A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s game-changing Broadway musical about the first Treasury Secretary, has been added to the Public Broadcasting Service schedule for the fall. PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger told journalists at this morning’s session of the Television Critics Association press tour that Hamilton’s America, a documentary covering Miranda’s work with colleagues during the two years leading up to the Broadway opening of Hamilton, would be part of the Great Performances lineup.
The hugely successful show is a rap-suffused telling of the U.S. creation story based on Ron Chernow’s celebrated bio of the immigrant Founding Father who until now likely was most famous for being killed in a New Jersey duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton has been hailed not only by critics and audiences, who have made it the toughest ticket to score since The Book Of Mormon opened in 2011, but by public figures across the political spectrum, from President Obama to the conservative right.
Hamilton’s America is produced by Oscar- and Emmy winning producers RadicalMedia (What Happened Miss Simone?, In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams). The feature-length film combines interviews with experts and prominent personalities; new footage of the production in New York; and cast-led expeditions to D.C., Philadelphia and New York. Audiences will watch as Miranda composes songs in Burr’s Manhattan bedroom. They’ll take a trip to Virginia with Chris Jackson – the African-American actor who portrays George Washington – and watch him place a wreath on Washington’s grave, as he discusses the difficulty of grappling with the Founders’ legacy of slavery. Back in New York, Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. – who plays Burr – visit the Museum of American Finance to get their hands on some 19th century dueling pistols and stage a quick re-enactment.
“With this level of access to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team, PBS continues to live up to our mission of giving viewers a backstage pass and a front row seat to the arts,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS’ Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming.
“On behalf of the entire Hamilton cast and creative team, many of whom are In The Heights alumni, we are overjoyed to be returning to PBS in partnership with RadicalMedia with this project,” said Miranda, the creator, writer and star of Hamilton. “We invited filmmaker Alex Horwitz into ‘the room where it happened’ a few years ago, and he’s captured parts of this journey no one has seen. We can’t wait to share it, thanks to PBS.”
The film is produced by RadicalMedia in association with Thirteen Productions LLC for WNET and PBS; directed by Alex Horwitz and produced by Nicole Pusateri, with Jon Kamen, Justin Wilkes, Dave Sirulnick, Jeffrey Seller and Lin-Manuel Miranda as executive producers. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.
In other news, PBS also announced it has commissioned two-part series A Year In Space, adapted from Time’s original digital video series. It centers on astronaut Scott Kelly, whose current 12-month stay on the International Space Station is testing human limits for space travel and laying the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars. The first installment tracks Kelly’s mission from training and launch, through his 12 months aboard the ISS, through his descent and landing. It’s scheduled to air on PBS on Wednesday, March 2, timed within a day of Kelly’s planned return to Earth. The second installment is scheduled to air in 2017.
PBS and National Geographic also commissioned a new six-part science series, Genius By Stephen Hawking, presented and narrated by the renowned theoretical physicist. In each episode, ordinary people will be challenged to think like the greatest scientific minds in history in order to solve some of humanity’s most enduring questions. Genius will air on PBS in the U.S. in 2016, and internationally on National Geographic Channel. Bigger Bang is the producer.