In the Room Where It Happens, Eight Shows a Week

Photo: Amy Lombard

January 11 is Alexander Hamilton’s birthday. In lieu of a 261-candled cake, we’re celebrating with a weeklong package that explores the production and significance of the Founding Father’s eponymous Broadway musical.

Two. Two-two two thousand. Two-two two thousand — 2016. A cast of wildly talented singers/rappers/actors, seemingly born to play the Founding Fathers and Mothers, in an unlikely Broadway hip-hop hit about the man who created the national bank. Lin-Manuel Miranda might be the genius composer, lyricist, and star of Hamilton, but the reason the show feels like one showstopper after the next is thanks to Leslie Odom Jr.’s layered portrayal of Aaron Burr, Renée Elise Goldsberry’s acrobatic take on Angelica Schuyler, Christopher Jackson’s powerful George Washington, and many more instant-classic performances.

To find out what it’s like to be part of a once-in-a-generation hit, Vulture sat down with Odom Jr., Goldsberry, and Jackson, as well as the equally brilliant two-part actors Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) and Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds), as they ate dinner between shows at the classic Broadway staple Sardi’s. They discussed how the show changes every night, the quiet importance of director Thomas Kail, how they landed on their takes on these American icons, and when they think they will be ready to leave their parts. Each was open, warm, and passionate about being in Hamilton, thoughtfully articulating how beautiful and strange it is to be in this moment.

Thank you all for joining me here.

Leslie Odom Jr.: Dinner at Sardi’s, I’ll stay here all night.

You guys have understudies, so why not?

Renée Elise Goldsberry: Jasmine and I don’t.

Jasmine Cephas Jones: Not tonight.

Daveed Diggs: We are way short on understudies right now. [Table laughs.]

Are they out? How does that work? 

LOJ: They’re on.

REG: Phillipa [Soo] is not here.

LOJ: Yeah, there’s one female swing that does all three women. So when she’s on, it gets a little nerve-racking. Because there are other girls —

REG: But they’re just not quite prepared yet. Not that they are out of their own, but more, the show has [to take] the time to get costumes ready, and wigs.

JCJ: They haven’t done a run yet.

DD: And similarly, Anthony [Ramos] is out today. Same thing — there’s one understudy for the guys.

So it’s not like you guys get much time off. Have any of you even seen the show?

LOJ: I’m going to see it for the first time —

REG: Don’t tell me.

LOJ: My vacation is next week.

JCJ: Oh no, you’re going to see it next week?

REG: I’m mad that you even said that. The whole week you’re gone, I’m going to be nervous. [Table laughs.]

JCJ: We’ll be like, “Is it this night? Is it this day?” Just don’t come backstage.

LOJ: I won’t, I won’t. I’m really going to try to come incognito.

I imagine you will need to be, as whoever is sitting next to you might get a little starstruck. Has that been happening much? Obviously Hamilton’s a big thing on Broadway, but because of the nature of how many people see it at a time, do you get recognized on the street? 

REG: Daveed.

JCJ: Daveed does.

DD: I have a recognizable silhouette. [Laughs.] For me, it seems to be about proximity to the theater. Like, without fail, if I’m hanging out anywhere in midtown, yeah; but the further away I get, the less frequent it is. I live in Washington Heights, where it almost never happens.

Christopher Jackson: I was shopping a couple of days before Christmas, and I got off the train and the cop grabs my arm. And there were a number of things going through my head. And he was like, “Are you Christopher Jackson?”

REG: He used your name, not the character!

CJ: “I love your work. Thank you for what you’re doing.” And I was like, “Thank you for saying that. Would you please let go of my arm? Unhand me.” [Table laughs.] And then within the next 20 minutes, three different people in three different stores stopped me to sign the Playbill that they still had in their purses. They all had been there in the last couple of days. So that was probably the craziest part. Normally I don’t notice, but I’ll be with my wife and she’ll look around and say, “Oh, there’s been a sighting.”

