A Minute With: Lin-Manuel Miranda on 'Moana' and 'Mary Poppins'

By Piya Sinha-Roy
Reuters

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Award-winning "Hamilton" musical creator Lin-Manuel Miranda swaps the politics of 18th century Washington for the charms of Polynesia in the Disney animated movie "Moana."

Miranda, 36, worked with musicians from the South Pacific to create original songs for the movie about a plucky teenage girl who sets sail on an epic journey to help save her tribe.

Miranda spoke with Reuters about "Moana," which opens in U.S. movie theaters on Wednesday, and his work as an actor on the upcoming "Mary Poppins" movie sequel.

The interview took place before Friday's performance of "Hamilton" in New York at which U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence was booed by some in the audience and the cast of the play - with Miranda's support - urged Pence to "work on behalf of all of us." President-elect Donald Trump said the cast owed Pence an apology.

Following are edited excerpts of the Miranda interview.

Q: What were you eager to capture of the Pacific Island community when you were working with Samoan-born musician Opetaia Foa'i and his band Te Vaka?

A: We all went into this keenly aware that this is a part of the world that isn't represented on screen very much so you want the people who live there to see the movie and say hey, that's us, and with pride. Opetaia took the lead on the rhythms and harmonies ... I'm Ginger Rogers - he leads the dance and I write lyrics, I write melodies.

Q: Which was your favorite song?

A: The one that represents our collaboration the best is "We Know The Way." We started writing that the weekend we met. We met in New Zealand (and) we went to this Pacifica music festival where we heard choirs from all over the different islands.

Q: How has life been post-"Hamilton?"

A: I love the subway in New York. I think it's a national treasure. I did a lot of writing on the train. For a while, I couldn't take the train without someone sitting next to me and talking to me ... (Now) I'm working on a movie in London. I can walk around with my son (and) it's not a big deal, so it's nice to have that back.

Q: Speaking of "Mary Poppins," what can you tell us about your character Jack? Will we be hearing a Cockney accent?

A: You're going to hear the worst accent you've ever heard in your life! You're not going to know what country I'm from. It's going to sound like I came from another planet!

Q: You've worked on "Star Wars" music for "The Force Awakens" and you're involved in Disney's princess world with "Moana" and "Little Mermaid." Any Marvel comic characters?

A: I'm a Marvel buff. I grew up reading those comic books. If they ever do a "Maximum Carnage" storyline, I want dibs on Carnage.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bill Trott)