Lin-Manuel Miranda on joining the cast of His Dark Materials and how the novels helped him to woo his wife
His Dark Materials star Lin-Manuel Miranda couldn’t believe his luck when he was asked to appear in BBC1’s epic adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s best-selling stories as he and his wife Vanessa read the fantasy trilogy together when they first started dating.
“It was the beginning of our courtship and they’re great books to fall in love to,” said the star of Mary Poppins Returns and creator of hit musical Hamilton. “So doing this was a pretty easy ‘Yes’.”
Lin-Manuel joins His Dark Materials as charming but reckless Texan aeronaut-for-hire Lee Scoresby who lands in the North in his hot air balloon just as intrepid Lyra (Dafne Keen) also arrives there to continue her determined plan to rescue kidnapped children from the clutches of the sinister Magisterium. Can Lee prove beneficial to her mission?
Here, Lin-Manuel Miranda tells us about joining the cast of His Dark Materials…
Why do you love the books so much?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: “They’re a wonderful coming-of-age tale, with big ideas and a giant, imaginative world. But they also deal with weighty ideas that couldn’t be more relevant now and it’s about what lengths you go to in a fight for freedom.”
What’s your take on Lee?
LM: “I never in a million years would have cast myself as him. He looks so cool – much more than I am! Lee’s the Han Solo of the story. He spends his life looking out for himself. But in meeting Lyra, Lee finds a kindred spirit. And in helping her, he plugs into something bigger than himself.”
Did you enjoy working with Dafne?
LM: “She is just incredibly talented and grounded. We fell into a very easy rapport and had a great time. Every time we weren’t filming these intense scenes we were singing The Sound of Music or Oliver!”
Lee’s daemon – or representation of his soul in animal form – is an arctic hare named Hester, how would you describe their relationship?
LM: “With Lee and Hester, it’s them against the world, like a buddy cop movie. The puppeteers on the show are world class so when I’m acting with Hester, it’s like I’m acting with a flesh and blood arctic hare. It’s thrilling and looks extraordinary.”
Were the stunts fun, as Lee is an action man?
LM: “Yes, I even had a bar fight! My grandfather, who passed away a few years ago, was such a Western fan and now I get to be the guy who walks into the saloon and fights mean guys. That was a bucket list moment. My grandfather would be so happy.”
Have you enjoyed working in the UK again after shooting Mary Poppins returns here?
LM: “It was like a holiday getting to live with my family in Cardiff [where His Dark Materials is filmed]. I have a four-year-old who loves knights and dragons and every weekend I could show him a new castle.”
Hamilton has been such a phenomenon; do UK audiences react differently to it at all?
LM: “You guys giggle more at the sex stuff in Hamilton than we do. There’s a bit of a Carry on Camping reaction, which tickles me no end!”
His Dark Materials continues on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1