Christopher Jackson Photo: Amy Lombard

Besides becoming Broadway celebrities in your own right, you are all swarmed by famous people every night. Which ones were the weirdest or most powerful for you all?

JCJ: Beyoncé. I freaked out when Beyoncé came.

Lin said she said something specific to everyone. Like, she complimented Groff’s walk.

REG: Jonathan Groff wrote mine down for me so I’d always remember it.

Would any of you be willing to say yours?

REG: I would feel like I was bragging if I said mine.

LOJ: And you want to keep that thing just for yourself. But it was a big deal. As far as stars go, there’s no one more famous than her and Jay. Sometimes I think of creativity or art as this well that we all draw from. Since childhood, we take from it, and we take and we take, and this is the first time for me that I feel like I’m able to give back. So when people like that come, people who’ve been entertaining you for however many years, it’s really special to be able to give them a nice night in the theater, or maybe some inspiration back.

REG: The height of this whole hype was when Obama came a second time and spoke from the stage. We got to sit in the wing as a company and patter back and forth with him in the beginning of his speech. I don’t know that it’s possible for that to be topped in my lifetime. That went beyond what my biggest dream was, which was that I would one day perform for a president. Then it was this president, and he came back.

Are there people in your head whom you always want to see come?

CJ: I’m waiting for Will Smith to come. I really would love him and Jaden to see the show. I’ve spent a lot of time with that guy. [Laughs.] I’ve seen every movie he’s made. And I don’t expect anything more than for him to be like, “Hey, it’s great.” But I’d love to see him come to the show.

DD: Probably the most starstruck I’ve been is when MC Hammer came. Twice!

CJ: I wanted to be there when y’all were talking.

DD: He’s not as famous as he used to be, perhaps, but I’m from Oakland. As soon as I saw him, I was immediately 9 years old, dancing in the living room with all of my friends. It’s those people, the specific ones who are probably only important to one person in the cast, who are amazing. He came back and was like, “I loved the show.” And I got to be like, “I love you. You’re really, really important to me.”

LOJ: There’s a lot of famous people who come. And I’m not going to necessarily claw over people to get to them, but every now and again there’s somebody who, it’s like, I need to make my way to that person. Remember when LeVar [Burton] came? It was a big deal for Chris.

CJ: I felt like my insides were going to come out. [Table laughs.] It’s not about being famous. It’s about connection. And that connection was just so real.

JCJ: And it’s not only that, it’s also that we’ve just performed for them for almost three hours. It’s not like we’re just randomly meeting these people.

REG: The blessing for us, when we get to meet some of these people for the first time, it skips several steps in the meeting. Immediately there’s an intimacy because you’ve watched us on a beautiful journey for three hours. We can actually have a conversation — and these are people who usually have to keep their guard up. It’s really a sacred moment.

They are responding to you and your characters, which you all so fully embodyBut if you could play any other character in the show, who would it be?

LOJ: I’d love to get my hands on King George in the revival.

CJ: I’d play Jefferson. He has so much fun. I get to watch his whole arc in the second act. Even when we’re interacting, Washington’s watching Jefferson. It’s not just Chris watching Daveed. I’m watching him twist Alexander into 15 different knots — and it’s a different thing that gets him every single night. It’s brilliant to watch.

Are there other songs you wish you had?

DD: Oh, “Wait for It.” Hands down.

JCJ: Definitely.

CJ: That’s my favorite song.

DD: That’s a jam. But part of it is also I wish I could sing it like Leslie. [Table laughs in agreement.] I want to sing it on my own terms, but I want to be able to sing like Leslie does.

REG: It’s kind of a wonderful thing. I feel like the voices are so signature to the songs that are sung that I haven’t really ventured into trying to sing my version of their songs.

I know you guys did it a little at a Ham4Ham, but could you imagine the show with it also being gender-blind for the casting? 

DD: Can’t wait.

