tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg March 25, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: how is it to be back in -- at this house? lin-manuel: very normal. i only live a few blocks away. so, it's -- i have been here since i was one year old. charlie: this is a house of memories. lin-manuel: this is a house of memories, of ghosts. but it's also -- it was a laboratory for me. i have filmed so many action movies where we are sitting. i have filmed so many animated movies with my "g.i. joe" characters.
i was a kid carrying around a camera. my dad had those big over-the-shoulder camcorders and brought one home. we never shot family videos, it was just me recording. charlie: did you think you might be a director? lin-manuel: i did. steven spielberg doesn't get you far in school. i kind of figured out who i was socially by doing a school play. i got cast in the sixth grade play. i played a lot of people. charlie: does that just happen? how is it that one kid wants to do those things? what was it in you that made you want to do those things? because those are the things you do. lin-manuel: isn't that incredible that we get to do what we love? you have to think about how you lucked into this. i grew up in a house where cast albums were almost always playing.
we'll go up and take a look at them later. charlie: all the great albums of all the musical theater. lin-manuel: yes. "south pacific," "sound of music," "king and i." it was latin music at the party because we are puerto rican. then when we would clean up the house after the party, we would put on the cast album. charlie: were you shy or like you are now? lin-manuel: i still think i'm shy. i do. i fell in love with -- i like applause. i wasn't the kind of person who would take over a rom to take over it, but if i had something i was good at, i was eager to share it. my mother's favorite story is our first piano recital. i'd only practiced well enough to play one song.
i learned four, but there was only one i could reliably do well. i played my song. i go up the scale and back down. and they clapped and i looked up and looked around and said "i know another one." if this is going to be the reaction. and i played four songs. the piano teacher gently lifted me off the piano bench so the other kids could play. charlie: that reminds me ted williams once told me -- i said why baseball? he said "i was pretty good and i got applause and i wanted to hear more applause so i got better." it was an incentive to do it better. lin-manuel: i don't think i'm cut out to be a novelist. sitting alone and not getting the payoff. i'm fine with sitting alone. writing "hamilton" was six years
of sitting alone, but the payoff is i get to play it for someone and they have ideas on how to make it better and someone knows how to stage it. there is this show and tell. the gratification of theater vs. film and television. the audience lets you know in the moment how they are feeling about what you are doing. you don't act once, it's in the can, and you hope they like it a year from now. charlie: and it changes night to night. lin-manuel: and it changes night to night. we have a front row of people who literally won a lottery to be there and they give us everything. they are there and they didn't even know they would be there that night. they are experiencing it for the first time and i experience it for the first time because they are. charlie: growing up here, you make your way down to manhattan. lin-manuel: we're in manhattan. charlie: but down from here. to hunter college. lin-manuel: hunter college high school and elementary school. charlie: why hunter?
lin-manuel: you have to ask my parents. i took the test when i was five. but i won the lottery. i won the lottery when i was five when i passed the battery of mysterious tests that get you into hunter college elementary school because i got a great free public school education. i was learning about matisse and jackson pollock in kindergarten. i remember making jackson pollock drip paintings when i was six years old and getting my early appreciation for art even then. and a school that really valued the arts and put them on the same level as math and social studies and history. the culmination of our elementary school was to do the sixth grade play. we did 28 versions of six musicals. that's a lethal dosage of musical theater. whoem to be the only one
got stuck and coulddn' -- couldn't let go. i played conrad birdie in "bye bye birdie." my nanny made my gold leather jacket and every girl had to pretend to fall in love with me and faint when i snapped. i was 12 years old, three feet tall. i was shorter than all of the girls in my grade. conrad, i was the sex symbol of the grade. charlie: you knew early on you wanted to be an artist. lin-manuel: i didn't know whether it would be movies, theater, animation. i was always gravitating towards that. charlie: but you are doing this without any formal musical training. lin-manuel: just high school music class and piano lessons. we had a great ninth-grade music teacher. i learned my major and minor chords. augmented from diminished.
i remember calling my friend alex and saying "i'm playing in f sharp -- an 'a' and a 'c,' what is that?" he says, "you're playing an f sharp diminished chord." i didn't know the names but i knew i needed them for the songs. charlie: did you have a good ear? lin-manuel: i have a good ear. charlie: they say you are a fantastic mimic. you could do that. you could hear something and repeat it. a song. lin-manuel: i got very impatient with piano lessons because the reading was slow. if i could hear it on the radio, i could figure out the chords and play it. it was a faster system between my ears and my hands than my eyes. charlie: that served you for the rest of your life. what music did you listen to beyond showtunes, beyond famous musicals?
