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The entertainment industry’s duty to ensure diversity and dealing with self doubt and setbacks were among the topics Lin-Manuel Miranda discussed during a virtual session of the Edinburgh TV Festival on Wednesday.
The actor-singer-producer suggested that a “silver lining in this really horrible and daunting time” of the coronavirus pandemic was “the importance of the arts.” After all, “try imagining getting through this pandemic without bingeing that favorite TV show or reading those books,” he explained. “I think for those of us who know that we think of this as a calling, it’s really sort of tested our resolve.”
Interviewed in Wales by production firm Bad Wolf’s CEO Jane Tranter, the multi-hyphenate Hamilton star, following a vacation on the Scottish island of Skye, described the current situation as a “new normal,” mentioning that he and Tranter both had COVID tests earlier in the day and would put on their masks again after their chat.
Asked about diversity and inclusion in the industry, Miranda said: “The number one thing I have learned … is people want your stories, people actually want stories they haven’t heard before. And that only comes when we have a chorus of voices.”
That means that “doing what we can to support that” is key, including by “attacking those inequities,” including through internships and scholarships, which he does through the Miranda Family Fund. “Some of it is really attacking that stuff systemically and supporting folks who are at the ground floor level of this industry and making sure that a living wage exists, so that I can make a living doing the thing I love.”
Asked if the U.S. also needed to do more work to ensure inclusion of disabled creatives in the entertainment industry, which has been a theme of the Edinburgh TV Festival this week, Miranda said: “100 percent.” He added: “That is another place where hearing those voices saying you are not doing well enough in this … is kind of great.”
Discussing his take on the role of social media for creatives, Miranda said one must decide “how much you let in in terms of feedback and how you let it affect you,” because “one loud negative voice can be a day ruiner.” As such, before putting creations out on social media, people should constantly ask themselves “Is this the best version of what I’m making?”
Answering a question about self doubt, Miranda shared: “The bad new is that the self doubt doesn’t go away. It never does!” His advice to creatives with self doubt was to see it as one’s duty to tell one’s story and “sing louder than your fear.”
The pair also discussed talent, including how to nurture and support new generations of creatives, as well as Miranda’s journey, including his month-long visit to Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe in his 20s as part of improv hip-hop comedy group Freestyle Love Supreme.
What was his biggest setback when he was younger? “My biggest setback is the setback a lot of us face, which is: how on earth do you cross the gulf?” Miranda shared. “I don’t have a family in the arts. I didn’t have any connections to anyone in the business.” So how do you begin.
He added that “80 percent is luck, but you have to do the hard work part” to be able to take advantage of the luck.
Another setback is dealing with people with greenlighting power who haven’t seen your kind of work before and therefore “don’t believe in it.” Shared Miranda: “Before we found the producers we had, we had plenty of producers on In the Heights who, because their only (experience) of Latinos in musicals was West Side Story, would ask us: Well, where are the gangs and where is the crime? … And I didn’t have any of that. That wasn’t my experience growing up. … It would have been inauthentic to write that.”
Connected with that, the star urged young talent to be confident about “saying no to the wrong opportunity.” And even setbacks can help and are part of the process, Miranda offered, saying: “Nothing brings out creativity like a setback. … You will never learn how your brakes work, you will never learn how to turn.”
Tranter also mentioned Miranda’s his role in Bad Wolf’s His Dark Materials, as well as his directing the soon to be released Andrew Garfield musical drama Tick, tick…Boom!
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