UPDATE clarifying Alex Horwitz quotes: After a video from Hamilton creator-star Lin-Manuel Miranda who apologized for not being able to attend, the Broadway smash’s Tony-winning Daveed Diggs, Great Performances executive producer David Horn and filmmaker Alex Horwitz took the stage at today’s TCA to discuss the upcoming PBS documentary series Hamilton’s America and how it draws parallels to current presidential politics that will be on view.
The docu-series, which follows the production of the megahit hip-hop musical during the two years leading up to its Broadway opening, premieres October 21. Hamilton won 11 Tonys this year.
Horwitz joked that he embarked on the series to increase his chances of getting a ticket to the show, before adding on a more serious note that he chose to focus on history rather than backstage drama in the series. He added it was a remarkably non-contentious production, so he would have had to “roll on that forever” to conjure any drama.
Both Diggs and Horwitz did speak of one marvelous drama that took place not backstage but in the White House, when the Hamilton cast performed there earlier this year. Diggs said cast members were allowed wide access to work with kids on a performance piece, using various rooms and shooting silly videos. “Meeting [the Obamas] and having them say your name before you say theirs — that’s crazy!” he said.
Diggs added that he (and most everyone else) was in tears watching Christopher Jackson, the black actor who portrays George Washington, playing the role in front of the White House portrait of George Washington, and in front of the nation’s first black president. That moment is in the documentary series.
Said Horwitz of the docu-series: “We’ve just made the bigger version of that, kind of zoomed out.”
Because this is TCA, there were also questions about Diggs’ new role as Bow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) brother in a story arc on ABC’s Black-ish and his decision to leave the Broadway show. “I’ve always been a fan of Black-ish,” he said, adding that when you star in “something that is a cult phenomenon, people want to talk to you” about new projects.
Of leaving Hamilton, he said: “It was time to go. At some point you have to make a decision about what you are going to do…I felt like I did what I could do with it.” It’s time, he said, “for someone else to make it brand new.”