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Interview by Allison Williams
Lin-Manuel Miranda deserves a diva moment. In the Heights, the hit salsa-tinged musical he wrote and stars in, barrels into next week's Tonys as the most nominated show of the year. But the Inwood-born thespian is all humble charm as he slurps matzo-ball soup at a Hell's Kitchen diner. Miranda, 28, isn't letting his wunderkind status go to his head, at least not until his self-described "brown people of Broadway" show walks away with a Tony—or ten.
Time Out New York: So 13 Tony nominations. Overachiever.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: And I still want more for the cast!
TONY: Do you know what you're going to wear? Hugh Jackman wore gold lam pants to the Tonys, and he won.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: I might have to rock that. I haven't worn gold lam since, hmm...
TONY: There's a since?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Since playing Conrad Birdie [in Bye Bye Birdie] in sixth grade.
TONY: And you went to Wesleyan, which Gawker once named the "Most Annoying Liberal Arts School." True?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: In certain circles we could be considered annoying. It's a very ultra-liberal school. I lived in the naked dorm.
TONY: You requested it?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: No, it's just where I landed. Though I actually posed naked for some art classes for cash. I did a shot of Captain Morgan and stood up there.
TONY: Why haven't we seen those pictures in the tabloids?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: You will. You'll see some artist's very unfair rendering of me sometime soon.
TONY: Your show is about Washington Heights and not Inwood, where you grew up. Is that because In the 'Wood sounds like porn?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: It does sound like porn! And there are tons of porn names in Inwood—I lived off Dyckman Street, just around the corner from Seaman Avenue and Cumming Street. I shit you not.
TONY: But you don't live there now.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Now I live sort of on the cusp of the Upper West Side, in Hell's Kitchen. I tell everyone I live in Upper West Hell.
TONY: Not a fan?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: There's no neighborhood there. You need the bodegas. You need the ATM that has $10 bills for when you have $17 in your bank account so you can still take money out.
TONY: Is that why your T-shirt has a picture of a bodega coffee cup?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: It's for our baseball team; I threw out the first pitch at the Broadway Show League today. People are scared of the Latino cast as a baseball team. We thought of bringing in some 17-year-old Dominican ringer, saying he was in the ensemble.
TONY: You guys any good?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: We got our butt kicked by August: Osage County last week, but we handed it to Jersey Boys. But not me—I'm sort of a George W. Bush, the head cheerleader.
TONY: I've never heard a New Yorker compare himself favorably to George Bush.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Well, only in that I'm bad at sports, so I cheer on the side. That's the one thing I give Bush credit for—stayin' in his lane.
TONY: So what do you do besides theater?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Any extra time I have I spend playing Grand Theft Auto or watching Viva Hollywood.
TONY: Viva Hollywood?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: It's the VH1 search for the next telenovela star. All the stereotypes! It sets our people back 40 years. But given that Flavor of Love sets black people back and Rock of Love sets white people back, I guess it's our turn.
TONY: And you play GTA? In the Heights is pretty tame, crimewise.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: I don't even commit any crimes! I'm a vagabond, a ragamuffin. I like just going riding, with the boom box on the bike.
TONY: You have to commit crimes eventually, right?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Yeah, I killed some Jamaican drug dealers yesterday so I could hang out with my friend Little Jacob.
TONY: You do what you gotta do.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: And I've been going on good dates with Michelle, the girlfriend in the game.
TONY: Your real-life girlfriend is okay with that?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: That's actually what sealed the deal for us. We were at that part of a date where you don't know what to say next, and a car drifted in front of us. She goes, "That's some Grand Theft Auto shit right there," and, like, "Dream Weaver" started playing in my head.
In the Heights is now playing on Broadway. The 2008 Tony Awards will air Jun 15 at 8pm on CBS.