where is ashanti

20 questions about 2016 with Lin-Manuel Miranda (Entertainment Weekly):

“I’m a f—ing mess right now.”

That’s Lin-Manuel Miranda mere seconds after the Hamilton Mixtape live-stream event at New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre on Dec. 1, where folks like Ja Rule, Ashanti, Andra Day, and Regina Spektor performed remixed, reimagined songs from the Broadway musical. Miranda is in London (a new home) getting into shuffle-step shape in rehearsals for Mary Poppins Returns (a new experiment), watching the live YouTube event on his way home to tuck his kid into bed (a new pleasure, afforded by no longer being in Hamilton six nights a week).

Miranda, as a Miranda is wont to be, is emotional, but it’s a version of emotional which has become his defining reaction to any good thing — and there were a lot of them — that happened this year. […] It would be easy to get lost in the accolades, but that’s not Miranda’s M.O. Miranda spent the better part of this year beaming and cheering for the success and careers of others, never betraying more than the minimal amount of self-satisfaction you can cull from knowing you’re responsible for changing someone else’s life (be it New York actor or Montana teen). In 2016, others endlessly sang his creative praises — there were awards with his name engraved, holy grails of Grammy, Tony, and Pulitzer. But as his professional career skyrocketed, his emotional journey stayed largely the same: gratitude, appreciation, and a desire to create again, expectations be damned.

Exactly one year ago, he was one of EW’s Entertainers of the Year, and the same is once again true. Upon a recent revisit with Miranda, it becomes clear that when it comes to his commitment to entertaining this year, not a thing has changed — even though it certainly seems as if everything has.


4. What was the last Hamilton-related dream you had?
It’s been a minute. My go-to anxiety dream is I’ve got an hour to get somewhere and suddenly New York’s map has changed out from under me and I’m on some weird new train that’s going the opposite direction of what I wanted. It’s a little like Hogwarts and the staircases don’t get you where you want to go. I probably had a mixtape delivery deadline dream – that’s probably the safest best, that we were due to finish the album and I got on the wrong train and suddenly I’m on a J train in Queens.


9. Where do you keep your Grammy?
You know, I still don’t have my Hamilton Grammy? I don’t. I have my Heights one. Grammy’s got to get on that. Maybe mine got lost in the mail. I can tell you all the rest of the stuff is on a shelf in New York. I think it’s at my parents’ house?

10. What was your last text to Javier Muñoz?
My last text to Javi was “You got hacked! Change your password!” He got badly hacked and someone started writing all this crazy stuff, and I was like ‘Javi, Javi your Twitter is going crazy.’ No, wait, you know what? There’s one more recent than that. Oh, I texted him happy birthday!

11. What was your favorite day on Twitter this year?
The fun with Twitter, and the reason it’s so addictive for theater performers, has always been that you’re getting the dopamine of an audience in your pocket whenever you want. So if you’d asked me this question last year, I would say the day we began streaming the cast album on NPR. Six years of music I had been working on, finally in the world, and hearing people respond in real-time. I think my answer now might be people hearing the mixtape for the first time, hearing it drop in different time-zones at midnight like on New Year’s, and watching people tweet me their reactions has been wonderful. But I also really like the silly days. When I hit a million followers on Twitter, Jonathan Sun, this amazing writer, decided it was going to be a #1MillionGIFs party and so we were just sending the dumbest sh– on Twitter all day! Just the dumbest, funniest GIFs you can imagine, all day, and in a time when Twitter has gotten increasingly combative and dour and tough, because there’s been a lot of really scary s–t in the news, we were having a GIF party. It’s nice to be that oasis on the Internet for people.

12. Besides Twitter, which app on your phone did you almost straight-up break this year from using too much?
As soon as [Hamilton sound designer] Nevin Steinberg turned me on to it, the backgammon app. That’s like my wife and I’s sport of choice. That’s my go-to “I can’t be on the internet right now, I’m gonna play 20 games of backgammon.”

13. What was the most surprising Hamilton meme this year?
I was surprised by “Find someone who looks at you the way Lin-Manuel looks at literally everyone.” [Laughs.] You know, I’m lucky to be in a situation where most of the time when people see me in public, I am staring adorably at a fellow cast member or a guest on Ham4Ham or I’m at the Tonys and I can’t believe where I am. I don’t normally look like that, but I love that. That made me laugh really hard.


16. How did you reconcile the inherently political nature of Hamilton with a very volatile political year? Essentially, this is my vague Mike Pence question.
You know what’s interesting? I don’t think of myself as inherently political. I think the politics that emerge from my work are whatever politics are apparent to the characters who are living through it. The characters in In the Heights are dealing with gentrification, so you have to touch on that because it’s a day-to-day flesh-and-blood thing that they’re dealing with. The birth of American politics is happening over the course of Hamilton’s life, so you get into that because it’s inherent to the story. I think for me, the goal is always to make everyone feel welcome at the theater, because increasingly — and I think this election has proven — we get our facts from different sources. We get our senses of reality from different sources. It’s easy to curate your own reality. And in a theater, it’s 1,300 people in a room watching the same thing, and that’s powerful. You may have all gone away with different conclusions of it, but you all watched the same thing together.

And so, there’s the Pence of it all — but also the Obama of it all. We had a year in which we were invited to the White House to perform, and a year in which we asked the vice president-elect to represent all of us in the most respectful way I know how. And so those are sort of the two big “political moments,” but they’re about the same things. They’re about “please include all of us.” This country, we are inheritors of it. Whether you felt like you were part of the foundation narrative of this country or not, you live in it now, so what are we to make of it? And that’s sort of about as political as I think I get.


BONUS QUESTION: 21. Will you have a resolution for next year?
I guess my resolution is to continue to create space for myself and for my family. Without that nothing else goes. That’s the essential engine that makes me feel like I can get up in the morning and do the things I’m doing and just know that things are good with my kid, things are good with my wife, things are good with my friends, and if you have that, everything else can go away, because here’s the secret. The secret is, I’m going to write some big old f—ing flops! I’m going to write some things that really don’t work. I don’t know what those are — you don’t set out to do that — but I‘ve been very, very lucky and I know going in when I write a piece of theater, it can close in a night. I work on a movie, I know it can open and close and disappear. I’ve had enough to it to just know that you can’t control the outcome of something. You can only control the thing you make. So to that end, it’s sort of a refocus on my family and my friends and making sure that the people I love feel good and feel like they still know who I am, and we’re all good, and everything else feels okay, and if I have that foundation, it feels okay to play.

read about the rest of LMM’s 2016 in the full interview