Mandy Gonzalez, who currently stars as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, knew she needed a knockout anthem for her debut album Fearless, so she turned to her friend and longtime collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda. “When people hear my voice they think of Lin,” Gonzalez said, especially since she originated the role of Nina in his first Broadway musical In the Heights. “It wouldn’t work without his heart and his words on the album.”
The resulting song, “Fearless,” weaves Gonzalez’s activism — she’s become the head of the so-called #FearlessSquad — with her family history. Her father, a Mexican-American son of migrant farmers who was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War, met her mother, a Jewish girl from the Valley, after she started writing letters to soldiers who didn’t have anybody to write to. When the war was over, “he went back home and he got in his car and he drove to my mom, and he showed up on her doorstep,” Gonzalez says. “It wasn’t an easy thing. They were both from two different places, two different cultures. Both had a hard time with acceptance from their families, but they were fearless and they held onto their love.”
For the video, Gonzalez worked with Paul Bozymowski, who previously directed PBS’s documentary on In the Heights. There are scenes from Gonzalez’s childhood, taken from family videos shot on Super 8 film her mom dug out of the attic, as well as references to racism and the border wall. “I wanted [the song] to have a universal message on what it takes to overcome obstacles, but I wanted to sprinkle that with a more direct message of certain obstacles that we’re dealing with now in our country, and some obstacles I have dealt with as a Mexican-American in this country.” “It’s important to bring down those walls,” she adds, whether they’re literal or metaphorical.
Gonzalez’s album, which was released on Friday, includes songs written by Jennifer Nettles, Bill Sherman, and Tom Kitt. Starting tonight, October 24, she’s performing selections from the album at Café Carlyle up through November 4.