lin-manuel: i listen to hip-hop. i don't -- i was born in 1980, so there wasn't ever a time where hip-hop wasn't part of my life. charlie: was it your music from the time you heard it? lin-manuel: it was mine and my sisters. my parent wasn't -- weren't brininging records home. my sister was bringing home the fat boys and she took me to see "beat street." charlie: it resonated with you. lin-manuel: it was just our music. the album that really unlocked it for me, that gave me permission to start writing, it was an album called "bizarre ride to the far side." i was 14. the lead single was about these guys who couldn't get girls, called "passin' me by, and so much hip-hop is about bluster and how much jewelry i have and how great a rapper i am, and this was about people writing love notes and the note coming back "return to sender."
i had a crush on my teacher. i had a crush on this girl, but she likes this other guy. and i was like i could get into that. [laughter] the great hook that has sampled by a million artists since is ♪ my dear, my dear, my dear, you do not know me but i know you very well and let me tell you about the feelings i have for you when i try or make some sort of attempt, i symp i wish i wasn't such a wimp beause then i would let you know that i love you so and if i was your man, then i would be true the only lying i would do is in the bed with you ♪ it was so angsty and great. i memorized that album quickly. i then started absorbing everything. i absorbed hip-hop by making mix tapes with my friends. i got into all these different genres. charlie: the interesting thing about "hamilton" was the mix tape. lin-manuel: i think of mix tapes as sonic love letters. i think a lot of my creative
energy in high school was spent literally making mix tapes to girls i liked, for friends of mine who i wanted them to get to know who i was. it was easier for me to say this 90 minutes on this cassette tape defines who i am. and the difference between a mix tape or what they have now is that you have to listen to it consecutively. and i put it in into a funny interlude. my fourth song was always the most mip -- important. that's the one that tells you who i really am. it was that and cleanup. i think i still build scores the way we built mix tape for girls. now we can afford to sit for a little while. when i approached -- read ron's
book and started thinking about it, i thought of it the way i thought of making mix tapes for my friends. it is i will take you on the ride. the ride will tell the story of this man's life. charlie: the first step is to draw you in? lin-manuel: the first song is everything. if you fast-forward through the first song, you messed up. [laughter] lin-manuel: you're not going to press play. remember, you are listening to it consecutively. i set it as a challenge to encapsulate hamilton's entire life until the moment he reaches new york in one song. and so it forced me to think in a hamiltonian way. i was telling you before the thing about hamilton is he spoke in paragraphs. the opening sentence of our show is a run-on show. how does a -- dropped in the
middle of a forgotten spot in the caribbean by providence, impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar. it is a very hamiltonian sentence. charlie: ron has said you put in that song 20 years of living. when you began to think about things and at the same time occasionally going once a year or more with your parents to the theater, what were you thinking? what was that like? lin-manuel: it was life-changing. it was life-changing in a couple ways. one, the first show i remember seeing is "les miserables." i remember a few things from the night. i remember crying when fantine died.
i remember falling asleep for a little while because i was seven. i remember javert's suicide, the master of the house and laughing really hard. the thing i remember most was seeing -- my parents brought home the two disc cast album and my mother would play "bring him home" on a loop and burst into tears, and it really moved me -- the effect music had on her. ♪ lord on high hear my prayer ♪ lin-manuel: seeing how this story and this man wanting this kid to live moved my mother to tears every time it was sung. i think that is as much of reason i'm in musical theater as anything else. charlie: because of the emotional connection with your mother? lin-manuel: because of the power musical theater has in terms of emotional connection.
