It’s Mary Poppins Returns week! Yesterday I shared our interview with Mary Poppins herself, Emily Blunt and today I bring you our interview with the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda who plays Jack, a lamplighter.
Mary Poppins Memories
Lin was asked if he remembers when he first saw the original Mary Poppins and he shared with us, “I remember seeing the first two-thirds of Mary Poppins. We had the V.H.S. cassette and 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 devastating 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. 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.”
Musical Theater vs. Musical Movie
Of course, you know Lin Manuel-Miranda from Hamilton, right? He was asked what the difference was from being in a musical movie vs. musical theater. He told us, “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. 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.”
On Having An Accent
In Mary Poppins, we all know that Dick Van Dyke took on an accent and for Mary Poppins Returns, Lin Manuel-Miranda did too. He shared more about the process of acting with it, “What I realized going in was that no matter what I did, my accent would be scrutinized for the rest of my career if Dick Van Dyke is any indication. But the fun of that is, you know, music is sort of my catalyst for everything. I had an amazing dialect coach named Sandra Butterworth, which is a very Poppinsian name in and of itself. And she became my closest friend and ally on set, whispering in my ear between takes.
And also music. You know, she realized that music was my way in. So it was not just listening to music sung in the east end Cockney accent, it was music in the 1930s. Because it’s not just about the part of the world, it’s about the time of the world. It’s about the when as well. So I listened to a lot of Anthony Newley, who was a big sort of music hall star who then also wrote a Broadway musical called Stop the World, I Want To Get Off in the 1960s. But I listened to a lot of his early stuff and that was my sort of north star for the accent.”
Inspiration From His Son
Lin Manuel-Miranda has two sons but while filming Mary Poppins Returns, he shared that he was inspired by his son, “I was inspired by him. You know, we started making it right when my son was turning two. He was just gaining language. And, you know, really the biggest note Rob Marshall gave me is that all the other grownups forget what it’s like to be a child except for Jack. And so my biggest research was watching my son play in Princess Di park in Kensington Park in London, watching his boundless imagination. We are all born with that. I think we’re all, that’s inherent in us until life does what it does. And so you know, that was my secret weapon in finding Jack was I had a two-year-old research assistant who kept me childlike and kept me in that mode.”
Working with Meryl Streep
Lin also shared with us what it was like to work with Meryl Streep (who is amazing in the movie!), “I mean, every day with Meryl Streep feels like you’re in the upside down. It’s like, how is this my life? How are we on the ceiling? It was a joy. I mean, I think, that’s the sequence that I think that I watched the movie I watch it more closely every time because it’s a triumph of production design, the way every ceiling element becomes a floor element. And then Meryl, you know, I talked to Emily Blunt about this. You know, she’s done three films with Meryl. She’s gone from being her assistant to being the lead of the movie. It’s been kind of an incredible product. And what Emily told me going in was that like Meryl just kind of stays in the character, but not like method Daniel Day Lewis cobbling shoes. Like she’s just kind of in the spirit of it. And I felt so lucky that she was in the spirit of a character that’s so mischievous and flirty and fun.
I’ve told this story before but there’s one moment between setups where she just looked at the kids and went, “Hey kids.” I can’t do Meryl. Emily can do Meryl. She goes, “Hey kids, you wanna know how to do a pratfall?” And she went… like from standing to face down. Everyone runs in like, Meryl Streep has died. And she gets up, she goes like this and she goes, “I learned that at Yale School of Drama.” And it was just to show off for the kids. And so I was very grateful that, you know, I was, I got to play with that version of Meryl Streep.”
Make sure to read about my experience at the Mary Poppins Returns premiere!
Mary Poppins Returns in Theaters December 19th
In Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, an all-new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.
Disclosure: Thanks so much to Disney for bringing me out to California for the event. All thoughts and opinions are my own.