REG: Yes. And then I would go off to a very remote regional theater and play Aaron Burr. There, no one would see me try to copy every single thing that Leslie does. I’ve been watching him for a year. I’m almost ready.

DD: I would do Angelica.

REG: I want you to go off somewhere, too.

DD: You’re not allowed to come.

CJ: I’m coming to both your shows.

Daveed and Renée, you were both part of a memorable BET cypher. What was that like for you?

DD: Those cyphers are something that got taken very seriously since I was a kid. I watch them all straight through, I choose my favorites, and I go back and try to find out what’s my favorite thing about them — and then I argue with my friends about it. Also, it was a personal dream come true that I got to write a rap for the BET Awards. I’ve been thinking about that since I was 14 years old. I’ve written a lot of rap songs. I thought one of them might’ve gotten me on there. But I needed Lin to write a rap song for Marquis de Lafayette, and then I could be on the BET Awards.

REG: It’s what’s so crazy about my life right now. You would never think all of this would happen. I was on the train one day, coming into work, and this woman said, “Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you. Are you a rapper?” And I said, “I’m sorry, what?” And she said, “I’m sorry to bother you. I’m just wondering. Are you a rapper?” I said, “I’m not a rapper.” She said, “I think I saw you on the BET Awards.” And I was like, “Oh my God. Yes, I am.” And then I proceeded to say, “Can I take a picture with you?” [Table laughs.] On the train, I literally took a picture with this woman because I was just so proud to be recognized — not as an actress, but for being a rapper on the BET Awards. It just gave me all the validation I ever wanted in my life.

Renée Elise Goldsberry:

Beyond that, the album ended up becoming the No. 1 rap album on the Billboard charts, which is crazy. We know hip-hop inspired the show, but do you think about how the show might inspire future hip-hop? 

LOJ: It already is.

REG: Busta Rhymes came and talked to us about what that show did for him.

JCJ: He was like, “I want to incorporate theater more into my shows. I want King George’s outfit.”

LOJ: People who’ve dedicated their lives to hip-hop just love to see it working in this kind of way. I remember when Q-Tip met Lin. He said, “You did it, man. So many people have an idea to do something like this. How did you do that?” And Lin said, “Six years.” When people like that, who’ve dedicated their lives to something, when they see it flipped on its head and succeeding in a way that they maybe never expected, it’s something they don’t forget.

I’ve read a lot of interviews with you guys, and I’ve heard you talk about how you were so impressed by the writing of the show. What is it about the writing, on a technical level, that is so impressive? 

DD: Writing rap songs is about flow, about one word blending seamlessly into the next and creating a thing that is possible to perform in a way that feels natural. Lin does that. The tricky thing about fast raps is not really the delivery of them; it’s the writing of them, with consonants close enough together that you don’t trip up over them. Something like “Guns and Ships” is impressive because every time he would give me a part, it was already easy to do. That’s a good starting point. And then the fact that he manages to have complicated rhyme schemes all the time. There are internal rhymes in most of the stuff.

And it’s different for every character. Each character rhymes differently. The way that they are rapping contributes to their story. George Washington raps in a very on-beat, metronomic way because he is focused and driven and always moving forward. Lafayette has this great arc where he starts out rhyming words that don’t really rhyme and he can’t really figure it out. As he becomes comfortable — and a general — he can do this really complicated, technical, fast stuff. It’s like him mastering this language. Jefferson’s raps are so bouncy and all over the place, and part of it’s because I’m playing him — but Lin was writing with this interesting kind of West Coast feel:

[Raps from “Washington on Your Side.”] “If Washington isn’t gon’ listen to disciplined dissidents, this is the difference: This kid is out.” 

It’s very bouncy, not necessarily story-focused. Jefferson doesn’t really have to worry about that because he’s an aristocrat, and he can do whatever he wants. He gets to play a little more. To pack all of that into this story, it’s like, oh man, of course it took you six years to write it. There’s very careful, methodical work going on here.

