Hamilton, the groundbreaking musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, opened on Broadway in 2015, but it still feels like yesterday. “My Shot” feels like the theme song for 2020 in some ways, a year clouded by health crises and tragedy, yes, but social and political upheaval as well. The Hamilton movie, an expertly-crafted film of the stage show, is premiering on Disney+ this Friday in the midst of that crowded landscape. The timing could not be more perfect for Phillipa Soo, who plays Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—the role she originated on Broadway. “Hamilton is asking tough questions, I think. “It makes us come to terms with our country’s flaws and it reminds us of what’s really great about it,” she told Zoom last week from her home in Brooklyn. We want to watch something now more than ever that can not only give us some kind of hope, but at the same time give us the tools to continue fighting.” It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that Soo has been actively involved in the upswing of Black Lives Matter taking place in New York and across the country, and when Soo doesn’t hit the streets, she spends her time meditating, giving her medicine.” To discuss revolution, puppy-rearing, and her clean beauty essentials, I caught up with Soo.
Phillipa Soo Soooo
SOO OF PHILLIPA
Just how are you? Lately, what have you been up to?
Well, basically, I was raising this very tiny puppy dog, so my life was dog-raising, which was a lot of fun. We went to some smaller protests in Brooklyn, some vigils in our neighborhood, and at the same time, we were trying to celebrate all the projects I’ve been working on… you know, just the day-to-day life of the quarantine. [LAUGHS] Recently, I have been promoting this great Netflix animated film called Over the Moon that I have been working on. It’s about a little girl building a moon rocket ship, and it’s a beautiful cast of all-Asian actors, and I’m so proud to be a part of that. Then there’s another film I did last year with Geraldine Viswanathan and Molly Gordon, called The Broken Hearts Gallery. I’m super proud of that, and I love it to death. I feel so fortunate that I always get to be in things where I feel like I have formed a sisterhood.
Let’s talk about a film about Hamilton. I think it’s really interesting that we are seeing the largest-scale release of a recorded stage show ever, at a time when it’s not safe to attend live theater.
I mean, on a very fundamental level, in the first three days of it being launched, more people will see this show than have come to see the show the whole time it’s been open. And you have a cast of Black and Brown actors on another level who are retelling this American story, so I think it’s relevant that way because of the way Black Lives Matter and racial justice are on the front burner of everybody right now. I think we need to see a story, more than ever, that is being portrayed according to what American society really is now. Yes, it was a bunch of white people back then who were “making” our country, but in the show there’s a line: “Revolution is messy, but now is the time to stand.” Like, it was always messy. So, yes, right now, the world is imperfect, and it may feel daunting, but we need to push through, we need to take action, we need to accept our shortcomings, and then we need to move forward. My experience of getting to know these characters was that we were looking at them, at their paintings, at their statues, but they were people, and they were young people. The people who have shaped this country have always been young people.
SOO OF PHILLIPA
The movie’s performances were filmed several years ago. What’s it like to promote a new project based on a period of your work from which you’re so distanced?
Well, I forgot about it, but it was filmed almost a few weeks before I left the 2016 show, so it’s really a gift, because it’s such a celebration of the time we’ve been cultivating there. At that point, we were all so deep into our performances that, really, the best part was just showing up and taking the ride. It’s even more nuanced than the cast album, I think, because the album we recorded shortly after we opened, and here’s a filmed version, almost a year later. I guess it’s just going to show you how awesome live theater is, because it’s never the same thing. This time, if anything, has really taught me that I will never take for granted the ability to gather in a room and have a collective experience with people again and again.
How has your routine changed since everything began to shift to mostly being at home?
Um, it was interesting at first. There’s a level of not knowing what’s going to happen next that this job requires of you, so I was like, “I’ve had practice with this, this kind of everything makes sense,” at the beginning, but it felt strange because there was just no such sense of FOMO, like, we’re all doing this. Nobody’s missing out on anything, or at the same time, we are all missing out. So that was a new emotion. Personally, I’m so thankful to my husband for keeping me from going crazy, but you can go crazy a little bit and be like, oh my god, is that it? We’ve been trying to make sure we’re exercising, like I’ve been doing Zoom Pilates classes. Obviously, I cook a lot, which has been great. Um, and then we got this dog, and all that completely changed. And then on top of that, after the murder of George Floyd and the world turned upside down, all we wanted to do was get out there and be out there, and we had to make sure that this dog was here, because it’s just a baby.
You said you went to a couple of smaller protests. How else has the BLM Upswell recently changed things for you?
