As part of the ABC News Special Game Changers, host Robin Roberts spoke with Tony-winning writer of Hamilton and In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The first game-changer in the series, Roberts traveled to Miranda’s native Washington Heights in New York City for a day of exploration. “I never think of the Founders being in Manhattan,” Miranda said. “The fact that the first cabinet dinner happened on 162nd Street, all this incredible American history happened here.”
Their first stop: Miranda’s home to meet his father, Luis Miranda.
Sitting at their dining room table, the elder Miranda, a social activist in New York for many years, said, “I turned Lin-Manuel into a politician, and you have to understand he tells everybody ‘Politics!’ [with disgust], but when you see everything he does, what is more political than changing the vision of Latinos for this country?”
“What you're speaking to is the larger statement of having Latinos not playing gang members in a Broadway show,” says the younger Miranda.
Roberts and Miranda continued on to one of his favorite restaurants, Mamajuana Café, to talk about what is known in the casting world as The Hamilton Effect, a push towards inclusivity and diversity.
“Before I ever had any piece of theatre in production, my last TV job was on the last season of The Sopranos [as a bell boy outside a hotel],” said Miranda. “I really think a large part of me writing musicals was trying to create the parts I’d like to see for myself. I think the wonderful net benefit of that is writing roles for Latinos, for people of color, that weren’t previously available.”
Even though Miranda continues to change the game, there are moments that leave a lasting impression on him. Watching Chris Jackson sing “One Last Time” in the East Room of the White House before the nation’s first black president beside a portrait of President George Washington moves Miranda to this day. “I will never forget Chris singing that last note and his tears going sideways down his face and being that close to that moment.”
As for what’s next: “I think everyone assumes that now I’m writing history plays for the rest of my life, and this was a weird detour for me,” said Miranda. But he will continue writing. “I think that’s our job as artists is to chase the inspiration that doesn’t let you go.”