC & Freeform to Los Angeles for an all-inclusive Mary Poppins Returns Event. All opinions and ideas are 100% honest and my own!
When I found out I was going to the Mary Poppins Returns red carpet premiere and press junket, I immediately squealed then tucked a little wish up in my head never to be announced in came it didn’t come true.
That wish? To meet and interview Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I’ll be the first to admit – I’m not the Hamilton fanatic a lot of other people are. Or I wasn’t at least. My husband actually started listening to it first and I’ve only in the past year finally started listening to the music.
I like to go into my musicals without knowing the entire storyline ahead of time. And I thought I’d do the same before going to Hamilton next April when it comes to Dallas.
But my husband kept asking me and asking me and asking me about it.
And I finally gave in.
And I’m still not the addict some people are, but I love it.
I’m also a HUGE fan of Moana if you couldn’t tell by my breakdown of the best Moana song lyrics.
So yeah my wish for the entire event, well other than meeting John Krasinski (Emily Blunt’s husband), was to get to interview Lin-Manuel Miranda.
It was just as amazing as I thought it might be, even though the poor guy had laryngitis and was totally losing his voice. He could’ve backed out of our interview but he didn’t.
He actually said that we were the highlight of his day when he walked in the room. Dead.
And then he sat down and answered of our questions and then some. And when we saw him at the Mary Poppins Returns after party, he took time out of his busy night and answered some of our other questions. And reassured me that Puerto Rico would not be the last time he plays Hamilton.
I was totally going to buy my husband tickets for the Puerto Rico performance (told you, he’s obsessed) and then found out I was pregnant. Puerto Rico + pregnant women right now is a no-go, so looks like I’ll have to wait for the next big Lin-Manuel Miranda playing Hamilton announcement in the future!
Now onto what you really want to know – what Lin-Manuel Miranda said about being a part of Mary Poppins Returns!
And p.s., he’s excellent in it. There’s one scene that Hamilton fans especially will die over. There’s definitely a reason he was nominated for the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical! Just one of Mary Poppins Returns’ many Golden Globe nominations this year!
Lin-Manuel Miranda on Musical Theater vs. Movie Production
One of the burning questions we, and I’m sure all of you, had for Lin-Manuel was how was the movie experience different than being on Broadway.
You finish the eight-minute dance number and you wait a year and 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 is like yoga. you’re gonna hit the same positions every night, but you’re gonna hit ’em differently depending on your energy, the audience, your fellow performers. And you have to do two the next day.
The energy source in making a film is, 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 one-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.
Until he explained it that way, I never even thought about the fact that with musical theater, you get to do it again tomorrow. In a movie, you get one shot. You might say – you can’t throw away your shot. 🙂
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Proudest Moment
Unlike Emily Blunt in our interview with her, Lin-Manuel had a hard time coming up with his favorite scene. He never did get around to telling us his favorite scene, but he did tell us one part of the film that he was the most proud of.
Tommy Kail, who directed Hamilton, said that he was most moved. Sorry, it makes me laugh. He was most moved when he saw me slide down the banister in Trip A Little Light Fantastic because I’d been doing, that’s like the one thing I actually know how to do really well.
And as Tommy Kail put it, ‘you don’t know how to land a joke or sing a note or grow a beard without practice. But man, you were born to slide down banisters.’
And then there are moments that represent hours and hours of hard work, from the eight-minute continuous dance sequence in Trip A Little Light Fantastic, and Rob ran it as an eight-minute dance sequence, you know.
There were sort of the 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 as a piece with hundreds of cameras around. And I’m very proud of that. I’ve never danced like that in my life.
None of my shows you know, there’s incredible dancing in Hamilton. Hamilton doesn’t do it. You know what I’m talking about. And so I was very proud of that because it was a lot of hard work to get there.
Speaking of dancing, apparently Lin-Manuel’s costumes were surprisingly comfortable and danceable! When we asked if any of the costumes were uncomfortable or hard to move in, Lin-Manuel had some pretty flattering words for costume designer Sandy Powell!
Well, Sandy Powell’s a wizard, and she’s sort of a Mary Poppins herself. She looks not of this world. 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 a priority. So even in these hand-painted suits in the Royal Dalton Ball, and that is painted, that is acrylic paint on the suits, there’s give and stretch in the pants so we can sort of do our work.
Another thing Lin-Manuel had to practice quite a bit was riding the bike with the ladder in the back!He even named her Gertie and rode her around the movie set to practice! Gertie plays a big part in the movie and after you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand why he was so proud of his bike riding performance!
Lin-Manuel Miranda & The Original Mary Poppins
One of the questions we asked most of the cast and crew was about their experience with the original Mary Poppins movie. When we asked Lin-Manuel about his first time watching the movie, his answer was hilarious. Well, sad, and hilarious.
I remember seeing two-thirds of Mary Poppins. We had the VHS cassette and it was, some of you will remember this. You know, 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 ’til I was like 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 came on and I was like, ‘oh okay, I’m gonna go play.’ That was my experience growing up with it.
Mary Poppins Returns may not have Feed the Birds in it, but it has some incredibly well done music. The dynamic duo of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman totally outdid themselves with this one! One of the coolest things about the music is something I didn’t realize until Lin-Manuel brought is up during the interview when talking about trying to perfect his accent and his dialect coach Sandra Butterworth.
You know, she realized that music was my way in. So it was not just listening to music sing 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. I listened to a lot of his early stuff and that was sort of my North Star for the accent.
Lin-Manuel Miranda on Parenthood & Children
I think my favorite moments of the interview was when Lin-Manuel was talking about his son. We asked about how Lin-Manuel felt he could inspire children through this movie, help get the idea that everything is possible across.
I was inspired by him [his son]. You know, we made this movie just, we started making it right when my son was turning two. He was just gaining language. And you know, my character, really the biggest note Rob Marshall gave me is that all the other grownups forget what it’s like to be a child except for Jack. And so my biggest research was watching my son play in Princess Di Park, in Kensington Park in London, watching his boundless imagination.
We are all born with that. I think we’re all, that’s inherent in all of 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.
Lin-Manuel also mentioned that while his son hasn’t seen the movie yet, Lin-Manuel actually brought his son to work every time he had a musical number. And when they would drive through London, his son would point at Big Ben and say, “Daddy climbs that for work.”
Kids are the best!
Lin-Manuel Miranda on Meryl Streep
One of the craziest scenes in the entire film is the one where we meet Meryl Streep, Mary Poppin’s cousin and the world gets flipped upside down. We had to ask Lin-Manuel about his experience with Meryl!
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 mean, I think that’s the sequence that I think every time I watch the movie I watch it more closely because it’s a triumph of production design, the way every ceiling element becomes a floor element. And then Meryl, you know I walked 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 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’s seriously crazy to think back to A Devil Wears Prada where most of us probably first met Emily Blunt as Meryl Streep’s assistant. And how she’s playing one of the most iconic characters in all history and doing it practically perfect in every way.
Stay tuned this week and next for more exclusive content from Mary Poppins cast and crew including an interview with director Rob Marshall tomorrow! And catch up on all of the previous interviews here:
About Mary Poppins Returns
In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place,” “The Girl on the Train”) stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and LinManuel Miranda (“Hamilton,” “Moana”) plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.
Mary Poppins Returns hits theaters everywhere on December 19, 2018.