Last April, a group of fellow journalists and I went to London to visit the set of Mary Poppins Returns. For those unfamiliar with the upcoming sequel, the story has Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returning to help a new generation of Banks children after the family suffers a tragic loss. With the help of her friend Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary is able to bring some magic back into the lives of the Banks family.
While we were on set, we got to have a group interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda. During our conversation, Miranda talks about how this experience differed from a stage musical, the song from the original that always made him cry, working with director Rob Marshall, working with the film’s composers, and more.
Check out the interview below. Mary Poppins Returns opens December 19th.
So, speaking of the theater world, now you’re making a musical film and how’s it different making a stage musical from a film musical?
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: Well, the only really key difference is that you finish the musical number and they applaud in a year-and-a-half, which is jarring, but that’s also why I jumped into our run-through this morning. Just cause that’s the weirdest part. We’re doing a very elaborate musical numbers, more than anything you’d see on a Broadway stage and in 3D, and then you’re [breathing heavy] and they yell “cut, let’s do it again. So I miss the buzz of applause a little bit, but I’m looking forward to the film’s release.
Do you remember seeing the original film when you were younger?
MIRANDA: Oh, yeah. The original was on regular rotation in my house, as I’m sure it was in many of yours. I didn’t see the end for many years because I would burst into tears at “The Birds,” and I was like, “Turn it off! Turn it off!” She broke my heart, the bird lady. So I didn’t see the end for a very long time. But I watched it many times in my youth.
So I gave a little background on the character of Jack and he and Mary, so can you tell us a little bit about him and what you’re creating with him and who he is?
MIRANDA: Yeah, you know, Jack is a lamp-lighter. He apprenticed under Burt from the original films so he knows all about Mary. He knows that Mary shows up and stuff’s going to happen and cool adventures will be had. So it’s really nice to play the Burt position in this film. You kind of get to go on all the fun adventures with the Banks family. But the joy of playing — when Rob and John first sort of approached me with this role, it was across the street from Hamilton. I went and met with them between shows. It was at the restaurant in the Paramount hotel across the street. They said, we want you to play a lamp-lighter. I said, what is that? They said they light up the lamps. I said, oh, I played this already, because my first show In the Heights was about — I plays a guy named Usnavi and the central metaphor from that was he’s the street lighter in the neighborhood. At first he sees it as, he’s stuck here and everyone gets to go everywhere else. But then he sort of refocuses himself after the thing and says, oh, it’s my job to tell these stories, to shine a light on these stories on this corner, so it felt very close to home, the role, as soon as they pitched it to me.