A childhood memory, Mary Poppins Returns, comes back to the big screen after decades of the first movie. Jane and Michael Banks are now grown adults, and Michael has three kids of his own.
As part of the coverage in my recent press trip to Los Angeles for the Mary Poppins Returns Movie world premiere, I had the opportunity and huge honor to interview Lamplighter Jack, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musicals the Heights and Hamilton. Lin-Manuel also co-wrote the songs for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana.
Lin-Manuel Miranda walked into the room and told us we were the highlight of his day! What better way to start a conversation? The following is what we learned about this extraordinary Latino celebrity!
How is it different being in the musical theater versus starring in a musical movie production?
Lin-Manuel: You finish the eight-minute dance number and you wait a year and a half for applause. But honestly, you’re trying to tell the truth on stage and you’re trying to tell the truth in film. The difference is the energy source. Doing eight shows a week is a yoga. You’re gonna hit the same positions every night but you’re gonna hit ’em differently depending on your energy,
the audience, you’re fellow performers. And you have two the next day.
The energy source in making a film is, especially a film like this, today you’re dancing with penguins. Tomorrow you’re singing with Meryl Streep. Friday you’re shutting down Buckingham Palace with 800 bikers. And you’re not coming back. We’re not going back to the Penguins next week. You don’t get two shows a day with Meryl Streep tomorrow. So the adrenaline source becomes this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment and you have to be completely present. And so it just shifts from the audience to the sheer one-of-a-kindness of it.
Which scene are you most proud of?
Lin-Manuel: That’s a great question. There are so many scenes. I’m proud of. It’s funny. There are scenes I’m proud of because they’re my own fault. And there are scenes I’m proud of because they took so much practice and mastery. Tommy Kail, who directed Hamilton, said he was most moved [LAUGHS]. Sorry, it makes me laugh. He was most moved when he saw me slide down the banister in Trip A Little Light Fantastic because I’d been doing, that’s like the one thing I actually know how to do really well.
And as Tommy Kail put it, “You don’t know how to land a joke or sing a note or grow a beard without practice. But man you were born to slide down banisters.” And then there are moments that represent hours and hours of hard work from the eight-minute, continuous dance continuous dance sequence in Trip A Little Light Fantastic, and Rob ran it as an eight-minute dance sequence, you know.
Did you find the costumes comfortable or uncomfortable, especially with dancing in them?
Yeah. Well, Sandy Powell’s a wizard and she’s sort of a Mary Poppins herself. She looks not of this world. She comes in with this orange hair and these amazing outfits. The next thing you know, you’re wearing an amazing outfit, which is very Poppins-esque. And, but dancing was always given priority. So even in those hand-painted suits in the Royal Dalton Ball and that is painted, that is like acrylic paint on the suits, there’s give and there’s a stretch in the pants so we can sort of do our work.
When asked about “The bike” and if he normally rode a bike? And were there wheels on it that were green screened? Like how did you guys…
Lin-Manuel: Gertie. That’s what I called her.
So the bike, I called it Gertie because she was not your average bike. This is not your Schwinn 10-speed. This is an old bike with a 20-pound ladder in a basket on your right side. So you’re constantly accounting for that. So I would bike to craft services. I would bike around. I make it, I biked that thing all over Shepperton Studios until it was second nature to me. And then in the sequences where all the kids and Mary Poppins are on the bike, we just had a set of training wheels that we C.G.I.’ed out.
Lin-Manuel: I remember… I remember seeing the first two-thirds of Mary Poppins. We had the V.H.S. cassette and it was, some of you will remember this. You know, they had their own section in the home library because they were fluffy and white, a little bigger than your shelf. And then I remember turning it off during Feed The Birds. Feed The Birds is the most emotionally devastat-ing melody in the history of cinema. And I was not ready for it as a kid. So I remember crying and turning it off. I didn’t see the end of Mary Poppins ’til I was like in high school because that song was just too sad. It was just too sad for my tender little heart. And so yeah. So I remember the first two-thirds of it on repeat. And then Feed The Birds was like, Oh, okay, I’m gonna go play”. That was my experience growing up with it.
Mary Poppins Returns has a TON of magical moments that I’m sure were challenging in the making of this fabulous film. Make sure to take the family on December 19, 2018, when Mary Poppins Returns releases nationwide!
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Disclosure: This post is part of my all expense paid trip to Los Angeles, CA provided by Disney, in exchange for coverage. However, opinions are 100% mine.