Alexander Hamilton American Experience PBS
Bonus Videos

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Behind the Scenes (4:58)

(Background noise, actors rehearsing pronunciation.)

Tom Hurwitz: Back, back, back ...

Tom Hurwitz: Back, back, back, back ... stop.

Thomas Jefferson (actor): Alright, sweetie, alright, see you then. Bye.

Woman: Ticklish.

Washington: Wonderful routine.

Brian F. O'Byrne: Easily the most rewarding part of the whole process is having hair. (laughs) 'Cause I'm bald.

Tom Hurwitz: Down a tiny bit, Richard.

Muffie Meyer, Producer/Director: One of the interesting things about working with actors in this kind of thing is that the actors are essentially giving soliloquies. They have no one to play against.

Hamilton: Men are reasoning animals but they're not reasonable.

Brian F. O'Byrne, Alexander Hamilton: You don't get to act scenes. You're speaking directly to a camera. So that's a very different thing. And you're reading stuff that's -- a lot of the times are letters, are written word and not really meant to be spoken.

Muffie Meyer: They're all alone, as someone said, "Naked," up there. Just them and the words.

Audio of Hamilton: Our station is new. And if I may use the expression I walk on untrodden ground.

Muffie Meyer: And it's very important to take that 18th century language and make it conversational, and that's a great skill. What we found is that classically trained actors are particularly good at it. Often straight movie actors aren't as good.

Washington: By some, Hamilton is considered an ambitious man.

Tom Hurwitz, Director of Photography: The whole idea is to help you think about things the way the people then thought.

Leslie Fuller, Key Make-up Artist: What's important are the words, the words that these people spoke. And we wish to make them available and accessible to the audience. In the period the people did not look like us. And if we were to do exact period grooming it would maybe be unfortunate for the viewer.

Man's voice: ...blush...

Leslie Fuller: The men wore blush.

Man's voice: ...just this ruddy, bucolic...

Leslie Fuller: It was the style of the day. The men wore rouge. The women didn't really rouge their faces as much as the men. But the women believed in having their hairlines extended back. Which unbalanced the face and made it necessary to enhance the eyebrows. Not having Maybelline at hand they had little traps that they could catch mice in the kitchen and make little pelts that they could add to their eyebrows.

Hamilton: I am very insistent on a good shave.

Tom Hurwitz: Alright, that's the place it has to be. What's special here, what's unique about this movie set as opposed to any other are the techniques that we use. Putting real things, props, and slide backgrounds together.

Richard Brick, Stage Manager: Instead of typical set construction, which is prohibitively expensive, high-resolution slides have been made.

Andrew Jackness, Production Designer: The slide creates the backdrop for each individual scene with each individual actor.

Assistant Director/Man's Voice: Roll sound, roll camera.

Director/Woman's Voice: Action.

Jefferson: I will not have my reputation slandered by a man whose history, from the moment that history stooped to notice him, is a fabric of machinations against the liberty of this country.

Muffie Meyer: Our process was to go around and take still photographs of 18th century rooms.

Eric Treiber, AP/Post Supervisor: And many of the homes are homes that were used during the revolution. Each six inch by six inch square slide gets popped into a tray here and gets projected.

Man's Voice: Alright, let it rip.

Andrew Jackness: We take slides and combine them with set pieces for foreground and create environments that they live in. With Hamilton, it's a lot about writing Federalist papers, so it's books, writings, quills, and all of the little surface objects help to tell the story.

Tom Hurwitz: The trick is to make the character live inside of this formal picture.

Hamilton: It is incontestable that Americans are entitled to freedom.

Andrew Jackness: It involves quite a bit of research to make sure that you've got everything exactly right and it also follows the time frame for the individual characters.

Set historian: They're okay background books but these should be replaced by these which are all titles that he would have had. Is that okay?

Washington: I have just completed my visit to the Southern states and was able to see with my own eyes the situation of the country.

Tom Hurwitz: We added sunlight, we added shadow. We added sunlight to the windows, we put a chandelier in. We put darkness here, we put darkness there, and we put some sun over him to bring him back into the room. There he is.

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