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Lin-Manuel Miranda
Photograph: Tawni BannisterLin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda on Hamilton, the action figure

Written by
Kris Vire

In the cover story for Time Out Chicago’s fall print issue, which you can pick up around town today (find out where here), I talk with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda about bringing the hit hip-hop musical to Chicago and what its themes from the birth of our nation can tell us about the state of the union today.

Not all of our conversation made it into print, though. And while there wasn’t enough space in the magazine, this excerpt, in which Miranda talks about Alexander Hamilton as an “action figure” and what it’s like writing about writing, is too good to be left on the cutting room floor. Consider it a bonus track to the Hamilton mixtape.

“I think that one of the things that really knocked my socks off about Hamilton as I read Chernow’s biography is how much of a writer he was, and about how, you know, writers, whether they're hip-hop artists or novelists, you kind of can create your destiny if you're good enough and you work hard enough. And this is a guy who literally wrote his way out of the Caribbean, wrote his way into Washington's good graces, and wrote essays about freedom when he was still a student, ratified our Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers in defense of it.

“And we don't think of writers as action figures, right? We think of action figures as action figures; we think of soldiers, we think of sports stars. But this is a guy who wrote three lifetimes’ worth of work, and that is really both what got him success and also what got him into trouble. The fact that this guy couldn’t stop writing, as both his biggest strength and his biggest flaw, is the other exciting thing about him. You know, the nice letters I get from my heroes and my fellow writers are all, ‘Oh my god, this is about writing!’ How writing can save you and can also kill you. That notion of the pen being mightier than the sword sort of really holds true for Hamilton.

“So that was the other sort of challenge I set up for myself: I’m embodying this, but I'm trying to conjure the spirit of this great writer, who changed the world with his writing. That’s no easy feat, so I’m proud that that’s come through as well.”

Hamilton starts performances at the PrivateBank Theatre September 27. Check out our complete Hamilton Chicago guide.

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