The orig­i­nal “Hamil­ton” stars aren’t throw­ing away their shots

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Nel­son Press­ley

Be­ing an orig­i­nal cast mem­ber of “Hamil­ton” is the Broad­way break of a life­time. The cul­tural im­pact of the genre-bust­ing hiphop smash has given the orig­i­nals cache and cre­ated a spring­board to big­ger plat­forms. That can’t mean more Broad­way, see­ing as “Hamil­ton” is the big­gest, best thing on that pop­u­lar but ex­traor­di­nar­ily nar­row block.

If you’re look­ing for writ­er­star Lin-manuel Mi­randa and his orig­i­nal co-stars of the block­buster that now has two U.S. tour­ing com­pa­nies, in ad­di­tion to the com­pa­nies on Broad­way, in Chicago and even in Lon­don, you’ll find them mostly in movies and tele­vi­sion (like Christo­pher Jack­son, “Hamil­ton’s” Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, a fix­ture on the CBS le­gal drama “Bull”). Here’s a run­down of where they are now.

Lin-manuel Mi­randa (Hamil­ton): The “Hamil­ton” mas­ter­mind

has dra­mat­i­cally ex­panded his ac­tivist role, most re­cently an­nounc­ing from Puerto Rico in late July that he was spear­head­ing a $15 mil­lion Flam­boyan Arts Fund for the coun­try still reel­ing from last year’s Hur­ri­cane Maria. He also is part of Michelle

Obama’s When We All Vote ini­tia­tive.

Does Mi­randa’s voice mat­ter? Enough that in Oc­to­ber, Ran­dom House will pub­lish a book of his tweets (2.45 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter) called “Gmorn­ing, Gnight: Lit­tle Pep Talks for Me & You.” Early ex­cerpt:

“Good morn­ing. Do NOT get stuck in the com­ments sec­tion of life to­day. Make, do, cre­ate the things. Let oth­ers tus­sle it out. Vamos!”

Cre­atively, Mi­randa’s Hol­ly­wood mi­gra­tion in­cludes writ­ing songs for the an­i­mated hit “Moana,” play­ing lamp­lighter Jack in Dis­ney’s all-star “Mary Pop­pins Re­turns” (slated for movie the­aters this De­cem­ber) and di­rect­ing a film adap­ta­tion of “Tick, Tick ... Boom!,” the semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal mu­si­cal from “Rent” com­poser Jonathan Lar­son. He’ll be in the cast of the BBC’S TV se­ries “His Dark Ma­te­ri­als,” based on Phillip Pull­man’s nov­els and di­rected by Tom Hooper, and he’s an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of a Bob Fosse TV se­ries for FX with Sam Rock­well and Michelle Wil­liams as Broad­way leg­ends Fosse and Gwen Ver­don — a project that in­volves “Hamil­ton” di­rec­tor Thomas Kail and chore­og­ra­pher Andy Blanken­buehler.

In Jan­uary, Mi­randa will step back into the ti­tle role as a “Hamil­ton” opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And a film ver­sion of “In the Heights,” Mi­randa’s 2008 Tony-win­ning mu­si­cal, has been an­nounced for 2020.

Les­lie Odom Jr. (Burr): At the mo­ment, Odom — who won the Tony as best ac­tor in a mu­si­cal for his por­trayal of Aaron Burr — is prob­a­bly most vis­i­ble as the suave-look­ing, mel­low-voiced crooner of the “Na­tion­wide” in­surance jin­gle in TV ads. On screen, look for him among the fea­tured cast in “One Dol­lar,” a thriller that be­gins stream­ing Aug. 30 on CBS All Ac­cess, and this sum­mer, he has been film­ing writer-di­rec­tor John Ri­d­ley’s scifi film “Nee­dle in a Times­tack” with Freida Pinto, Or­lando Bloom and Cyn­thia Erivo.

That ap­pears to be Odom’s ca­reer bal­ance: singing and act- ing. Last year, he was in the movie “Mur­der on the Orient Ex­press” as the dash­ing Dr. Ar­buth­not, and he and “Hamil­ton” cast­mate Daveed Diggs are both listed as voice ac­tors on “Cen­tral Park,” a forth­com­ing an­i­mated mu­si­cal-com­edy se­ries from “Bob’s Burg­ers” cre­ator Loren Bouchard.

Odom crowd­funded his self-ti­tled first al­bum, rais­ing $40,000 for a CD that got picked up and re­vised by a record la­bel post-”hamil­ton.” Last year, he re­leased a jazz-fla­vored Christ­mas al­bum, and his con­cert hall sched­ule for the fall in­cludes stops in Kansas City, Philadel­phia and Seat­tle. Most “Ham” alums still sing on­stage: Christo­pher Jack­son per­forms at the Kennedy Cen­ter on Sept. 29.

In March, Odom pub­lished the mem­oir “Fail­ing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher and Never Stop Learn­ing,” de­tail­ing how, be­fore “Hamil­ton” came along, he wasted time wait­ing by the phone in Los An­ge­les, nearly quit act­ing and stopped singing.

Phillipa Soo (El­iza): Alone among “Hamil­ton” grads, Soo has notched two sub­se­quent Broad­way cred­its. Last year, she starred in the ti­tle role of “Amélie,” al­though the mu­si­cal adap­ta­tion of the 2001 French movie closed af­ter only 56 per­for­mances. In the win­ter, Soo was re­united with “Amélie” di­rec­tor Pam Mack­in­non for Beau Wil­limon’s short-lived in­side-the-belt­way drama ‘The Parisian Woman.” (Soo played the daugh­ter of Uma Thur­man’s power bro­ker fig­ure.)

