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New York – Playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda is building a remarkable career on Broadway by highlighting the immigrant experience in masterful and tantalizing hip-hop musicals.
After his Tony-winning debut with “In the Heights,” the 35-year-old Miranda is the talk of the town again thanks to his acclaimed Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”
“The things that (Hamilton's characters) fight about are the things that people are fighting about on MSNBC or Fox – your choice – and that actually gives me hope," Miranda said recently.
"It’s just who we are as Americans,” he said, “and we are going to continue to debate what this country will be.”
Given the current anti-immigrant rhetoric plaguing the presidential race, Miranda said his shows, especially "Hamilton," are a reminder that immigrants started this country – that an immigrant like Alexander Hamilton helped shape the United States.
“It comes around every couple of years,” Miranda said of the anti-immigrant rhetoric currently in the news. “With ‘Heights’ it was a reminder that immigrants build small businesses here and immigrants are the engine of America. With ‘Hamilton’ it’s a nice reminder that our greatest military commander was French, the creator of our financial system was from Nevis and the guy who organized our armies and taught us to march in formation was a gay Prussian named Friedrich von Steuben.”
Speaking Tuesday to a packed room at a New York event from this year’s Advertising Week, Miranda continued: “Immigrants have been at every intersection, at every point in our founding and our growth, and every 20 years they are a dirty word.”
Miranda, who was awarded a MacArthur "genius" award this week, said before it was the Irish and the Jewish and now it’s the Mexicans and the Latin Americans who are filed under a “dirty word.”
“But as long as (Donald) Trump is out there, I will be the counterweight saying, ‘We’ve always been here. We make our country better’,” he added.
Miranda’s own immigrant experience started when his father, Luis Miranda, moved from Puerto Rico to New York at the age of 18, learned English and went to work in local and national politics.
“It’s a Hamiltonian story, my father’s story,” Miranda said of his father: “from a tiny island, being like ‘I’ve got to get out of here’ and he made an amazing life for himself.”
He added: “(My dad) is inexhaustible. I am the slacker of my family.”
“Hamilton” has received accolades upon accolades from reviewers since before it premiered on the Great White Way. Miranda said it is all very humbling and it actually keeps him grounded.
“We have to make sure this happens for every audience that is coming to our show,” he added.
As for Alexander Hamilton, Miranda said the biggest legacy the founding father left was the idea that the United States was one nation, not 13 colonies (or 50 states).
“I don’t know what Hamilton will think of the fact that a group of African-Americans and Latinos are telling his story every night. I think he would be tickled,” he said. “I hope he’d be proud of this story. I hope he’d be proud of the light we have shone on his life.”