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Lin-Manuel Miranda on Writing In The Heights


Lin-Manuel Miranda discusses writing his first musical, In the Heights. The show was based on Lin’s experiences growing up in Washington Heights, New York City. A special encore of In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams airs on Friday, November 10 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings).


LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: I started writing In the Heights my sophomore year at Wesleyan University.

At first, it was I want to write the kind of musical I would want to be in.

I also saw Rent and it was the first time I'd seen a musical that took place now.

And a light bulb really went off and I was like 'Oh, you can write like a musical about you...about your life!'

It wasn't till I got to Wesleyan really that I realized that there is a generation of us who either were born somewhere else and moved here or their parents came from somewhere else, whether it's from Latin America or Russia or the West Indies and don't know where they belong and what they're supposed to navigate.

And what traditions you take with you.

MANDY GONZALEZ: I'''m a LA native.

KAREN OLIVIO: Born in New York.

SETH STEWART: Canton, Ohio.


LUIS SALGADO: I grew up in Puerto Rico.

NINA LAFARGA: I'''m from Miami.

ANDREA BURNS: My dad is America, but my mom is from Venezuela.

MANDY GONZALEZ: My dad'''s Mexican, my mom'''s Jewish.

KAREN OLIVIO: My parents were immigrants.

SETH STEWART: My family came in the 50'''s and they were very poor.

MANDY GONZALEZ: I'''ve always been the one to kind of say that I'''m going to do something different.

[Talking and laughing] MANDY GONZALEZ: Hi, I'''m Mandy Gonzalez. And I'm playing Nina and I'''m so excited, okay.

[Clapping] SETH STEWART: I'''m Seth Stewart I'''ll be playing Graffiti Pete and I cannot wait till we get started. So here we go.

KAREN OLIVIO: I'''m Karen Olivo... Shut up! (laughing). I'''m Karen Olivo and I play Vanessa. God.

PRICILLA LOPEZ: I am Pricilla Lopez, better known as Pilo (cheers). CHRISTOPHER JACKSON: My name is Chris Jackson. I play Benny. Let'''s do the work y'''all. We'''re gonna change the world. It JEFFREY SELLER: In exactly 30 days we'''re going to put up the new and final In the Heights JEFFREY SELLER: and the question for today is can we do better?

ALEX LACAMOIRE: One, two. A one, two, three.

CAST (singing): In the Heights, I flip the lights and start my day....There are fights, and endless debts, and bills to LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: I wrote this song in Washington Heights.

That's the only thing from the original version that survives into the present. It was the hook.

ALEX LACAMOIRE: In the Heights . Did you guys sing that? Yeah? Give me a little bit more of that and LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: I was like I don't know if this is gonna work on a stage.

So I started writing like scenes where they freestyle outside of bodegas.

The first scene was Benny and Usnavi sort of rapping about whatever. And it was like making puns on their names and doing the stuff that me and my friends used to do in you know, in parks and Queens and in my neighborhood.

[Instrumental music and clapping]


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