musical theater is not one art form. it is 14 art forms together. music, dancing, the lighting, the costumes have to be right. charlie: the set has to be right. lin-manuel: the set has to be right. conspires toll create those moments, there is nothing like it. charlie: and to say there is nothing like it means it has -- delivers more of an emotional punch than any other kind of visual or musical influence. lin-manuel: i think so, because it's happening to you live. there is no distance of the screen. you're seeing it yet you can't believe you are seeing it. i'm thinking of the final moment of america in "west side story," i'm thinking of the bottle dance on "fiddler on the roof." when you think it can't possibly go any further, and it does. there are these moments when you
stand agape, outside yourself, like how am i really a person watching this? charlie: and then you go see "rent." lin-manuel: "rent" did for me in musical theater what the far side did for me in hip-hop. it said, you can write this. we are not so different, you and i. it is about people living, dying, struggling as artists. it was the career i saw myself going into. charlie: underline struggling as dying.st and living and lin-manuel: yeah. it took place now and in a neighborhood just down town my sister grew up. my parents went to nyu together. that was before i was born. but it tacitly gave me permission -- you are allowed to write musicals about what you know.
sadly died before his show even opened, did so many of the things i wanted to do. he made a contemporary sound relevant and work in the musical theater format. he ended the conversation as to whether rock had a place in musical theater. it started in "hair" and "jesus christ superstar." we would still have these conversations. now it's just a part of language. we've absorbed it the way hip-hop absorbs different styles. it was huge. charlie: do you think it gave you any sense of mortality knowing jonathan's story? lin-manuel: i think jonathan's passing before his show opened scared the hell out of me. you could go at any time.
and those ideas, those big ideas you have in your head will stay locked in your head. they go with you unless you get them out into the world. and that's still true. charlie: how so? lin-manuel: in that nothing is promised. tomorrow is not promised. i made plans to come talk to you today but my car could have gone over the highway on the way here. we never know what the next day will bring and yet we plan months and years, which is the vainglorious hope. that you finish the musical. it is both terrifying -- embarking on a show like this, on any creative endeavor is terrifying because you might not make it to the finish line. charlie: and the finish line is not tomorrow. lin-manuel: the finish line is getting the thing that was in your head into the world. opened, ite heights"
wasn't about having a career, it was get this thing out of my head so it can exist. charlie: what was the thing to get out? lin-manuel: the thing to get out can wen the heights" was have a latino musical where we are not knife-wielding 1950's.s from the great musical "west side story." but it's such a peculiar subset and tiny slice of latino experience for only gangsters be -- to be represented in the musical theater canon. that is what we had. i wanted a licensed business and i wanted to see if we could write a musical about latinos that didn't have any drug deals or crime. because you will see that on the news. that's what they cover, crimes. i was interested in the hard-working people i grew up
in this neighborhood than the guy on the corner. the guy on the corner is there but it's also a guy inside the store on the corner. i wanted to tell his story. charlie: what did you have to get out with "hamilton?" lin-manuel: i had to get out this guy's life. it out-dickens dickens. it wasn't until i really want in and started researching that i was in the same theme i was with "in the heights." here's an immigrant, an outsider who writes his way in, right his -- who writes his way to prominence, charms his wife through letters, writes his way into his personal and professional life, but then he doesn't know when to shut up and he also self-destructs in his writing. i had a really good idea at the top of the book. and then so -- he writes this poem. croix.ne destroys st. he writes a poem about the carnage of a hurricane. it is used for leaf efforts into
-- for relief efforts and a scholarship is raised to send him to the mainland. i said that's the most hip-hop thing i ever heard. it's a story of creating something beautiful out of the ashes of something else. the south bronx was a mess in the 1970's. it was burnt down buildings, it was empty parking lots, graffiti rising up on those blocks. it was block parties happening. it was something beautiful being created out of the ashes of something old. that is what hamilton did when he wrote that poem, and then he wrote about his struggles and got out on the strength of his writing, and that is the trajectory of so many hip-hop artists i respect. charlie: the ability to express yourself in words. lin-manuel: not only that, but the ability to be a reporter on the frontlines of where you grew up in your struggle and that is what hamilton did. he said my island is ruined. my island is in trouble. that's what lil wayne did after katrina.
