Hamilton's America Team on Keeping the Focus on Hamilton

Marisa Roffman
GREAT PERFORMANCES “Hamilton’s America”

Long before Hamilton was a cultural phenomenon, filmmaker Alex Horwitz started documenting the process of Lin-Manuel Miranda creating the smash musical.

By the time PBS committed to running the documentary, Hamilton's America, "we had a bunch of footage and we kept getting more footage and growing and growing," Horwitz said during the TCA panel.

But that presented its own problem: Horwitz had an enormous amount of footage. "How did I know what was most important? The A-story to me is the same A-story as the musical: Hamilton," he said. "You cannot write a more cinematic and compelling story. Everything is in service to that. The film is about Lin and his incredible company's lens to that A-story."

However, as the journey progressed—and Hamilton became the hardest ticket to get on Broadway—the struggle became keeping the focus on the show itself. "We tried as hard as we could not to get distracted by the noise," Horwitz allowed. "In the theater, they just focused on the work…The zeitgeist, the incredible phenomenon that became Hamilton, we touch on it in the movie, to be sure, how could we not? But it's almost incidental. We take it for granted you know that. We focus on the issues that made Lin want to write a show that are still relevant today. And if we keep doing that, hopefully we'll have something that is timeless."

As for original cast member Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), he allowed the cast was "like a Beatle for a block" on the street where the Hamilton theater was. But the true impact of how far the cast had come only hit Diggs "the second time we met the President."

Miranda wasn't at the panel (he was traveling), but in a pre-taped message, he shared his support for the documentary as well: "The film is very special to me."

Hamilton's America, Friday, October 21, PBS.