Christopher, you’ve worked with Lin the longest of everyone here. How is he different working on this from how he was when you were working on In the Heights

CJ: He’s a grown-up now. I used to walk in the theater when we were doing In the Heights, knowing that one of my responsibilities was to look out for my little brother. If there was a problem in the company that was cast-related, they came to me. It was important for me to shield him from knowing what eight shows a week was. He was my guy, and he still is my guy. But even in a friendship like that, it’s easy to see his brilliance on a daily basis, and see how becoming a father has affected him. He’s the kind of dude who makes you better. Being around him makes you want to write more, do more. Same kind of effect people have when they come see the show: “I gotta go write, I gotta go write.” I often have that. I see him finishing a demo for something and I go, “I have to go write.”

It’s something that he shares with the character he wrote and plays. Hamilton writes like he’s running out of time. How much does Hamilton feel autobiographical, as a person who knows Lin?

CJ: Well, Hamilton never played Xbox. Lin’s a procrastinator. He’s always been a procrastinator. Now, at least, he won’t go on Twitter for a week until he finishes a song. And all things on the table, Vanessa [Nadal, Lin’s wife]’s influence has been amazing. [Table laughs.] He writes from a very personal place, and if you know him, you see it all through his work. That’s why we love all the characters he writes. There’s blood in there.

Christopher, you also worked with Hamilton director Thomas Kail on Heights. I feel like you don’t hear much about him. 

CJ: That’s on purpose. I’ve heard Tommy say once that if he does his job the right way, no one will ever know he was there.

DD: Yeah, make no mistake about it, this is Tommy’s show. Tommy’s hands are in every single part of it.

LOJ: Every single aspect of it. What it was is an environment where everybody felt they could do their best. That sounds simple. But all of us have been in environments where we didn’t feel like that. We felt like our best was going to threaten somebody else, or we were stifled in some way. But Hamilton was a carefully crafted environment where everyone felt like we could come in and dump all of our toys out in the center of the floor.

Tina Fey has a quote about how the job of a boss is to tamp down other people’s creativity. In that, if you ask a costume designer for a regular hat, they might give you a hat with a fruit bowl on top because they want to do everything they can to be funny. But that’s to the detriment of the sketch. But Hamilton somehow transcends that. There are a lot of big swings in this show. 

DD: That speaks to what Tommy did. He created a world that was big enough. You can look at every inch of this stage to see some life happening. Seriously, if it’s your second or third time, you should choose one ensemble member to watch. You should watch that person the whole show. It’s a whole life that they’ve lived. The dude is a stone-cold genius. A really cool guy. An incredible spades player.

CJ: And can play the dozens pretty good, too.

DD: [Laughs.] He talks more shit than anyone I know.

Daveed Diggs Photo: Amy Lombard

Obviously Tommy’s production is very tight at this point, but the audience varies each night. How does the show change for each performance? 

REG: It’s like a church experience. You can go to churches, and it’s the same Bible verse, same kind of song, but depending on how people deal with church or handle the word, it can be an extremely different experience. In terms of the audience members that come through, some nights it’s raucous and loud and fun. Some nights it feels cold, solemn. I feel dependent on a certain energy, so that can be like a roller-coaster ride.

DD: I’m very affected by how responsive the audience is. One thing I love about the show, though, is that if I’m not getting what I need, I always get it from the people onstage. Being with a bunch of people who never take a day off means that you’re not taking a day off. That’s really great. Some days you don’t feel like you’re getting anything from out there, but Chris isn’t going to come halfway, and Jasmine’s going to get that note every time. Every time. Every single rehearsal, and every performance. [Table laughs.]

I heard an interview with you, Leslie, where you were saying that because of the political nature of the show, what’s happened in the news has affected your performance.

LOJ: Obviously the whole thing felt different after the Paris attacks. Every time a young black man or woman is gunned down by the police, our show feels different in the wake. Our show felt different when the industry lost the young brother from Les Mis. It’s a living thing.

Does it feel more vital, or somehow more dire?

