How hard was it to land Lin for this guest arc?
From the very beginning, we wanted Lin-Manuel Miranda in Fatwa! The Musical, and to end the show with a Hamilton-style duel. And that’s what we wrote. One small problem… we hadn’t ever bought any of this to Lin’s attention. We wrote the whole thing without talking to him. And there really was no Plan B — other than having only eight episodes. So we just kept telling ourselves, “He’s going to say yes, he’s going to say yes.” the way the high school nerd psyches himself up before asking the head cheerleader to prom. Thinking back on it, we had a better chance of getting the actual Ayatollah of Iran to guest star in the finale. I guarantee he’s a lot less busy than Lin. (I am still trying to get Larry that fatwa!)
Larry called him up, and luckily Lin was a fan of the show. Of course, the entire time we were going to be shooting our season, he was going to be shooting Mary Poppins. In London. So, we turned our shooting schedule into a pretzel — we snuck in the scenes from episode 9 in the agent’s office while he was in town for the Oscars. But it was so worth it. Saying Lin-Manuel Miranda is talented is as obvious as saying puppies are cute — or men’s tennis is boring — but damn, did he deliver! And I love that duel. Larry David is the Burr of our times!
You do have Justin Hurwitz, who wrote the music for La La Land, as one of your writers. Did that give you the confidence to tell this musical story — and to write your own songs?
Larry and I had written Larry’s remedial version of “There’s a Fatwa” before we brought Justin in. But we knew Lin’s versions of these songs would have to be professional-grade. Justin is a great comedy writer who happens to moonlight as an Oscar-winning composer. Justin would bring in his keyboard and we would spitball lyrics. And we wrote a few other songs that never made it into the show — including the number for “Fatwa Sex.” That one might have been my favorite.
How much did Lin — whose resume isn’t so bad, either — contribute to the musical?
Sending musical demos to Lin is like sending your idea for a hand-held computing device to Steve Jobs. Lin had a great note about making “I Do Not Like This Man!” feel less like Hamilton and more dramatic, which was completely the right way to go. As for Lin rapping in the agency, we sent him a bunch of options, and he wisely said: “I think I’ll just freestyle it.” And he did. And every take was different, and every take was brilliant. It was like watching someone dunk. You just say, “Well, I can’t do that.” He verbally dunked on us.
More BTS photos: