After seeing “Mary Poppins Returns,” we went back to Manhattan and met Broadway star, actor, singer and dancer Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Essex House Hotel. We talked to him about his role as Jack the lamplighter in the movie.
What was your favorite part about your character?
My favorite part was that he still knows what it’s like to be a kid in all the best ways. He’s doing exactly what you’re doing and he’s still — I think there’s a big theme in our movie that the grown-ups always forget what it’s like, and Jack never forgot.
How were you able to change your emotions in “Mary Poppins Returns”?
They changed a lot. I mean the fun about my character, because again, like I said, he didn’t forget what it’s like to be a kid, is he knows exactly how special and crazy Mary Poppins is. And so getting to go on those adventures is really fun. You know that when Mary shows up, crazy things were going to happen. That’s for sure.
How are you and your movie character alike?
I think we’re pretty connected to the kid I used to be. I think that when I try to make choices as a grown-up I think, all right, what would the little kid version of me want to do? Would he want to be in a movie where he sings and dances in “Mary Poppins” and gets to dance with penguins?
Who was your favorite actor in the original “Mary Poppins?”
Oh, that’s a tough one. You know Julie Andrews is amazing, and she was the perfect Mary Poppins. But I love Dick Van Dyke, who played Burt. And my character was sort of his apprentice, where he learned from Burt, which means that I’m well-equipped to sing and dance and do silly things.
Was playing in a movie different from playing in a theater?
Yeah, it’s really different. I think the biggest difference is in the theater, you’re doing it live in front of an audience and you can’t say, Oops I messed up, can we do that again? Because the audience is right there where it’s happening live. But the fun of making a movie is that every day, especially on this movie, was this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Like, today you are dancing with penguins! Tomorrow we’re going to climb Big Ben. The next day we’re going to ride on a bicycle with six kids and all balance on the back of my bike. And so every day was kind of this different adventure, and that became really exciting to me, as someone who usually does theater.
If you could change your character, how would you, and why?
How to change my character? Like in “Mary Poppins?” Well I’d like to play Mary Poppins. Who wouldn’t want to have that cool bag where you could just get anything out and be able to fly and solve problems. Yeah, I’d swap with her.
How hard was it to practice your accent for the movie?
It was not too hard because I had help. I had a dialect coach named Sandra Butterworth, which is a pretty cool name. It sounds like something out of Mary Poppins, right? And I don’t know if you know what that is, but she basically researches what people sounded like, not only from that part of London, but in that time, in the 1930s, which is when it really takes place. So, she would play me recordings of people talking and people saying lines similar to the lines I would say. We would listen to a lot of music from the 1930s, so you hear how the voices differed from how I would speak. And then you find your way in and you find where you and it meet. And it’s a really fun way of approaching acting because it’s a totally different way in.