BWW Interview: Renee Elise Goldsberry Explains Why This is the Time for HAMILTON
The #Hamilcountdown continues! As the world gets ready to experience the phenomenon that is Hamilton from their homes, BroadwayWorld is checking in with its stars ahead of the release on Disney+.
Not sure how to tune in on July 3rd? Let BroadwayWorld be your guide!
Today's guest played the oldest and the wittiest of the Schuyler family- Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry! Richard Ridge chats with her about how she expects the story will continue to change lives and how it changed hers.
How excited are you that Hamilton was filmed?
I'm the most excited that it was filmed. Like I've said, I was in Rent Live on Broadway and that filmed, so I was telling those kids everyday that what we really wanted was for them to film this before we leave. I'm the one that knows that when you put a person on camera, all the people, all the kids, everyone that comes after will always remember you doing it. So I'm grateful that they gave us this gift.
What does it mean to you that Hamilton will be reaching such a wide audience now because of this film?
It's what we always wanted. We were always trying to find a way to give access to the most people possible. That's why we shut the street down in front of the theater and did #Ham4Ham. I remember at some point even outside of #Ham4Ham, while we were in the show, there would be just crowds of kids standing outside the stage door having sing-a-longs. So loud that we wondered if you could hear from the audience! It was a remarkable time and to think back on it now, when the streets are so quiet, actually not quiet... I should say the cry from the streets is different from what it was at that time.
It's a marvel, so I'm grateful that there's no building that you have to be able to get into. You can just have it, because we need theatre. We desperately need it, and we miss it, and we need it, when we're separated from each other. We need it when we are trying to change the world. I'm grateful that this is available.
How do you feel about Hamilton streaming vs. being released in movie theaters?
Well, nothing happens by accident. I was surprised. I didn't see it coming, and even when it came, I didn't know what the world would be like today. I don't even know what it will be like on July 3rd! So yeah, it's a surprise but I've been around Hamilton long enough to know that it's really bigger than all of us. We didn't know when it was created in the Obama administration what was to come and that what we would need from the show would change. That's how I feel at this moment. I had this dream that we would be watching it on the big screen and maybe that will still happen one day, but I'm glad the producers of the show were savvy and generous enough and just aware enough to know that this is the time.
How do you hope it will change the lives of the people who will see Hamilton?
I hope that it helps people focus the rage. I hope it helps us to focus the questions we're forming. What do we have here? Why are we still in this situation? We have to go way back to start unraveling root problems right now. If we're gonna start in this country, we should probably start with the revolution- the people who formed the documents and are the fabric of this country. What they were thinking; where did they go right; where did they drop the ball? What happens when you kick a problem down the road? We need to start answering those questions and I think we have to look at our history to figure that out in order to plan our future.
I'm also grateful that it's a diverse group of people that are playing the forefathers and foremothers of our country. It's important to me that my son did not believe for a moment that he is a target or that this world only offers danger to him. I want him to also recognize his ownership. I want him to understand that his ancestors helped build this country. I want him to understand that he has the power to be a part of the change for the better in this country and I think just listening to this music and visually seeing this group of people doing it helps bring some of these messages home.
Have you seen the film yet?
I did, I watched it on Sunday.
Who did you watch it with?
That's a good question! I wanted to put it in the basement and watch it with my whole family, but they're very protective of it and we only had a link on our computers. So my husband put it up for me and I almost kicked him out because I was scared to death! But I'm so grateful that he sat with me and watched it and we both cried and laughed and cheered. I would never have been able to get this job, keep this job, or go on this amazing journey were it not for my husband. He has been the rock that has kept me grounded and basically buoying me through this whole experience so I'm grateful that I got to watch it with him. We just weeped with joy!
It must have been so surreal seeing parts of a show and saying, "Oh, that happens when I'm doing this..."
Exactly. I remember we have cues on stage and we have what we call backstage cues. It's that place where we would kind of meet whoever was offstage and on that side of the stage at that time and we would do whatever little ritual we made to do, which was really fun and we always looked forward to. What we forget sometimes is that someone was doing something really important on the stage when we were having fun downstairs and what we remember when we see this movie was "Oh, wow! That's what you were doing! That's wonderful!" We are rediscovering our company members and falling in love with their work. It's such a joy.
I can only imagine. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching you watch this. I always ask you all I wish you could step out of your bodies and see what you give us as an audience.
The first time I realized that what people were seeing was so different than what I was experiencing was when I did Shakespeare in the Park many many years ago- Two Gentlemen of Verona. I got wonderful love for playing Sylvia in that show and I didn't really understand what everyone was so excited about. I just said, "Oh, let me not overthink this. Let me just keep doing what I'm doing and ride this wave." Maybe even a year later, somebody sent me images of me in the performance and my eyes just kind of popped out of my head. I couldn't see what that afro looked like in the moonlight in that awesome lighting and all of my company members around me. I couldn't see Norm [Lewis]'s huge smile on the stage next to me. I was experiencing it, but I didn't even hear it when I saw images of the moment. I got some of that joy from watching Hamilton. It's a different level... it's different from the inside or the outside depending on where you're viewing it from.
How has Hamilton changed your life?
Oh my goodness. Hamilton has changed my life in tremendous ways and I will continually be changed by it. I learned that again when I was watching the film and now that I have this opportunity to be an ambassador for it again. One of the biggest ways I think is when it comes to my purpose. A good friend said to me one time: "You had Hamilton. You did that! You got to win a Tony for that. You got to be a part of that. If that doesn't free you from a need to kind of seek a career or seek relevance in your work, then what will?"
Because there's this character... this woman, this period character that people don't know about. If I can be a part of the telling of her story, people can learn from her. That should be the motivation- not building a career. Not having a certain level of success. I should be able to let that go and just be an artist; just be a citizen; just be on a journey to learn and share what I think I know. So I try to keep reminding myself that that is the journey I am afforded. We all have it and If I don't claim this then who will?
Sign up for Disney+ today for your chance to catch Leslie and even more of the original cast of Broadway's biggest hit from home on July 3!