Renée Elise Goldsberry Explains Why Watching the ‘Hamilton’ Film for the First Time Was Scary

     July 2, 2020

With its original cast, the Broadway production of Hamilton, featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz and R&B to tell the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton (played by show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), became one of the hottest tickets in theater, soon evolving into a full-blown cultural phenomenon with a long list of accolades and countless fans. Now, the electric and thrilling stage show, filmed at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in June of 2016, is available for all audiences to stream at Disney+, whether you’ve listened to the soundtrack on repeat, seen a performance on a local tour, been lucky enough to catch the original line-up, or you’re checking it out for the first time.

During the virtual press day for the movie, actress/singer Renée Elise Goldsberry, who played Angelica Schuyler, talked about revisiting the show now, why Thomas Kail was the perfect person to direct this, the moments that she had forgotten, whether she’d want to reprise her role for the inevitable feature film, and what it was like to rap in the BET Cypher. She also talked about her love for her Altered Carbon character and her hope that they’ll get to do a third season.

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Image via Disney+

Collider: I know that it’s a little bit off topic, but I have to say that I absolutely adore Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and loved your character on the show.

RENEE ELISE GOLDSBERRY: Thank you! That’s not off topic, at all. That’s a great show!

I’m thrilled that there will be a Season 2, and I’m hoping that we’ll see you return, at some point.

GOLDSBERRY: Thank you! It’s such a genius, talented group of people to work with.

I got to see Hamilton at the Pantages in Hollywood, but I never got to see the original cast, which makes this movie even more exciting. After this show had the impact that it’s had, what’s it like to experience it all again, especially after a fair amount of time has passed?

GOLDSBERRY: It was scary, honestly. I had no idea what I was gonna see, and I had the benefit of having been in Rent, filmed live on Broadway, so I knew that it was possible. I didn’t believe it was possible before, but I had learned that it was possible that, if you really intimately knew a show and were a good filmmaker, you could capture a theatrical performance in a way that would do it some justice, and yet I was still scared to death. It was such a special experience, and it’s frightening that it could be represented by something that didn’t do justice to what you saw at the Pantages, for example. Even if you didn’t see the original Broadway company, you saw it somewhere, and you saw the magic and the beauty that cast put together. We were just praying that, on film, it could be captured. Tommy Kail did us all right. No one knows the show better than he does, and because he has such a mastery of the theater and the greatest love of the theater – nobody loves the theater more than Tommy Kail, and he’s also a wonderful filmmaker, I don’t know why I doubted, for a minute, that he would have been able to do this. I feel a little bit guilty about that. But I’m so grateful that he handled it with the care and the thoughtfulness that he handled every moment of this entire journey.

What was your own personal favorite moment in the show, and what was the most challenging moment in the show, for you?

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Image via Disney+

GOLDSBERRY: I hate to cop out, but it is really impossible to pick one moment from Hamilton to be your favorite, just because there was so much magic. What I love about the film it reminded me about moments that I just forgot about because other ones stick out so strong. I totally forgot about this moment that I rediscovered when I saw the film, when we run to the front of the stage, just before George Washington comes out and we say, “British Admiral Howe’s got troops on the water.” A group of people run to the front of the stage when they see the ships coming to the shore, and they realize that we are in grave danger and that we’re about to go to war. I totally forgot about that moment, as many times as I ran down, front and center, saying that line. There’s another moment, in the middle of “Helpless,” where Eliza and Peggy and Angelica sit on a stool, and I lean all the way forward, and Eliza leans over me, so that she can continue talking to the audience about her falling in love, while the turntable moves. I totally forgot about that moment, until I saw the movie. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

When it comes to an eventual feature film adaptation of Hamilton, would you want to reprise your role for it, or would you rather see someone else’s take on it?

GOLDSBERRY: Are you kidding me?! Are you really asking an actress that?! I hope he makes it really quick, so that I can still play Angelica Schuyler, as supposed to her grandmother. But yeah, I would absolutely love to have the great honor of being in every version of Hamilton, until the end of time. I would come back from the grave to be in Hamilton. I’m quite confident that there will be so many versions of this wonderful story told, in so many different ways because I think every different adaptation of it will take off even more layers than we even knew existed. I’m also confident that whoever embodies these roles will be genius because it’s just so good. It’s written so well. Any great actor will have a signature on this and bless us.

One of the things that I love that happened, as a result of Hamilton, was you rapping in the BET Cypher. Especially being one of the only women who has done that, what was that like to do?

GOLDSBERRY: Awesome. I was at some after the show gathering, I was sitting in a bar, and [Lin-Manuel Miranda] said to me, “Hey, you wanna do the Cypher with us?” And I said, “Sure!,” but I had no idea what he was talking about. I just knew that when that kid asks you to do something, you say, “Yes,” and ask questions later. I don’t think I even heard him right. And then, I realized he was talking about the BET Cypher, the Hip-Hop Cypher, and I had to write a rap. It was gonna be me, Daveed [Diggs], Lin, and The Roots. It was another really scary moment, but what you learn in this game, if you stay in it, is that you just show up. You try to be as prepared as humanly possible and you can be as creative as possible, but you just show up, and that’s what I did. I sat in a circle with those genius rappers, and I spoke. One of the other things that was really scary about it was believing that my story and what I would wanna say would stand with theirs. The first line was, “Mother of two with one life to live.” Who starts a rap like that? But I am so glad that I was brave enough to say that, and to start from jump about who I am. Not to personify anything else, but to be me. That’s what it is. If you’re not authentic, then what are you doing? It was another surprising blessing in all of this, and I’m so grateful for it.

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Image via Disney+

Have you heard anything about a third season of Altered Carbon, and what might happen with your character there?

GOLDSBERRY: I love Altered Carbon and I love Quellcrist Falconer so much. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with Altered Carbon. I pray to God that, somehow or another, Quell can finish their revolution, and right the wrong, and bring down the protectorate and bring back humanity. Most importantly, Quell and Kovacs to have an opportunity to love each other and not have to sacrifice for the world. I pray for that so much. It’s been my greatest joy to play a powerful action hero revolutionary, and to go from a period piece as Angelica Schuyler to a futuristic revolutionary soldier. Only acting can do that. So, I’m praying for, somehow or another, there to be a Season 3 of Altered Carbon.

Hamilton is available to stream at Disney+, starting on July 3rd.

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