that is what jay-z writes about when he writes about the projects. it is writing your way out and that hope of a meritocracy, that if you can write and you are smart, you can get out. i had that good idea in the second chapter and the idea of him as a hip-hop artist, it just kept -- as i read the book, it kept proving me right. i felt like a mosquito that hit an artery. it just kept proving me right in a million different ways. charlie: the gift that keeps on giving. lin-manuel: he wrote under a pseudonym like so many rappers do, took up a moniker to write against a royalist. then he becomes washington's aide de camp because he can write well and quickly in french. he is responsible for washington's correspondence during the revolutionary war. he has the front seat. he wanted to fight. that is the other fun thing. he has the plum job and he's like "give me a command." charlie: because heroes come
from the battlefield. lin-manuel: and social mobility comes from the battlefield. i don't have connections. mother's gone, dad is lord knows where, and i have got to make my bones as a glorious fighter or i can die as a martyr, which would also be fine. charlie: a certification of "i belong." lin-manuel: i belong, i fought for this country. charlie: "i'm an american." lin-manuel: america doesn't even exist yet, and i'm an american. and the fact that it's an immigrant outsider who created the notion of one america more than anyone else through his financial system. ourselves as colonies at that -- we were all thinking of ourselves as colonies at that point. people would say to jefferson, will you vote for hamilton's
plan or are you your country's man? by the country, they meant virginia. this is what began this thinking of ourselves as one nation. charlie: that's like the greatest day of your life when you discovered alexander hamilton. because of what you were able to do with it. lin-manuel: i saw a way into the story. i immediately went to google and said someone has done this. it's too good a story for there not to be three musicals about hamilton that i don't know about. no one had done it. so, i got to work because i wanted to get there first. charlie: the immigrant thing. is there a connection with your father because he made the decision to come here from puerto rico? lin-manuel: i father is technically not an immigrant because puerto rico is part of the united states. charlie: from an island. lin-manuel: from the caribbean and not speaking a word of english.
he learned english in school, came here at 18 to get an education, like hamilton did. he graduated college by 18 in puerto rico. he is the genius of the family. i'm the slacker. charlie: no. do you in any way have an immigrant's connection beyond your father? is there this idea of being an immigrant inside of your own psyche? lin-manuel: i grew up in an immigrant neighborhood. a historically immigrant neighborhood. it was all irish when we moved here, and then it became dominican and latino immigrants. i think i come at it from a different angle, which was i won the lottery. thegan commuting to go to countryzip code in the for school.
i learned to pronounce my name differently in english and spanish. i was speaking spanish at home and speaking english at school. i was a little of myself in both places and it wasn't until i grew up i started bringing all of myself to the room. does that make sense? charlie: yes. lin-manuel: it's a great way to make a writer. to have him bifurcated early and often. a part of you is always observing because you are trying to figure out where you fit in. charlie: you had already written "in the heights" when this occurred. lin-manuel: yes. people were asking what is your next thing going to be. charlie: that was part of it. you had done something and weren't sure about in the next step. lin-manuel: i don't think it was a coincidence it was my first vacation. it was the first time i had any time off. charlie: having done what you had done and you were on the beach, not knowing where you might go, you bought this big
800 page book. and hamilton speaks to you instantly. what do you do when you come back from your vacation? lin-manuel: start writing. i go back to eight shows a week in my show, but i start writing. i finished the book on vacation and i was like, this will be a beast. charlie: but you knew. lin-manuel: i was making lists of what the songs were. charlie: growing. not a moment of doubt this is something. lin-manuel: it was just can i do it? charlie: this is my opportunity, my story, i was born to tell alexander hamilton's story. lin-manuel: i don't know if i was born, but i have it. charlie: can you imagine anybody else better qualified to tell this story than you? lin-manuel: not in retrospect, but at the time, i just felt i had a huge thing by the tail. i said it's going to take everything i've got to wrestle this thing to the ground. andi wen -- and i went about
chasing the experiences that would help me tell it. has wrestled history. as well as anyone could have ever done. i sent him e-mails and said the more research i do, i started getting bogged down. what was excellent about ron's account was that it was a through-line. you can stay attached to the drama of the through-line. that would lead to differing accounts and jefferson said this. saidailed wideman and "i'm getting really daunted." he said "just keep your head down and write." charlie: what seemed impossible? lin-manuel: getting it all into one show. charlie: all of the songs were there.
lin-manuel: i could feel the song moments but really being able to get it into a form that digestable in one evening, that's the hard part. you could make a 12-hour miniseries and it would be just as entertaining. it's a lot of stories concurrently and the story of our nation and also george washington's story. you see his rise from general to president to cincinnatist. it's aaron burr's story who we knew nothing about. even ron doesn't write about that much in the book. i had to do a lot of research on burr. this is andrew lloyd weber's inspiration. judas tells jesus' story. charlie: that's how you know you
questions historians have been asking for 211 years. i had to provide the dramatic answer to that and it was the last thing i wrote in the show. hamilton's side of the duel. charlie: because you had not come to any conclusion about it or because somehow, it's almost as if you have been doing lincoln's story and you can only face up to what happens in the theater when you are really prepared to do it? lin-manuel: something happened to me. by the time i reached hamilton's moment in the duel and the bullet's coming at him, a couple things happened. one, i don't care about why. what i cared about was what are the last things going through his head before he dies? i found that much more interesting. while he is wrestling with whether to shoot at this man who's shooting at him, he's also thinking about how he got here, how he got to this moment, the people waiting for him on the other side as he passed away.
