Tonight, Lin will make his way from the stage to the small screen when he co-stars on the season premiere of Fox's House.
I caught up with Lin as he prepares for his big premiere and talks about a project he debuted at another House…the White House.
How did this opportunity to work on House come about?
My manager got a call from Katie Jacobs, an Executive Producer on the show and the director of my episodes, saying she was a fan of In The Heights and the writers were working on a character with me in mind.
I'm such a fan of the show, so I said yes and we immediately got to work on clearing my summer so I could go out to LA and film it. I'm immensely proud to be a part of it, and I can't wait to see it. I hope I did right by them!
Can you give us any clues as to what we’ll see from you tonight?
Well, when they said they wrote the part with me in mind, they weren't kidding. I play House's roommate in the psych ward, and the best way of putting it is I play Tigger to his Eeyore. That's Hugh's analogy, not mine, but it's apt.
Any memorable moments from the taping?
My dream came true one day, when we were filming this fight scene. This incredibly muscular dude came on set, my height, with my exact hairline and goatee. His name was Walker and he was my stunt double. I've always wanted a stunt double. I actually wanted to be a stuntman when I was a kid, before I discovered my aversion to anything remotely dangerous.
Do you want to continue acting or do some more stuff behind the scenes?
Writing is just what I do when I'm not doing anything else. It’s my default state. I will keep acting as long as I can find interesting roles that I think I'll be good at.
Speaking of writing, you’re currently working on a rap concept album based on the life of Alexander Hamilton (a work you just debuted at The White House, of all places). Where did that idea come from?
After In the Heights finished Off-Broadway, I went on vacation and brought with me a biography of Hamilton. Something about it just grabbed me. I picked up the book thinking maybe I’ll get a funny song out of it—some jokey-rap thing about the Hamilton/Burr duel. But as I read it, I realized Hamilton’s whole life was about the power of words and wouldn’t it be great to hear a hip-hop album about how we created this country?
What was it about Hamilton’s life that inspired you?
He’s very much like a Charles Dickens-type character. Here is a guy who really pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He was a penniless orphan, both of his parents were dead by the time he was 10. He ended up working for a trading company in St. Croix and was basically running the company by the time he was 14 because he was just this prodigy kid. [At the time] he had written a poem about a hurricane that had devastated the island. The poem gained notoriety and he was sent to the mainland on a scholarship literally on the strength of his writing. He taught himself French and Latin and soon became indispensable to George Washington during the Revolution and his career flourished from there. Only in America could his career flourish. But he was also as self destructive as he was brilliant and got into these epic fights with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Aaron Burr the last of which ended in him getting shot in Weehawken, NJ. And as I’m reading this, I’m thinking ‘This is Biggie, this is Tupac…this is hip-hop!’
How do you visualize this album coming together?
I see this as a hip-hop concept album. This is my Jesus Christ Super Star, Andrew Lloyd Webber moment [laughs]. As I’m writing, I’m imagining these dream rappers playing specific roles. There’s a point in one song where I’m just doing a bad Busta Rhymes impression on the demo because I just can’t picture anyone but Busta Rhymes doing it. In my ideal vision for this project, we get really amazing rappers to play these different parts.
What was it like to perform your newest work at the White House in front of the President and First Lady?
The whole day was a day that will exist outside any other day in my life. Any day that starts with you sharing a van to the White House with James Earl Jones is going to be a crazy day! I was the closing act of the show and I had never done this project in public before so I was already nervous. I looked at the President and the First Lady only once and when I looked at him he was whispering something to her and I couldn’t let that get to me. Afterwards, George Stephanopoulos came up to me and said, "The President is back there talking about your song, he’s saying ‘Where is Timothy Geitner? We need him to hear the Hamilton rap!’". To hear that the President enjoyed the song was a real dream come true.