LOJ: Well, the beauty of what Lin has written is that the journey encompasses so many of life’s big events. It’s falling in love, and revolution, and death, and healing from death, and falling out of love. There’s a lot of room in there for it to hit you right where you live. None of us get to divorce ourselves from the world. We walk into the theater and bring all of our grief and our pain and our joy with us.

There are a number of connections to Rent with this show: It was Leslie’s first job, Renée was in the last cast, and it was the first musical that Lin saw. It was also, arguably, the last Broadway sensation at this level. Do the phenomenons compare? 

CJ: I would like to ask: Is it possible that the show doesn’t have to be compared in that way? I know we like to compare something from before to what’s happening now to better understand it, but I don’t think this show can be compared to Rent. There are too many things happening. The internet is happening. The internet is Ham4Ham. It’s Twitter. It’s our ability to communicate with people who buy a ticket from Australia just to see the show. I don’t think that was happening with Rent in that way. Not to tout our show as more than what it is, but I don’t think you can reduce it to say it was like another work. It’s not.

REG: I have to be able to smell something that lights a fire in the way that Rent did. Being part of that filmed version of Rent, it gave me a certain amount of relevance and credibility with a certain group of people, which I would not have if I wasn’t on that DVD. And I love it when theater’s cool to young people. It has to be, or we’re going to die. That’s what I thought the first time I saw Rent. I was just like, Thank God I am going to be able to keep doing this. That’s how I feel about this. That’s a huge connection between Rent and this show.

LOJ: One thing that I like very much about moments like this interview, or the 60 Minutes piece, is that for a second I get to have some perspective on it all. It feels so different inside it. We don’t get to get swept up, because we have to start over every day at 8 o’clock. I was outside of the Rent thing for so long, but I was swept up in it. And then, even onstage, I was a fan from inside it.

For me, what connects them is a feeling. This show makes me feel the way I felt when I showed up at the Rent audition as a 16-year-old. It’s what made me show up at every workshop and every reading for Hamilton. I never could be sure that I would find that thing again, but this show gives it to me all over. It’s like falling in love again, or great drugs.

Leslie Odom Jr. Photo: Amy Lombard

You’ve all been doing your characters for a certain amount of time. Was there a moment where you felt, Yes, I know who this person is

REG: From the first time I heard Lin’s demo and put it in my mouth, it was 100 percent clear to me who Angelica was and what she wanted. My biggest journey is being able to sing through some of the discoveries and decisions that she makes. Learning how to do what I have to do technically while I’m feeling what I’m feeling, because it’s so strong, is my biggest challenge. As I get better at technically doing it well, I wonder, Should I leave the show and let someone else come who’s going to feel the way I felt when I was going through these journeys the first 200 times? Because the more interesting thing to see is someone having to live through some of the decisions that Angelica makes. That’s just beautiful to me, and it’s still there.

DD: For me, it’s amazing because I’m able to interact with the show in two totally different ways. Lafayette is so focused inside of the show — I don’t see the audience for the whole first act. I’m not the type of person who looks out if I have no reason to look out. But then Jefferson knows the audience is there every second he’s onstage. He’s pissed if his jokes don’t hit. Lafayette doesn’t care. He’s not making a joke; he’s just being himself.

So they feel very different. I don’t know that I figured them out, but what is important to me is that I’m allowed to keep trying things. Our assistant director, Patrick [Vassel], who watches the show every day, still gives me notes. Sometimes they’re like, “Four days ago you did this thing, and I’d never seen it before, and I thought it worked really well. You should try it again.” It’s the knowledge that I can try things, and that I won’t break the show by doing something stupid.

REG: Preach!

DD: The show takes care of itself, and I can make a bad choice or have a bad day, not be feeling good or whatever, and the show is totally successful. It doesn’t feel like it’s on any one person’s shoulders. I think for a long time we probably thought —

CJ: Each of us thought it was on us.

