Speaking about the relationship between Hamilton and today’s Black Lives Matter protestors, Renée Elise Goldsberry said she didn’t believe it was “an accident” that the show had landed on Disney+ during such a significant political time.
From the very beginning, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has always been about bringing together two worlds – the past and present. It’s a mission which is written into the very fabric of the show, from the racially diverse cast to the hip-hop inspired songs that dissect the dreams and ambitions of America’s forefathers.
“This is a story about America then, told by America now,” Miranda told The Atlantic back in 2015. “We want to eliminate any distance between a contemporary audience and this story.”
Following Hamilton’s release on Disney+ earlier this month, that relationship – between the story being played out on screen and the lives of its audience – has become even more significant. As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death and people call for widespread change across society, the revolutionary, hopeful spirit that plays out on stage resonates in a completely new way.
Indeed, that’s what one of the stars of the original Broadway cast – Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler – believes. Speaking on PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, the actor explained how she sees the relationship between the characters on stage and the protestors currently taking to the streets to demand change.
“[Hamilton] was a movement. I believe that it will continue to be,” she said. “It’s coming out in a very unique time, and I don’t believe that is an accident.. that we are pulling statues down at the same time as we are finally able to give access to everybody [to] these Founding Fathers and Mothers.
“[Director] Tommy Kail always used to say our job is to take the bronze off of [our characters] and show the real humanity of these people. And show their bravery – show the risks they took and show that they are exactly the same as the people who are in the streets right now crying for justice. They’re exactly the same even if they’re not an 18-year-old black girl saying ‘say her name’.”
Goldsberry continued: “They are exactly the same, and at the same time, show the hypocrisy and show how great the dream was, and show how much there still is to do.”
Goldsberry isn’t the only member of the original Broadway cast to speak out about the relationship between Hamilton’s characters and the Black Lives Matter movement which is unfolding today. Daveed Diggs – who plays Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the production on Disney+ – said the protests unfolding across the world prompted him to view the show differently.
“It’s nice to see the [Black Lives Matter] protest signs that are quoting Hamilton, it’s a good thing,” he told the Evening Standard.
“I think all art gets to be looked at through the eyes of the times that it is being viewed in, but it is significant that it’s coming out right now in the midst of a global pandemic and a global awakening about the long-lasting effects of slavery and of the value of brown bodies and all of these things. And all of these things are baked into the show.”
Okieriete Onaodowan – who plays Hercules Mulligan and James Madison – also told the Evening Standard he hopes the show will inspire more people to take action to make change.
Onaodowan continued: “After watching George Floyd be murdered, basically, for eight minutes and 46 seconds, it kind of sent me into a tailspin. A lot of people felt really helpless, that people that we relied on to protect us are actively targeting us.
“One thing this show has done for me is knowing that I’m part of something where it’s telling people to speak out no matter what, to use your voice, to be as loud, to be as obnoxious as you need to be, like Alexander was, be relentless and tell everyone around you ‘This is what I think America should be,’ and then also making it happen.”
It’s worth noting that the show – which won a Pulitzer prize back in 2016 – has also faced it’s fair share of criticism since its arrival on Disney+, most prominently for its avoidance of the subject of slavery.
Responding to a Twitter thread by writer and podcast host Tracy Clayton about the criticism the show is receiving, Miranda acknowledged that “all the criticisms are valid,” but said he’d tried his best to fit everything in to the musical.
“The sheer tonnage of complexities & failings of these people I couldn’t get. Or wrestled with but cut,” he wrote. “I took 6 years and fit as much as I could in a 2.5 hour musical. Did my best. It’s all fair game.”
Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+