He has won two Emmys, three Grammys, and three Tonys. All he needs now is an Oscar, and he will have completed the coveted, colloquial "EGOT." This is Lin-Manuel Miranda, today's Hispanic Heritage Month actor highlight. Did we mention he also won a Pulitzer Prize and two Olivier Awards? Miranda is certainly a man of many talents, and his years of hard work in theater, film, music, and television have paid off in a major way.
How You Know Him
We all know him best from his history-making historical musical "Hamilton." But Lin-Manuel Miranda has accomplished so much more that you might not even realize which projects are his. In theater, he broke out with "In the Heights," which would lead to the bigger musical hit that we just mentioned. Both have recently made the jump to screen, either as a theatrical adaptation ("In the Heights") or a taped broadcast ("Hamilton" on Disney+).
Kids know him best for his ear-wormy original songs from Disney's 2016 animated hit "Moana." Since then, he has worked with the Mouse House on several different projects. Most notably, he played lamplighter Jack in the Mary Poppins sequel "Mary Poppins Returns." He also supplied some music to "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Most recently, you can hear his voice as the eponymous singing kinkajou in the Sony Animation film "Vivo," now streaming on Netflix.
His Life So Far
Lin-Manuel Miranda was born in New York City. He grew up in Inwood, the neighborhood just north of Washington Heights. His parents emigrated to America from Puerto Rico. For his unique name, his parents found inspiration from a poem by Puerto Rican writer José Manuel Torres Santiago.
Theater called out to Miranda from an early age. In high school, he began writing and acting in musicals and plays. By the time he was a college sophomore, he already had the first drafts of what would become his breakout musical, "In the Heights." The show had its first premiere in Connecticut in 1999.
After graduating, Miranda worked with playwright John Buffalo Mailer and theater director Thomas Kail. They teamed up to take "In the Heights" to Broadway. It took six years for the musical to make its way from Connecticut and off-Broadway to the Great White Way. After opening in 2008, "In the Heights," landed 13 Tony nominations and won four including Best Musical and Best Score. This was Miranda's first Tony win. The musical's soundtrack also won a Grammy; Miranda's first.
As "In the Heights" was scaling just that, Miranda found a few side gigs. He worked as an English teacher at his former high school. He also translated lyrics into Spanish for a "West Side Story" revival. Miranda additionally made various TV appearances. You can spot him in shows like "The Sopranos," "Sesame Street," "Modern Family," and "How I Met Your Mother." Through all this, he founded the hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme. A documentary about the group and its origin is currently streaming on Hulu.
Miranda's jump to international stardom came from a production break on "In the Heights." It was on this break that he took a trip to Mexico with his then-girlfriend-now-wife Vanessa Nadal. For reading material, he randomly brought Ron Chernow's in-depth biography of Alexander Hamilton. The story of an immigrant who comes to America and climbs his way to the top spoke to Miranda. He envisioned the story as a freestyle rap musical and began writing a project called "The Hamilton Mixtape." Eventually, this would transform into the Tony-award-winning musical we know as "Hamilton."
"Hamilton" premiered off-Broadway at the start of 2015. The hip-hop musical won over critics, and its performances quickly sold out. By that summer, "Hamilton" moved to Broadway. Its performances continued to be in high demand. At the 70th Tony Awards in 2016, "Hamilton" broke the record for most nominations with 16. It won 11 of those awards. This was just shy of tying the record for the number of Tonys won by a single production, a record still owned by Mel Brooks' "The Producers."
Although the musical was not without its critics, "Hamilton" was a pop culture phenomenon. It also put Miranda on the map. Even though he left the title role in 2016, Miranda has returned to "Hamilton" several times since. 2019 saw one such return for a three-week run in Puerto Rico. This engagement helped raise money for the island's arts and cultural programs after the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
As he was blowing up on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda was making in-roads at Disney. In 2012, he appeared in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." The following year he began a collaboration with the studio that's still ongoing. In 2014, he started work on the music and songs for Disney's "Moana." That film debuted in 2016, the same year "Hamilton" took Broadway by storm. The film's main song, "How Far I'll Go," led to Golden Globe, Oscar, Critics' Choice, and Grammy nominations.
In 2015, Miranda joined a galaxy far away. He contributed music to a Mos Eisley Cantina-inspired scene in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." In 2019, he returned to the "Star Wars" Universe for "The Rise of Skywalker," contributing music and making a brief cameo at the end of the movie.
Miranda's first major role after leaving "Hamilton," came in 2018. That year he starred alongside Emily Blunt in "Mary Poppins Returns." Miranda played Jack, a lamplighter and a former apprentice of Dick Van Dyke's Burt from the original 1964 film.
Most recently, Lin-Manuel Miranda executive produced the FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon." The series explored the relationship between Broadway stalwart Bob Fosse and his wife, Gwen Verdon. In 2020, his musical "Hamilton" reached millions more people when a live stage production streamed on Disney+. This year, he followed that with the theatrical adaptation of his first hit musical, "In the Heights." Also, this year, Miranda starred in the Cuba-set animated musical "Vivo." The film originally came to him during the success of "In the Heights," in 2010.
The Movie to See
Lin-Manuel Miranda's opus remains "Hamilton." In 2016, most of the original cast of "Hamilton" reunited to perform the musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. This footage, culled from three nights, was then transformed into the broadcast that's now streaming on Disney+.
Disney intended to release the film theatrically. But when COVID shut down Hollywood, Broadway and London's West End, they saw this as an opportunity. It was a chance to give back and keep people excited about the arts at a time when live theater and moviegoing were impossible. That "Hamilton" debuted on Disney's platform on the Fourth of July was the icing on the cake. Thanks to its access on Disney+, more people have streamed "Hamilton" than those who have seen it live.
Fun fact: "Hamilton" marks the first instance of an F-bomb appearing in an official release from Walt Disney Pictures. While Disney removed a few instances of the word from the musical to keep a PG-13 rating, they kept one in. You can hear it in the performance of "Say No to This."
What's Up Next
Lin-Manuel Miranda has several interesting projects on deck. First up is his directorial debut, "Tick, Tick... Boom!" for Netflix. Miranda and screenwriter Steven Levenson adapted the movie from Jonathan Larson's semi-autobiographical play that Miranda once performed on stage. The film will open the AFI Fest in November and then have a limited run in theaters before finally dropping on Netflix in time for Thanksgiving.
At the same time (during Thanksgiving), Disney will release "Encanto." The film is a Colombian-set animated musical fantasy, featuring Miranda's original songs. He also is lending his songwriting talents to Disney's upcoming live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid."
Beyond those projects, Miranda is slated to produce and compose music for Sam Raimi's upcoming fantasy adaptation "The Kingkiller Chronicle," for Lionsgate. On the acting side, he'll star alongside Blake Lively in an upcoming rom-com, "The Making Of."
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.