I think the Asian community has definitely come to terms with what being Asian-American means. This really amazing article was written by Prabal Gurung about what it means to be the model minority and how Asian-Americans have to stand up for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement now. Of course, for myself, I think there are things that people of color in this country who are not Black need to accept about how they are perceived in this country and what role they can take to be beneficial, even if that comes from a place of understanding that might be a little difficult to swallow. I’m so grateful that I’ve seen the Asian community come together as a whole because of that, and I’ve just been really interested in analyzing how much my role is about using my voice right now and also how much of it is about listening, negotiating my output versus my input, and trying to make sure it’s level and balanced.
SOO OF PHILLIPA
What are you doing to remain grounded and take care of your mental health?
Well, I’m seeing a therapist, which I think is the best thing anyone can do for themselves. I feel like it’s always beneficial, whether you think you need therapy or you don’t. I’ve made sure I take designated time away from my phone-I think that also goes with all of this in the balance aspect. Since quarantine has taken place, we have tried to check in with people through FaceTime and really connect personally, checking in on a week-to-week basis with all of our friends. I think there are times when the weight of the world can be a lot, and we both feel very lucky that we have each other. And being kind to ourselves and to each other, my husband and I. We’re so lucky that we’re cohabiting so well at this time, because it can be crazy to spend a lot of time with one person, even if he’s someone you love.
I feel like people can get out once and everybody is going to either get married or divorced again. A lot of middle ground is not happening.
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the pandemic occurred and that’s how the Black Lives Matter movement re-emerged. “We’re all home, we’re all going to have to come to terms with ourselves and the world in which we live and really absorb it, and it’s like, “Oh, I’ve actually been sitting and listening to all this and I can’t take it. Enough is enough.’ I just hope that we don’t turn the lights back on after the pandemic ends and everything goes back to the way it was. This time of reflection, I hope, sticks with people. We just need to make sure we get people to vote-even during this time, we just can’t be discouraged. We have to take advantage of our vote and use our voice.
SOO OF PHILLIPA
For self-care, what else are you doing?
Back at the beginning of the year, I took a transcendental meditation course and it was really, really awesome. Ideally, for 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, I meditate. It can’t always be that, but it’s a new thing to just make the effort. Personally, for me, I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t meditate, my brain just goes too fast, I feel like I can’t do it,’ and it taught me a lot about myself, letting the mind do it. After 20 minutes of meditating, I feel great.
Another thing is that I went to the doctor recently and he said, “Oh, you’ve got some levels of aluminum that are a little bit high.” What do you use? So I began to look at all my makeup and deodorant and all that stuff, and I was like, oh my gosh, there’s aluminum in it all! So, I have made a transition, at least for my daily use, to some clean beauty products. This great website called Credo is there, and they have a lot of clean beauty products. And I’ve been trying to try to do a little less plastic, a little less waste, seeing if I can do shampoo bars and soap bars instead of plastic bottles, which is difficult because you want to find things you like, but I’ve been trying to use all my stuff and switch to less plastic products since there’s time during quarantine.
I want to make sure that I don’t use plastic, but this stuff comes in plastic at the same time, and aaah! “I feel like all you need to do is make that effort. It’s not going to be 100 percent perfect, or maybe one day, but don’t put the pressure on yourself to make everything 100 percent perfect right from the get-go, eco-friendly, waste-free. I think it’s a real process.
What does it look like right now with your beauty routine?
Well, I completely switched on my moisturizer. I just used pure organic jojoba oil as a moisturizer on my skin and it was amazing and really simple. I used this great cream deodorant called Routine, with charcoal or something in it, and I loved it. Makeup-wise, I used a lot of products from Ilia. I really like their stuff; it’s very natural and light and simple. A part of me feels like the more I fret and fuss, the more my skin gets irritated. I have eczema problems, and I feel like I’ve just been trying different things for so long, and when I don’t worry about it, when I meditate more and I freak out less about my skin, it’s always better for some reason, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
So, de-stressing is, basically, your beauty routine.
Yeah, I believe that a lot of that stuff can also be caused by stress. I feel like it’s essential that your morning routine is also therapeutic, whether it’s meditating or exercising, or making sure you take a nice cold shower or hot shower. It’s not just like, “Oh, I have to do this.” It’s also an opportunity to practice self-care while I’m walking my dog and take a moment with me, and not be on my phone.
Phillipa Soo & Her Passion For Music
Phillipa Soo has revealed the musical in which she would love to star.
As part of the Awards Circuit Podcast, speaking to Variety, Soo (who originated the role of Eliza on Broadway in Hamilton and can currently be seen as part of the Disney Plus show) said she’d love to appear in Six: “I haven’t seen it, and I’ve just heard some of the music but it looks f**king cool.”
She went on: “I’ve heard some of the music, and I’ve seen what everybody else is seeing, like a glimpse of a preview. I have some friends that saw it when it was in London. But I mean, just singing like that with a huge group of women just feels so fun.”