and the things waiting for him on this side if he lives. and not judging any of it, just what are the moments. charlie: do you believe alexander hamilton for all he was and all he became was ready to die? lin-manuel: in the words of the notorious b.i.g., which is the name of his first album, "ready to die." i think yes. i think hamilton was ready to die from the time he was 14 years old. i think what he has is what i have, which is that thing that tomorrow is not promised and i have to get as much done as i can. i think he had this curious fascination with and obsession with death because he saw it at such a young age. his mother died in bed next to him. they both got sick. she never got better. so, what does that do to you? what does that do to your psyche? charlie: what does it do to you?
lin-manuel: it makes me think my main character, he sees death everywhere. i know i do. charlie: you just said what he had in him, i have been me. -- in me. "do it." lin-manuel: but we still have to plan. hamilton had an appointment on the books that day. he was going to have lunch that day. he didn't know he was going to die. a part of him thought he might die, but he also had plans. that's how we all live. charlie: to live a great life, you must be prepared to fail, sure, and to die maybe. lin-manuel: that's why did -- the things scariest to us are those seeds we plant that might outlive us, having children, getting married. you are putting things into the world that you might not live
out to see, and it's so scary but so hopeful. charlie: so you are full of all of this. lin-manuel: full of it. charlie: you are thinking by doing anything musical because of who you were and what you live with, your music is hip-hop. your music is rap. lin-manuel: and i also believe that form is uniquely suited to tell hamilton's story because it has more words per measure than than any other musical genre. charlie: it has shakespearean words per. lin-manuel: yes, it has rhythm and it has density and if hamilton had anything in his writing, it's a density. you go read it again and you'll find something new. that is what is true of my favorite hip-hop artists. sondheim has three tenets. it's function follows form. charlie: function follows form.
lin-manuel: and this was the perfect form to tell this story. this musical genre and idiom is the best story to tell his and that of the revolution. it took me a year to write hamilton's big "i want" song. every couplet needed to be the best i ever wrote. that is how seriously i was taking it. it starts with the friends and they are doing, like, 80's rap. it's a great rap. "i'm a john warren and the place to be." we all did a version of that in the 1980's. it's the-miranda and place to be ♪ then here comes hamilton and its -- it's rhyming six lines on a line. it's insane polysyllabic, internal assonance. he needed to be like from the future, a world-beating intellect.
every couplet had to be unimpeachable. ♪ >> i'm passionately waiting, passionately, passionately. it's the lack of creation. i'm laughing in the face of casualty. first time i'm thinking past tomorrow. waste my shot to we gonna rise up time to take a shot we gonna rise up time to take a shot rise up time to take a shot rise up time to take a shot time to take a shot not throwing away my shot ♪ demands aamilton lot from you. he is calling on your best. lin-manuel: because he is the
smartest guy in the room. i have to write from the perspective of the smartest guy in the room when the other people are jefferson and washington. charlie: what about the "10 crack commandments"? lin-manuel: "10 crack commandments" is a how-to manual on how to deal drugs. when i was faced with the challenge of hamilton of how do i explain that duels were not this impulsive thing? there was a code. they were illegal, but there was a code. a lot of people did them. it's just like a drugs in our country. it's the same thing. charlie: a lot of people did duels. lin-manuel: yeah, and it didn't matter what class or rank you were in, you could go do a duel. charlie: other people didn't know what was happening. lin-manuel: but there were rules. you wrote a challenge letter, you acknowledge. there's a great book called "the fares of honor" that explained
the rules. and i said i need to explain this to the audience so they don't think this was some duel that was a gunfight impulsively. there were weeks reading up to this and i had to explain at. using the structure, there's a step-by-step book of how to stay alive and support your family and not get killed. charlie: that's in your head. lin-manuel: that is what biggie did with the song and that's what i did with the dueling code. charlie: and then there's the story of going to the white house. lin-manuel: yeah. charlie: you have one song. one song. they think, wouldn't it be great if you come here and do something you've already done? i don't think you have one song -- why were you so hell-bent on this one song for a performance at the white house?