DD: Yeah, or it was on Lin’s shoulders until Javier [Muñoz, Lin’s understudy] came in. But then it was on Lin and Javier’s shoulders until Jon [Rua, Lin’s second understudy] came in, or on Leslie’s shoulders. But people have been out, and the show still works. It’s about having that strong foundation, and then having the freedom to keep playing. Because Leslie’s never done the same show twice — and I watch Leslie’s show all the time. [Table laughs.]

CJ: I second that.

DD: I watch him being a creeper in the shadows. I can’t take my eyes off him.

REG: We were just talking about it today.

CJ: A couple weeks ago, I happened to look up during “History Has Its Eyes on You,” and this negro was standing there on top of that balcony like …

[Leslie makes an intense Aaron Burr face.]

REG: “And I have my eyes on you!”

CJ: But once I saw him, it’s like, you can’t un-ring the bell. Every single performance, I used the knowledge that he’s up there as a metaphor for the weight of all mankind. I feel his eyes on the back of my neck.

Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson Photo: Amy Lombard

How did you figure out Burr? There’s a pretty big transformation.

LOJ: I heard Victoria Clark talk one time about her Light in the Piazza performance, which is pretty flawless. Someone was asking how she did it, and she was like, “Time.” TV and film stuff is so quick, and that’s what I spent the majority of my time for these last nine years doing. You’re getting first-instinct stuff — whatever you feel in your gut, shoot that. But I had two years with this, and it’s rich material. As they were building Act 2, we would get together for three weeks and work on five new songs. Then we’d go away for two months and come back and do those five songs, plus two new ones. It’s time that you get to layer and layer. But it’s tricky. It comes and it goes. I have to be satisfied with moments. “That song felt great.” “The end was whatever, but I had a great connection with Chris today.” Or, “I found that new moment. We look at each other now. That felt …” I have to be satisfied with moments because it’s a big show.

You have a pair of songs that Lin says are two of his favorites he’s ever written: “Wait for It” and “The Room Where It Happens.” Which is more fun to sing?

LOJ: Oh God. I’ll say this: “Wait for It” is more fun when I feel like I get it right. [Table laughs.] Every performer lives in one place naturally — some people are stoic, some are wild. With “The Room Where It Happens,” I can come onstage and, “Ahh!” act real crazy. But there’s a tension in “Wait for It,” a focus where I can feel it if it’s not there. If it’s slack, you can feel it. So if we can all keep connecting to each other, and we can rope the audience into this moment of sustained tension, it’s really satisfying. But I don’t always feel like we do it.

Are there times where, as Burr, you wish you didn’t kill him at the end?

LOJ: Every night. I have to. I feel like every night, when you see a really good production of Romeo and Juliet or something, you should hope that it ends differently. That’s why we watch our favorite movies again and again.

REG: We think, Maybe this time.

LOJ: A really good tragedy feels that way. Every night, I’m looking for it in his eyes — I want him to make different decisions. I want it to end differently. And goddammit, it never does. [Table laughs.]

CJ: You get caught up in the same stuff. You think he’s not going to make you mad, but —

LOJ: He does every night, right around “Obedient Servant.” I’m like, Please, don’t do this. [Table laughs.]

DD: The one time the shot didn’t go off, were you a little relieved?

LOJ: There was a night the gunshot didn’t go off.

CJ: And you were like, “Hooray!” [Table laughs.]

Jasmine, though your character, Maria Reynolds, isn’t the antagonist per se, she definitely has a complicated function in the story. How do you avoid making her a one-dimensional femme fatale?

JCJ: With Maria, there is that option of her falling in love with him, right? Her husband is a crook; he beats her. I’m sure if Hamilton was like, “I want to be with you, let’s run away,” she would grab her baby and do it. But that doesn’t happen. Then the Reynolds Pamphlets came out, and everyone knew about her business. So instead of playing it like a villain, I feel bad for her. There’s always another side to the story, and in this case, you don’t know exactly what was the truth. This affair happened for three years, and he’s a powerful man. I tried to find as many layers as possible. Even if it just comes out in a smirk, those little details make her more than a vixen in a red dress.

