Lin-Manuel Miranda is an American playwright, actor, composer, and performer. His 2007 play In the Heights helped to launch his career and shoot him to stardom. He became best known, however, as the creator of the critically acclaimed and popular musical Hamilton, for which he received various awards, including two Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2018, he costarred in the Disney live-action musical Mary Poppins Returns. He then signed on to star in the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy novel series His Dark Materials, which began airing on HBO in 2019. He reprised his portrayal of Alexander Hamilton in a film of the stage version Hamilton, which streamed on Disney+ in the spring of 2020. In 2021, Miranda performed at Celebrating America, an event honoring President Joe Biden’s inauguration. He was tapped to compose original songs for the 2023 live-action adaptation of a Disney classic.
Early Life and Career
Lin-Manuel Miranda was born on January 16, 1980, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. He attended Wesleyan College in Connecticut, where he honed his passion for the theater and planted the seeds for his first big hit In the Heights. Miranda wrote In the Heights during his sophomore year. He applied for the school’s Second Stage theater. Once accepted, he began putting together his play. In an interview with Broadway.com, Miranda said “I barely slept, I barely ate; I just wrote. I put in all the things I’d always wanted to see onstage: propulsive freestyle rap scenes outside of bodegas, salsa numbers that also revealed character and story. I tried to write the kind of show I’d want to be in.”
Miranda’s enthusiasm for In the Heights, and his work paid off with commercial and critical success. The Wesleyan production of the show broke school box-office records in 1992 and earned him an opportunity to produce the show professionally with Back House Productions, a fledgling production company composed of Wesleyan graduates.
In addition to writing and acting in his own plays, Miranda worked with Tom Kitt and Amanda Greene to compose the music and lyrics for Bring It On: The Musical. Bring It On finished a second national and international tour in 2014. Miranda also formed and performed in the rap-comedy group Freestyle Love Supreme, which toured festivals and comedy venues worldwide and debuted on television on Pivot in 2014.
Miranda also appeared on television shows such as House, The Sopranos, and Sesame Street. He lent his voice to the audiobook recordings of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
Found Success with Hamilton
In 2015 Miranda created a show based on founding father Alexander Hamilton. In Hamilton, for which Miranda wrote the book, music, and lyrics and also performed in as the lead, Miranda posits the idea that Alexander Hamilton arrived in America as an immigrant on foreign soil. He uses hip-hop and a variety of musical styles to tie together Hamilton’s colonial immigrant experience with the modern immigrant experience. Miranda set up a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation to perform more than a dozen matinee shows for 20,000 New York City public school students. The producers charged just $10 per ticket while the rest was subsidized by the foundation.
The play debuted to sold-out crowds Off-Broadway in February of 2015 and was an instant hit. It debuted on Broadway in the summer of 2015 to equally rave reviews. Hamilton received 16 Tony Award nominations and won 11 of them, including two for Miranda himself. It also earned Miranda the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Drama among other awards. Miranda performed in the show throughout 2016, and Hamilton continued to run throughout 2017 in both the United States and London. Miranda continued to work on other ventures and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018.
Miranda was cast in a reboot of Disney’s Mary Poppins film called Mary Poppins Returns, which premiered in 2019. His performance as Jack earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for best performance by an actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy. He then joined the cast of HBO’s adaptation of the Philip Pullman series of fantasy novels titled His Dark Materials, which aired in late 2019. In the adaptation, Miranda played adventurer Lee Scoresby. In the late 2010s and 2020, Miranda also had guest spots in animated series, including BoJack Horseman (2017, 2020) and DuckTales (2018‐20). He had an Emmy Award‐nominated turn in as Roy Scheider in the docudrama miniseries Fosse/Verdon (2019). Additionally, Miranda went back to the stage in the rap-oriented special Broadway production of Freestyle Love Supreme from October 2019 to January 2020. He was not only part of the ensemble, but also produced and created the show.
More prominently, Miranda returned to his role in Hamilton for a film of the stage musical. Originally scheduled to be released in theaters in October 2021, it was broadcast via the Disney+ streaming service in early 2020 to entertain people staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown orders. As a companion to the release, Miranda and partners including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History made a companion in-school program, EduHam, available for free for everyone. The educational program used the musical to create interest in creativity and historical research.
While the well-received Hamilton film was available, Miranda’s next project, a musical film of his first success In the Heights, was in post-production. Scheduled for release in 2021, Miranda played the role of the Piragua Guy and was the film’s producer. When the 2020 pandemic led to lockdowns in the United States, it affected another project for Miranda. He was two weeks into shooting his film directorial debut, the Jonathan Larson musical Tick, Tick … Boom, when production was temporarily halted. Miranda remained stoic about the hiatus, telling the Washington Post, “It’s a time to cope, for the most part. That’s not, though, not to mourn the alternate timeline.”
In 2021, Miranda performed at Celebrating America, a special event created by the Presidential Inaugural Committee to honor the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Miranda performed alongside Bruce Springsteen, the Foo Fighters, and Jon Bon Jovi. The event was hosted by Justin Timberlake. That same year, Miranda worked alongside several other artists to write the lyrics for “Checks and Balances,” which was performed as part of the Netflix series We the People. Miranda won the Primetime Emmy award for outstanding variety special (pre-recorded) in 2021 for Hamilton.
Miranda provided the vocal talents and wrote songs for the animated film Vivo in 2021, followed by the release of Tick, Tick … Boom!, the same year. In November of 2021, the animated musical film Encanto was released. Miranda had collaborated with Walt Disney Pictures on the film, whose soundtrack was a commercial success with the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” launching itself into pop culture fame, rising to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and earning a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2023.
Miranda continued his collaborative relationship with Disney. He wrote original songs for the 2023 live-action adaptation of the Disney classic The Little Mermaid. With composer Alan Menken crafting the music, Miranda wrote lyrics for three new songs: “For the First Time,” sung by Ariel; “Wild Uncharted Waters,” for Prince Eric; and “Scuttlebutt,” a rap number for seagull Scuttle.
Won Drama Desk Award for outstanding ensemble performance for In the Heights, 2007; Tony Award for best original score written for the theatre for In the Heights, 2008; (shared) Grammy Award for best musical theater album for In the Heights, 2009; (shared) Primetime Emmy for outstanding original music and lyrics for Bigger, 2014; MacArthur Genius Award, 2015; Drama Desk Award for outstanding book of a musical, outstanding lyrics, and outstanding music for Hamilton, 2015; (shared) Grammy Award for best musical theater album for Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), 2016; Tony Award for best book of a musical and best original score written for the theatre for Hamilton, 2016; Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Hamilton, 2016; Grammy Award for best song written for visual media for the song “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, 2018; star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2018; Kennedy Center Honors, 2018; Special Tony Award for Freestyle Love Supreme, 2020; Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding variety special (pre-recorded) for Hamilton, 2021; Grammy Award for best song written for visual media for “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto, 2023.
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