lin-manuel: they said we'll be happy for you to do anything from "in the heights." if you have anything else on the american experience -- charlie: they said if you have anything else from the american experience. lin-manuel: i said i have a hot hamilton. -- 16 bars from alexander hamilton. [laughter] if not at the white house, when? do you know what i mean? if the white house calls, when you have 16 about alexander hamilton in your back pocket. the call felt like a sign -- "i have to do this there." like when i was asked to do the lincoln center concert. the date they gave me was hamilton's birthday and i was like -- oh, tha'ts a -- that's a sign. you have to listen to those. ♪
[rapping] how is a --, orphan, son of a whore, the scotsman dropped in the middle of the forgot the squalor girl up to be a hero and a scholar the $10 founding father without a father got a lot farther by working a lot hotter, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter by 14, they placed him in charge charge of the trade in charter, every day when slaves were being carted away across the waves he kept his guard up he was longing for something to be a part of then a hurricane came, devastation reigned and our man saw his future drip down the drain he wrote his first refrain a testament to his pain the word got around and they said this kid is insane took up a collection just to send him to the mainland get your education, don't forget from whence you came and the world is going to know your name
what is your name, man? alexander hamilton, his name is alexander hamilton ♪ [laughter] ♪ there are a million things he hasn't done but just you wait, just you wait when he was 10, his father split, debt-ridden two years later, alex and his mother bed ridden alex got better but his mother went quick moved in with a cousin, the cousin committed suicide, left him with nothing but ruined pride, something new inside alex, you got to fend for yourself he started retreating and reading every treatise on the shelf he would have been dead or destitute without a sense of restitution started working for his late mother's landlord every book he can get his hands on planning for the future see him now as he stands on the bow of a ship headed for a
new land in new york, you can be a new man the ship is in the harbor now, see if you can spot him another immigrant coming up from the bottom his enemy destroys his rep and me, i'm the -- fool that shot him ♪ charlie: when you did it and you look at the video now on youtube -- lin-manuel: i see a terrified young puerto rican man. terrified. and you can see it too. once the song starts, i'm good. but my intro, i'm stammering. uh, um, uh. in ordinaryt do speech. i'm terrified because there is a -- the leader of the free world, his entire family, biden, saul williams, one of my favorite poets. there's angie martinez, james earl jones.
it was like, if i died i couldn't have dreamt this room of heroes and luminaries. charlie: all the more perfect place for this song. lin-manuel: and i'm closing the night. i'm the last act. terrified. charlie: and when you finished? lin-manuel: i was 50 pounds lighter. charlie: did you know you had done the right thing and you had nailed it? lin-manuel: oh, yeah. that video is a microcosm of my entire hamilton experience. i say hip-hop alexander hamilton, everyone laughs. i say, you laugh, but it's true, and, by the end, they aren't laughing because they are in it. they have been sucked into the story. jus tli -- just like i got sucked into the story. the secret sauce of this show besides the unbelievable work done by my collaborators and incredible cast and crew, the secret sauce in the writing is that i can't believe this story is true.
it's such an improbable and amazing story and i learned about it while i was writing it, and i think that enthusiasm is baked into the recipe. charlie: that was a great moment for you and hamilton. people really understood this is the way to express alexander hamilton. lin-manuel: it was the thesis. charlie: and it's well constructed. lin-manuel: and i had a bit of luck, too. hbo filmed that evening. normally, it's c-span cameras. like three fixed cameras and that's what it is. the way it was shot, it wasn't released on youtube until november of that year. it happened in may. and then in november, this unbelievable hd footage. it looks like i'm in a movie. i still don't believe it's me when i watch that. and teachers started using it in their classrooms. look at the youtube comments. "my teacher showed me this in ap history."
charlie: is that song still your favorite song in everything you've ever written? lin-manuel: no. i love that song and i'm super proud of it, but there are a couple songs in "hamilton" that really pushed me to the limits of what i know about writing songs. one of them is "satisfied," which is angelica's song where we have seen the courtship of and wen and his wife, rewind the whole thing and see the perspective of her sister. who fell in love with hamilton first. we hear from her how electric it is and we see the woman is the smartest person in the room. she reads and walton the moment she walks in the room. she knows he's perfect for her sister. her job is to marry for money for the safety of her family.
