In the event you’ve been comatose for the past year, or just orbiting the planet, you may have missed a little Broadway show called Hamilton. Not to overstate things, but this musical theatre masterpiece chronicling the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton has been one of the largest pop-culture happenings of the last several decades, was nominated for more Tony Awards than any other musical, and even now—a year into its Broadway run–tickets are harder to score than this season’s it-bag. It’s no surprise that Daveed Diggs, one of the show’s breakout stars, has been thrust into the spotlight as a result of his work in the rap-meets-theatre spectacular.
Having taken the stage in Hamilton as his first Broadway show, Diggs doubled his effort by playing not one role, but two—a feat that garnered him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Diggs recently moved on from the show to pursue other projects, so we sat down with the California-native to hear more about his time with the founding fathers, his own unique and personal take on style, and where you’ll soon be seeing his face on-screen as he transitions from stage to film.
The Window: You played dual roles in Hamilton, both Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette. Did you find yourself personally connecting more with one role than the other?
Daveed Diggs: I think my natural persona is closer to Lafayette. He’s a little out of place and unsure of himself when we meet him, but he is determined and truly wants to be great. But I also developed a deep understanding of Jefferson. I tried to relate all of Jefferson’s unearned swagger and bravado to his extreme privilege. Making that choice really allowed me to love him and therefore myself, which is one of the things that made that role so fun to play—to find some truth underneath all the showmanship.
You’ve become known as one of the fastest rappers alive, but you’re fast in other ways, too: back in your college track days, you broke Brown’s record for the 110m hurdles. Did your athletic prowess came into play with your choreography for the show?
I mean, the show was very physical. Lots of jumping, lifting, and spinning. And it doesn’t stop. So I imagine a background in athletics was useful for that. But the real athletes in that show are the ensemble members. I swear, I have no idea how they do what they do so beautifully for eight shows every week. It’s superhuman, and they make all of the principals look like we are doing way more than we actually are.
What’s it been like adjusting to the recognition that the show has garnered you?
It’s been a bit of a process in terms of learning when and what to respond to on social media, as well as how much information to put out into the world about myself. People actually care to know things about me now! It’s mostly about protecting my family and loved ones, who didn’t necessarily sign on for this kind of attention. I don’t want the people close to me to have to be public figures just because I happen to be in the public eye at the moment.
You recently moved on from Hamilton—can you tell us a bit about what’s up next for you? We hear Hollywood is calling.
At the moment, I’m on set shooting a beautiful film adaptation of the young-adult novel called Wonder. I’m working with an insanely talented group of child actors who are blowing my mind. After I leave here, I’m off to go work on a very funny project for HBO called Tour de Pharmacy, and then I start work on ABC’s Black-ish.
And heard that you’re also in Baz Luhrmann’s new HBO show, The Get Down? Can you tell us about that experience?
Baz creates a kind of energy on set that I have never experienced before. The first time I shot with him, I left the set totally exhausted and utterly inspired. The world he is creating is beautiful and brutal and honest. The cast is amazing, and I’m very excited to be a part of it.
How would you describe your personal style? Did you get to integrate any of your own into the historical costumes of Hamilton?
My style is pretty eclectic. I like bright colors. I like things with lots of zippers or asymmetric elements, and particularly clothes that reference my hometown of Oakland. I had zero say in the design for Hamilton—that was all the genius Paul Tazewell. But I will say that when we did the show downtown, Jefferson’s purple velvet coat was a much more muted brown color. I like to think that my portrayal of Jefferson inspired the change to something a little more lively.
Hard to believe it will be cooling down soon, but what items are you most looking forward to wearing this fall?
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really know much about fashion and trends, but I have this really fly zipper denim hoodie thing made by Sohung Designs. I also have this onesie by Oaklandish I can’t wait to wear, and Comme des Garcons sent me a couple of really cool pieces after I wore so much of their stuff during Tony season. I’m excited to show those off.
Do you have a “fashion uniform” you find yourself going to again and again?
Any fashion rules you live by?