Soo was freshly grad­u­ated from the Juil­liard School in 2012 when she landed the role of Natasha in the orig­i­nal “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” off-broad­way, be­fore that off­beat mu­si­cal by Dave Mal­loy caught on and - with “Hamil­ton’s” Okierete Onaodowan in the lead - con­tro­ver­sially flamed out. Soo, who mar­ried ac­tor Steven Pasquale in Septem­ber, is now also in the CBS pipe­line, re­port­edly in the cast of the in­de­vel­op­ment mil­i­tary jus­tice se­ries “The Code.”

Daveed Diggs (Thomas Jef­fer­son, Mar­quis de Lafayette):

Diggs is get­ting ex­cel­lent re­views for the Oak­land-set “Blindspot­ting,” a ver­bally sharp, closely ob­served movie about gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, polic­ing and code-switch­ing that he wrote with co-star Rafael Casal. It’s a “para­ble of so­cial mo­bil­ity and sell­ing out” that “of­ten plays like a mod­ern-day mu­si­cal,” Wash­ing­ton Post critic Ann Hor­na­day noted. Diggs plays a man who wit­nesses a po­lice shoot­ing just as his pro­ba­tion pe­riod is end­ing.

His TV work has in­cluded re­cur­ring roles on “Black-ish,” “The Un­break­able Kimmy Sch­midt” and the Baz Luhrmanstephen Adly Guir­gis Net­flix se­ries “The Get Down.” Diggs will star in the TNT se­ries adap­ta­tion of Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 dystopian sci-fi film “Snow­piercer,” about Ice Age sur­vivors on a train — if the project ever clears the hur­dles that have com­pli­cated it for years. Chris Evans and Tilda Swin­ton an­chored the movie; Diggs and Jen­nifer Con­nolly are to head­line the se­ries.

The fast-rap­ping Diggs played the two hippest char­ac­ters in “Hamil­ton”: the light­ning-tongued Lafayette and the high-spir­ited, high-step­ping Thomas Jef­fer­son. Some­how, that’s made him a nat­u­ral pitch­man for the next-gen money trans­fer app Zelle.

Re­nee Elise Golds­berry (An­gel­ica): Golds­berry was a TV

pres­ence pre-”hamil­ton,” thanks to an “Ally Mcbeal”/“one Life to Live”/“the Good Wife” arc. Last year, she played the ti­tle role in the HBO biopic “The Im­mor­tal Life of Hen­ri­etta Lacks,” and even shared the April 2017 cover of Essence mag­a­zine with co-star Oprah Win­frey. Golds­berry is the ad­ven­tur­ously named hero­ine Quell­crist Fal­coner in the lav­ish Net­flix sci-fi se­ries “Al­tered Car­bon,” and she has a piv­otal role in the forth­com­ing Cate Blanchet­t­jack Black fan­tasy “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.”

Golds­berry, who was the fi­nal ac­tress to play Mimi in Broad­way’s long-run­ning “Rent,” also con­tin­ues on the con­cert trail. When Odom with­drew from a Bos­ton Pops event in June be­cause of a film con­flict, Golds­berry stepped in, with Soo as a spe­cial guest.

Okieri­ete Onaodowan (Her­cules Mul­li­gan, James Madi­son): “Oak,” as Onaodowan is

fa­mil­iarly known, is now fea­tured in “Sta­tion 19,” the Shonda Rhimes spinoff from “Grey’s Anatomy” chron­i­cling the ac­tion-packed lives and jobs of co-work­ers in a fire sta­tion. (Re- newed for next sea­son? Yes.)

That’s a happy end­ing af­ter the de­ba­cle of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” which closed pre­ma­turely on Broad­way last year. Onaodowan had re­placed head­liner Josh Groban, and then was to have been re­placed by big­ger box of­fice draw Mandy Patinkin be­fore his con­tract ex­pired. That led to charges of racism lev­eled at pro­duc­ers of a no­tably di­verse show. Patinkin with­drew, the mu­si­cal closed and now Oak is in Shon­da­land — which on July 22 got him and his “Sta­tion 19” col­leagues on “Celebrity Fam­ily Feud.”

Jonathan Groff (King Ge­orge): In April 2016, Groff — who had al­ready been in Broad­way’s “Spring Awak­en­ing” and “Hair” and was the voice of Kristoff in the an­i­mated movie “Frozen” — be­came the first of the “Hamil­ton” orig­i­nals to leave the show (Mi­randa, Odom and Soo de­parted next, in July). Find him on Net­flix in the David Fincher crime thriller “Mind­hunter,” which debuted last fall. Sea­son 2 is on its way, with Groff star­ring as an FBI agent solv­ing of­ten rec­og­niz­able 1970s crimes. Next year, look for “Frozen 2,” with Groff again voic­ing Kristoff.

When “Hamil­ton” hit, Groff was al­ready one of the main gay­men-in-san Fran­cisco char­ac­ters of HBO’S “Look­ing”; the se­ries was can­celed in 2016. But singing roles are not dead to him: Last year, Groff took an un­ortho­dox shot, star­ring with Jessie Shel­ton in “36 Ques­tions” — a three-part, two-char­ac­ter pod­cast mu­si­cal.

Quantrell Col­bert, HBO

Renée Elise Golds­berry in HBO’S “The Im­mor­tal Life of Hen­ri­etta Lacks.”

Lion­s­gate Ariel Nava,

Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal in “Blindspot­ting.”

Mitch Haaseth, ABC

Okieri­ete Onaodowan in the Shonda Rhimes spinoff “Sta­tion 19.”

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