charlie: but she loves him. lin-manuel: but she loves him. it's an unrequited love song. charlie: women in this musical are important, really important. lin-manuel: yeah, and to ron's credit, they were important in the book as well. the book begins and ends with eliza's story. so does our show, really. our show ends with eliza's story. charlie: she lives on. lin-manuel: more than twice his age. she meets lincoln when he's a senator. that is extraordinary. that is an extraordinary life. if we are not promised tomorrow, she got so many tomorrows and did so much with it. and that is very moving to me. charlie: when you write, i have been told you write and if it's sad, tears come to your eyes. you are in the moment. to express yourself.
lin-manuel: i think of acting and writing as pretty much the same thing. they are two sides of the same coin. charlie: writing and acting are the same thing. lin-manuel: yes. and sondheim would tell you the same thing. he has to pretend to be the person just to understand what it is like in their skin. charlie: but he never acted. lin-manuel: but if you scratched him, he'd act for you. it's all about getting inside the skin of your characters and seeing where they are and knowing how they've grown up. you have to know all this, like, in your bones, what they have come up against, who they are, and then you just start talking as them, and you write until the rust comes out of the faucet and it's clear water. charlie: the clear water is the perfection. lin-manuel: it's the stuff that feels true. it feels true and honest. charlie: it's hard for people to
-- for us mortal people to understand how difficult that creative act is. getting all the rust out until you see the clear water and the artist knows what the clear water looks like. sounds like, tastes like. lin-manuel: the secret is the thing we all have, which is the hardest thing for us to do as people, which is empathy. it's all about empathy. i have got to understand, i have to see the guy who shot the main character and get in his head. i have to get into his heart and blood stream and understand what he was thinking and what he's scared of and what he is excited by. i have to get into all of them. charlie: you are hamilton. lin-manuel: but i was burr, too. charlie: are they equally satisfying? lin-manuel: absolutely. they are so much fun. charlie: even though the
inspiration is alexander hamilton? lin-manuel: yes. you get to express so many different parts of yourself through all of them. i get to be marie reynolds, i get to seduce a guy. why wouldn't you want to do all the things? charlie: writing these lines, there is a double entendre. there's all kinds of stuff going in it. is that a process of editing over that year? write one song to get everything right and you are also getting this. because some say they want to go back and back and back to see "hamilton" because you get something different every time. lin-manuel: that's a function of the hip-hop origin of the idea. because i go back -- i will still go listen to that album i fell in love with in eighth grade and hear something new in
it or simply didn't get because i was too young to understand. the fun of hip-hop as you can -- is you can pack it to the gills with meaning, with verbal tricks and cleverness, but also emotion. the notion of the triple entendre is something i learned about through hip-hop. and i find that so exciting. so, baked into the dna, i wanted it to be a satisfying listening experience and that has carried over into the show. charlie: when did you know that this thing was going to have this huge, huge impact, this thing being "hamilton"? at the public theater, "hamilton." "hamilton" people are calling a game changer. lin-manuel: when did i know?
i knew when we announced -- we sold tickets very quickly when we announced our opening. i knew that would happen because i'd been very active on twitter and people had been waiting since the video. charlie: there was anticipation. lin-manuel: i knew we would sell out the initial run, i felt confident about that. but we announced the extension. he said you broke our phone bank. our phones are down. and our internet is down. charlie: nobody has seen a preview, anything. except the video on youtube. lin-manuel: right. that's when i knew. i began to get an inkling of what was happening. this is as big as it gets off-broadway. and not-for-profit afor theater as it gets in the united states.
charlie: an innovative theater. we grabbed the tiger by the tail here. and what will history say about hamilton in the evolution of hip-hop? lin-manuel: i don't know. i'll be dead. in the evolution of hip-hop? i don't know. it has been really heartening that the hip-hop community has embraced the show. that means the world to me because it is a love letter to hip-hop in so many ways. it is my love letter and thesis statement about what hip-hop does in our lives. it ennobles us, gives us stories of struggle and triumph, allows us to think bigger than ourselves the same way musical theater does. in those moments, we change. so, it's thrilling to me that the writers and rappers i respect have been coming to see this show, because it's a love letter to their art form a -- in a slightly different artform. i don't know what it will do to hip-hop. i'm thrilled hip-hop likes it.