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Renée Elise Goldsberry on Founding Mothers and Reconsidering History in the ‘Hamilton’ movie

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It’s a precarious time for American forefathers, but it’s a foremother who stops time and steals the show in the filmed version of Hamilton, premiering on Disney+ on Friday. Renée Elise Goldsberry played the Common Sense-reading, never-satisfied Angelica Schuyler, a socialite daughter of the revolution and unsung intellectual heroine who had Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson’s ear, and who, some 200 years after the fact, finally gets to take centerstage. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” Goldsberry sings in one potent moment, “and when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel.”

While George Washington and Thomas Jefferson appear in all of their complicated glory on stage, (Hamilton, for one, doesn’t gloss over Jefferson’s reliance on enslaved labor), writer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda has said Angelica is “the smartest person in the show,” Goldsberry told Vogue by phone recently, “the one whose brain works a million miles an hour.”

The film, shot during two performances at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2016, and released early as a kind of mid-pandemic gift to fans, finally gives the masses a coveted orchestra seat to the cultural phenomenon, including a stunning, full-body-goosebumps-inducing view at the power of Goldsberry’s Tony-winning performance. She owns the Richard Rodgers in the haunting “Satisfied,” rapid-fire rapping in one breath, then bringing down the house in another.

Five years after Hamilton debuted to perennially sold-out audiences on Broadway, Goldsberry says the movie version comes at precisely the right time, amid a reckoning on race and telling history honestly. “It’s become a really wonderful way to shine a focus on the change that could really make this country the great country that they aspire to make it in Hamilton,” she said.

Goldsberry spoke with Vogue about Angelica’s colonial-era feminism, reconsidering the Founding Fathers and the other, live-action Hamilton movie in the works.

You were never able to watch your full performance in Hamilton until now. What did it feel like to finally see yourself?

We were all super anxious about it. We’ve been saying that it was just like a regular show, but it wasn’t. There were cameras everywhere. It was pretty frightening to think this could go really wrong, but, of course, it didn’t. [Director] Tommy Kail was the perfect person to make this love letter to the fans and to the company of actors and to Lin and to the world. Anybody that will tell you watching themselves, we’re extremely critical, but the movie is so breathtaking that you can’t stay in that place. You really have to get over yourself.

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