Jasmine Cephas Jones Photo: Amy Lombard

What about you, Daveed? What went into Jefferson, a person who had some disagreeable qualities, regardless of his relationship with Hamilton?

DD: My goal is you fall in love with him, then you feel really shitty that you did that. Because that’s part of what made him so successful. He was an incredibly smart inventor, and totally unafraid of doing new things and having new opinions. When you transition him onto the stage, you make him into this person who’s larger than life, someone people sort of have to fall in love with. But if they see the show again, they’ll realize that his entrance has him being wheeled around by his slaves on a staircase. That’s fucked up. The show doesn’t shy away from that.

Throughout the play, there is a real tension between work and home life. Obviously there are songs like “That Would Be Enough” and “Take a Break,” but there is also how much is made of Washington retiring, or how Madison and Jefferson lose the dinner-table bargain because they want to work closer to home. Lin talks about how Hamilton put out three lifetimes’ worth of work, but I can’t figure out if the musical is condemning this behavior.

CJ: You’re talking about an entire society of men and women whose every breath was devoted to posterity. Lin writes that: “I want to build something that’s gonna outlive me.” You’re out to create something. I don’t want to say it’s altruistic — great men and women want to be remembered — but everyone measured themselves against history. Washington said he was the most-painted man of his age, next to the King. He complained about it in his writings, but then you go up to Mt. Vernon, and he’s got a chair with a fan attached to it that he’d pump to stay cool and keep flies from landing on him while he sat for a portrait. So there was a duality. Without being cynical about it, the musical really captures that idea. It takes all these characters off those pedestals and puts blood in their veins. This was something everyone was pursuing.

People don’t talk about legacy as much in present company. 

DD: Well, it’s different now because we have this immediacy. There are people who haven’t done anything but who are famous. Like, you can be YouTube famous tomorrow if you have the right cat. Some of my favorite research was reading the letters between Lafayette and George Washington where they’re, like, trading tips about who should build a statue of you. “Oh, you’ve got to have this guy write a poem about you. It’s going to be really big in 100 years.” Information didn’t travel very fast. You were never going to be remembered in your own lifetime. That wasn’t a thing, let alone, like, the day you do something. The show manages to both celebrate it and warn against it, too. The thing that made him great is also his undoing. And we get the flip side in Eliza, who also has this great lasting legacy. She was a little less stressed out about time and a little more willing to let some things go, and she lived a very long life and was able to do a number of other amazing things. The orphanage still exists!

CJ: I took a trip to D.C. before the Off Broadway production started, and one of the things that was really telling is that Hamilton has probably the smallest statue in all of the Mall area, and yet he’s got the greatest monument of any of them because we’re all walking around with him in our pockets. Not just the $10 bill, but our entire system is based around the work that he did. Whatever your attitude toward money is, it’s a hell of a monument.

Since we’re talking about legacy, I’ll end by putting you all on the spot: Anyone willing to predict how many Tony nominations the show will get? The record, shared by The Producers and Billy Elliot, is 15.

LOJ: [Laughs.] I have no idea.

DD: It’s so funny when I’m walking out and signing autographs and someone says, “You’ll win so many Tonys.” Every time they bring it up, I remember that they’re a thing that exists. I do not think of them. It’s probably not true for everybody, but this is my first show on Broadway, first show in New York, so I don’t know how any of this stuff works. It never crosses my mind until someone mentions it.

REG: Yeah, ignorance really can be bliss, especially when it comes to acting as competition sport. I want every performance to be celebrated. I’m really proud of this whole year on Broadway. To get to hang with the other members of the 2016 class is pretty amazing, and the idea that we could do more of that because we’re nominated for Tonys would be really amazing. Other than that, I just want to shut my brain off and do the show.

A Roundtable Interview With the Cast of Hamilton