Who plays Thomas Jefferson in ‘Hamilton?’
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last six years, you’ve likely heard about a little show called Hamilton that’s taken the world by storm. Featuring a diverse ensemble and a wide range of musical styles, Hamilton is a visual and vocal feast chronicling the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s most controversial Founding Fathers.
The mastermind behind Hamilton is of course its composer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but there’s no denying that the talents of his fellow cast mates were instrumental in propelling the show to unprecedented heights. One such cast member is Daveed Diggs, the Tony Award-winning actor who originated the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson both on and off-Broadway. His mix of singing, acting, dancing, and rap skills made him an instant star, paving the way for a plethora of other projects that have made him one of the busiest stars to come out of Hamilton.
Here’s everything to know about this multitalented performer.
Where is Daveed Diggs from?
The 39-year-old was born in Oakland, California to a Jewish mother and African-American father. Diggs has described himself as being “happy” as a kid, especially since growing up in a mixed-race family made it easy for him to relate to both of his parents’ backgrounds and make friends from all walks of life. While Diggs dreamed of one day being a performer, his mom worked as a social worker and his dad was a bus driver. His childhood idol was MC Hammer, who inspired Diggs with his music and proved to him that it was possible for an Oakland native to succeed in the music industry.
Where did he go to school?
Diggs went to Hebrew school as a kid followed by Berkeley High School and Brown University, where he graduated in 2004 with a BA in Theatre Arts. He competed on the track and field team at Brown and, in his sophomore year, broke the all-time record for the 110-meter hurdle with a time of 14.21 seconds. This physical prowess would later be lauded in his Hamilton performance, which found Diggs bouncing around the stage in the Act Two opener “What’d I Miss” with the ease of a trained athlete but without sacrificing vocal quality.
When did Diggs start singing and acting?
As a kid, Diggs participated in slam poetry competitions and began acting in school plays in seventh grade, but didn’t like singing in front of people and therefore never did musicals. He rapped in high school and collaborated on a mixtape with his longtime friend and creative partner Rafael Casal, who he would later co-write with and star alongside in the film Blindspotting. Diggs is a member of an experimental hip-hop group called Clipping as well as an improv hip-hop group called Freestyle Love Supreme, which is where he first met Lin-Manuel Miranda. Diggs’ passion for music has also led him to pursue his own solo work, which can be heard in Disney’s Zootopia, Netflix’s The Get Down, and the Disney Channel’s holiday hit “Puppy for Hanukkah.”
How did he get involved with Hamilton?
Diggs was juggling substitute teaching with auditions and other musical side projects when he joined Freestyle Love Supreme and met Miranda. Even though Miranda was impressed by Digg’s rapping and acting talents, Diggs wasn’t as enthusiastic about Miranda’s Hamilton pitch. Miranda described the show-in-progress as “a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton,” which Diggs said was “a terrible idea.” However, once Diggs heard Miranda’s Hamilton demos, he knew that he wanted to be involved. His dexterity as a fast rapper influenced Miranda’s writing of the roles Diggs would ultimately play in the show.
Who else did Diggs play in Hamilton?
Diggs played Marquis de Lafayette in Act One of Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in Act Two. As with other actors in the show, Miranda wanted Diggs to play multiple parts for several reasons. Creatively, he wanted the audience to lean in at the sight of the same actor slipping into two divergent roles. Technically, he knew he was dealing with a large cast and that it would be more cost-effective to pull from his preexisting talent pool as opposed to casting additional actors to play the new characters that appear in Act Two. This is what led Diggs to play Alexander Hamilton’s friend Lafayette in the first Act and his enemy Jefferson in the second, a juxtaposition that brought Diggs universal acclaim for his performance.
What songs is Diggs most known for in Hamilton?
As Lafayette, Diggs is featured most prominently in the songs “My Shot,” “The Story of Tonight,” “Guns and Ships,” and “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” All of his singing and rapping in this first Act is done with a French accent, and his rap solo in “Guns and Ships” is considered the fastest Broadway rap of all time. In the role of Jefferson, Diggs drops the French accent and opens the second Act with his solo “What’d I Miss” in addition to solo lines in both “Cabinet Battle” raps, “The Room Where it Happens,” “Washington on Your Side,” “We Know,” “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” and “The Election of 1800.”
How long did Diggs perform in Hamilton?
Hamilton debuted off-Broadway at the Public Theater on Jan. 20, 2015 and later opened on Broadway on Aug. 6, 2015 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Diggs was a member of both casts and appeared at virtually all of the performances until he exited the show on July 15, 2016. Diggs was praised for his rapid rapping in both roles as well as his ability to make the audience love Lafayette and love to hate Jefferson.
Did he win any awards for Hamilton?
In addition to the cast of Hamilton winning a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album, Diggs won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical as well as a Lucille Lortel Award and Theatre World Award for his work in the show. Hamilton won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, and 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical. In his Tony acceptance speech, Diggs thanked his parents for their permission and support in helping him achieve his dreams.
What else have I seen Diggs in?
Following Hamilton, Diggs made quite a name for himself on both television and film screens. Right out of the gate, he appeared in Tina Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix’s The Get Down, and the HBO mockumentary Tour de Pharmacy. He played Mr. Browne in the family film Wonder and starred in Blindspotting with his friend Rafael Casal in 2018. He’s had guest appearances on Sesame Street, ABC’s Black-ish, and in 2020 he landed the lead role of Andre Layton in TNT’s Snowpiercer. He’s leant his voice to shows like Bob’s Burgers and BoJack Horseman and recently appeared in Pixar’s Soul as Paul, an antagonistic barbershop patron.
Does he have any new projects coming up?
In addition to his recent appearances in The Good Lord Bird as Frederick Douglass and Apple TV Plus’ Central Park, Diggs will be playing Sebastian the Crab in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. The film boasts an all-star cast including Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Awkwafina as Scuttle, and Javier Bardem as King Triton. Diggs told the Hollywood Reporter that he has “worked harder on this voice gig for an animated crab than almost any other role” in order to accurately portray the Caribbean character and help the film become an international success.
Is Diggs single?
He is not! Diggs lives in Los Angeles with former Hamilton cast mate and current star of The Umbrella Academy, Emmy Raver-Lampman. The two have been together since 2015, when they met rehearsing Hamilton before the show opened off-Broadway.
What else do I need to know about Daveed Diggs?
Following Hamilton’s release on Disney Plus on July 3, 2020, Diggs earned an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his dual roles as Lafayette and Jefferson. As if his continued Hamilton success wasn’t enough, his drama Snowpiercer was renewed for a fourth season on TNT. In addition to his ongoing acting work, Diggs recently stepped behind the camera to write and co-executive produce the show adaptation of his film Blindspotting, which Rafael Casal co-stars in alongside Diggs’ fellow Hamilton alum Jasmine Cephas Jones. Diggs also recently appeared in Netflix’s The Starling alongside Melissa McCarthy, Timothy Olyphant, and Kevin Kline.
With a star this bright, it’s clear that Daveed Diggs won’t be fading from the limelight anytime soon.