DuJour Navigation

History Girl

Hamilton‘s Phillipa Soo on life in the most talked-about show on Broadway

Since it first opened last year at The Public Theater in Manhattan, Hamilton—Lin-Manuel Miranda’s modern musical ode to founding father Alexander Hamilton—has been the subject of undeniable buzz. Everyone from President Obama to cast members of Orange is the New Black and Jon Bon Jovi have been to see the show, and tickets—even among mere mortals—continue to be a hot commodity.

One of the most appealing parts of the musical is no doubt Phillipa Soo, the actress who plays Hamilton’s long-suffering wife, Eliza Schuyler and delivers some of the show’s most memorable turns. Here, Soo details her long, complicated journey with Hamilton, explains why high-wattage audience members make her nervous and spells out a perfect day off.

So, how’s life starring in the hottest show on Broadway?

It’s been really amazing. I feel like since our opening there hasn’t been really a lot of downtime—we just finished the album last week—so this week kind of feels for me like the first time I am able to reflect upon this whole whirlwind. It’s amazing to me everyday, but at the same time I get there and it’s just our show. We’re coming to do the show once again. It’s like punching in at work. It’s as simple as that, but it’s not.

How did you land the role of Eliza?

I was seen by [director] Tom Kail and [creator and star] Lin-Manuel Miranda in the show in which I had made my New York debut, Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. They both saw the show and I got a call December of 2013 and it was Tommy asking me to join in the reading of Act 2 that they were working on. In the previous summer, they had done the first act. He just asked me if I wanted to join them for the reading. He was like, “Would you play Eliza?” And I was like, “Sure, who is Eliza?” That was when I first joined them and then continued to join them for workshops throughout 2014 until we started rehearsals for the show at the Public Theater.

Phillipa Soo, left, performing in “Hamilton”

Does the show feel different now that it’s on a big Broadway stage?

I’m sure if I look back in time to that place where we were doing that first full read through, I’d be very surprised at how far we’ve come. But it just still very much feels like the show. Maybe we changed a little bit on the outer edges, but the heart still beats the same. It still is very much itself to its core. 

Are people pushier trying to get tickets from you?

I’ve had a lot of ticket requests, but in fact it has made me closer with my own family and my loved ones as well as people that I haven’t talked to in awhile have come to see the show. Though it can be overwhelming! I guess it’s very difficult to get a ticket right now. 

It’s a hot ticket, but it’s also kind of great to see people rally behind a musical. That doesn’t happen every day.

It’s something that I hoped to see happen in the theater, and I hope it continues to happen. People are coming to theatre as an event, not as like a cultural chore, but an exciting celebration. I hope that’s how people feel about a lot of shows. 

How has being in the show changed the rest of your life? Are you sleeping? Can you eat dairy?

I feel like I learned my lesson about what I can do during Natasha Pierre. I learned pretty quickly that to really take advantage of the times when you’re not busy and to know that there will be a time when you will be busy. I love to work and constantly be doing things, but you can drive yourself crazy doing that.  Now I’m very much about regimenting what I’m eating and trying to rest a lot. I think sleep is the number one thing. And making sure that I get my exercise: I bike a lot and I do a lot of yoga. That makes me happy and clear-minded. Still, on my weekends I love to live life to its fullest, whether that means sleeping or going out all night and then day drinking. It’s whatever replenishes your soul, body, mind, is a good thing to do for this time. 

Hamilton has had a rush of very high-profile visitors. Does it make you nervous to know that, say, the President is in the audience?

Usually I don’t like to know.  If I know if they are going to be here from the beginning, I tend to think about it. I don’t think it affects my show, but I do think about it. Especially for the politicians who have come and people who I know who are maybe historians or teachers, I tend to think about the context of them watching the show. Kelli O’Hara was there the other night. And I was thinking about that cause I love her!

You’ve got theater people and movie stars and politicians and historians. Has being in the show tweaked your own interest in history?

I was really into the research process for this project. I loved reading the books and we got to take some field trips. I went to Washington, D.C. to visit my cousin. She lives there and she took me around to all of the memorials and we did some tours just to like get a sense of what that world was like and what the founding fathers were striving to create.