How 'Hamilton' Actors Dominated the Emmy Nominations

TheWrap magazine: ”‘Hamilton’ was the first time I really started to understand what it was to be an American,“ says Phillipa Soo

A version of this story about the Emmy-nominated actors from “Hamilton” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Before Emmy voting began this year, there were real questions about whether the actors from the Disney+ film of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” were even eligible for Emmys in the acting categories. The film itself was classified as a pre-recorded variety special, not a television movie, and the Emmy rulebook seemed to indicate that its performers wouldn’t qualify for categories designed to salute actors from limited series and TV movies.

But the Television Academy insisted that they were in fact eligible, and 10 different Hamilton performers appeared on the ballots. Seven of the 10 were nominated, the same number as were nominated for Tony Awards for the show’s original Broadway production.

Six of the seven were nominated for both Emmys and Tonys: Miranda, who created the show and plays Alexander Hamilton; Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr; Daveed Diggs, in the double roles of Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette; Jonathan Groff as King George III; Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton; and Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler. The only difference: Christopher Jackson was nominated for a Tony but not an Emmy for playing George Washington, while Anthony Ramos was nominated for an Emmy but not a Tony for playing John Laurens and Philip Hamilton. 

“This feels like such a celebration,” Soo said of the multiple nominations. “I was super grateful to have a reason to connect with everybody again, to get everybody’s faces on a Zoom and cheer everybody on. It was nice to feel a part of something again in a moment where we were all so spread out.”

The filmed version of “Hamilton,” which was shot in 2016 and planned for an eventual theatrical release before it dropped on Disney+ during the pandemic, came out during a time in which many of the cast members were highly visible in other projects: Miranda with the movie version of his first musical, “In the Heights,” and with his upcoming directorial debut with the film musical “tick, tick…Boom!”; Odom with his Oscar-nominated turn in “One Night in Miami”; Diggs in “Snowpiercer” and “The Good Lord Bird”; Goldsberry in “Girls5eva”; Ramos in “In the Heights.”

“‘Hamilton’ launched us all and gave us a really unique platform, and it’s exciting to see what all of these giants are doing with it,” Goldsberry said. “‘Hamilton’ exploded so many bubbles and removed the stigma of being an actor from the musical theater. I believe that one of my greatest gifts will be to get old watching these people, my ‘Hamilton’ family, continue to astound the world.”

The show was a unique launching pad, added Diggs. “Lots of people’s big breaks result in them having to do a bunch of other things that are just like whatever they did to get that break,” he said. “But the way people responded to this show was that they just wanted to be close to the fairy dust of it, so I would go to meetings and they would say, ‘What do you want to do?’

“That is crazy in hindsight, and it’s the reason I have not had to drastically change the way I work. I still get to work with my friends and be a multihyphenate artist, because they didn’t put me in the box of just playing dead white guys who rap.”

Diggs said he can’t bring himself to watch the filmed version of “Hamilton,” because he knows it’ll be too different from the version that exists in his head, and the one he’s been talking about for years. But Soo said she had no problem watching it, partly because she wanted to see what went on when she was backstage or doing her own thing on stage. “Mostly, though, it was to see everyone else just kill it up there,” she said.

 “‘Hamilton’ was the first time I really started to understand what it was to be an American,” she added. “What is the American story? It was the first time I started asking those questions of myself.”

Read more from the Down to the Wire issue here.


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