The premiere of HBO’s His Dark Materials is a little under two weeks away. And if fans of Philip Pullman’s fantasy series are excited about the adaptation, it’s nothing compared to Lin Manuel-Miranda’s enthusiasm about being a part of the series. A huge fan of Pullman’s novels himself, Miranda was eager to play a role in the upcoming series, even if he was already working on developing In the Heights and writing songs for Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid.
When asked about juggling so many projects during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Miranda talked about filming His Dark Materials, likening the experience to being on vacation. “I have a lot of writing deadlines, and my vacation is that I get to be a Texan hot air balloon astronaut and have adventures in Wales for a month and a half out of the year,” he said. “This is the holiday.”
Wales is where the cast and crew of the show were previously hard at work filming its second season, although Miranda confirmed that he and the rest of the cast have wrapped and that the season is now post-production. But even in Wales, Miranda is working on his other projects in his free time — and someone who doesn’t quite love acting, producing, and writing might question why he goes through so much trouble.
“I just look at what’s on my sheet, and I can’t think of anything I’d trade,” Miranda explained. “It’s all exciting, and they are all very different muscle groups. The muscle group I use to write with Alan is very different from what I need to play Lee Scorseby, it’s very different than what I’ll need on stage at the Booth Theatre [for Freestyle Love Supreme] getting suggestions from the audience in October. I feel like each strengthens the other and that’s how I think of it.”
And when it comes to playing Lee, Miranda doesn’t plan on using Sam Elliot’s performance in the 2007 movie to bring the character to life. Instead, he’s leaving his own stamp.
“I think that would be the fastest way on the road to ruin,” he explained. “No one is more Sam Elliott than Sam Elliott. I have to tell you, I wouldn’t be the first person to cast me in this role. Jane and Jack so confidently saw me in it that I worked through that confidence and I found my own Scoresby, I found my own Texas accent, found my own way into it.”
But finding his own interpretation of Lee wasn’t the hardest part of filming His Dark Materials for Miranda. According to him, making the character and story believable — despite all of its fantastical elements — was the real battle.
“I guess the biggest challenge was just really staying grounded in a very heightened world,” he said. “You’re living in a world with armored bears and animal souls and flying hot air balloons, and your job is to make it feel as real as possible because the world is adjacent to the world we live in. So much of the performance becomes about staying real when you’re trying to convince an armored bear not to kill someone.”
Fans will officially get to judge for themselves whether or not the series feels real when they immerse themselves in Pullman’s fictional world. His Dark Materials premieres on November 3.