Before the run was stopped by the pandemic, Six was about to have its opening night on Broadway-it will no doubt return once the theaters are given the green light. In the UK, the revamped run of the show was given the chance to run again for a variety of dates before the rise in cases of closed venues.
But we’d love to see Soo in the show-the question is which Queen would she be?
Six is written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, with Moss and Jamie Armitage conducting, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille choreography, Emma Bailey set design, Gabriella Slade costume design, Tim Deiling lighting design, Paul Gatehouse sound design, Tom Curran musical orchestration, Joe Beighton musical supervision, Pearson Casting casting, Franny Anne Rafferty associate direction.
You will know that the hit musical Hamilton has been reprised as a Disney+ movie unless you’ve been living under a rock; and unless it’s a really, really big rock, you will have heard that Phillipa Soo, who plays Eliza Hamilton née Schuyler, stole the show and the collective heart of the Internet.
Now, maybe you know why #Hamilfilm is trending, or maybe you’re part of #HamFam, but how much do you really know about 30-year-old Soo? Here are just a couple of reasons why she won’t throw her shot away.
She’s all about representation, representation,
Soo’s father, born and raised in Illinois, is a first-generation Chinese-American whose parents came from China; her mother is European-American. On July 6, her multicultural heritage was brought to the fore when she saw and shared a video of the reaction of a young Asian girl to Soo’s performance.
In Act 1 of the Hamilton movie, Jenna, fabulous in a pink unicorn shirt, pointed to Soo as she sang Helpless, saying “It’s me.”
Little Jenna here is exactly why,” Soo says, “#representationmatters. “I’m so grateful that so many young people will be able to watch this show and say, ‘It’s me.'”
LGBTQ+ Series STYLE: Queer voices
The singer has also supported the LGBT community, having previously posted a photo of herself standing in front of a rainbow background, a widely known community symbol being the rainbow.
She spoke out about the #MeToo movement as well. In an interview with Women in Hollywood in 2017, she talks about how social movements and the acting world can be closely intertwined.
“Theatre gives people a collective experience in a room together, as opposed to us watching things individually on our TVs, computers, or phones,” she says. “Having an experience together will change individuals, hopefully for the better, and hopefully that experience will shake them out of their minds and make them think beyond their daily lives.”
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BlackLivesMatter is very supportive of her,
Hamilton is known for casting actors from a variety of ethnicities, most notably for the roles of the founding fathers of America, and Soo has said that this is particularly relevant at this time.
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“I think at the end of the day, what’s most important to remember is that when we see their stories, these historical figures that we look at, it’s important to remember that they were people, too,” she says in an interview with Coming Soon in June 2020.
I’m so glad we can have this movie come out and have it be part of the Black Lives Matter conversation and really examine what it means to be an American. And to see that it’s imperfect, just like the show, that revolution is messy. And that’s not supposed to discourage us from going out into the streets, from using our voices, from using our ballots to create a country we want to see. I have to ask myself… what can I do by using my body, by using my voice, to honor the people who have come before me? ”
In particular, she has used her Instagram platform to raise awareness of Black Lives Matter, to make a commitment to the Black Lives Matter Broadway campaign, and to bring attention to Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor, black Americans killed in police incidents.
She welcomed a new addition to her family recently,
There’s a new baby girl-a furbaby, that is, Soo and husband Steven Pasquale.
Pasquale put a picture of her and Billie, their new puppy, on his own Instagram page on Soo’s 30th birthday on May 31, saying, “Happy birthday, @phillipasoo. You’re the greatest, so the greatest dog is what you deserve. It’s Billie here. The newest of our clan members.
Soo also posted a photo of Billie with a face mask on it, urging others to do the same, probably to control the spread of Covid-19 [Note from the editors of STYLE: please remember that this was just a fun post; pets can not transmit coronavirus and therefore do not really need masks].
She has been involved in Moana
Soo had a small role in the Disney animated film Moana, which came out in 2016 (Soo’s final year playing Eliza in the Hamilton musical), as one of the Motunui villagers. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Hamilton, was also responsible for the music in Moana, along with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina, and on May 21 this year, he released a demo of Soo singing one of the film’s most popular songs, How Far I’ll Go.
Lin Manuel · How Far I’m Going ROUGH EARLY Demo, sung by Phillipa Soo
When they recorded this track, Miranda and Soo were rehearsing for the off-Broadway Hamilton debut, no less, in a dressing room in the Public Theater basement.
Miranda writes on his SoundCloud account, “This is my first or second draft.” “I have no idea why Dingdang is so high, but Pippa can do anything.”
Phillipa Soo was busy,
Phillipa Soo also has lots of other projects under her belt, in addition to the recent Hamilton film launch.
Last year, on the CBS series The Code, she played Lieutenant Harper Li and was in Tumacho’s off-Broadway production of Clubbed Thumb earlier this year as Catalina Vucovich-Villalobos.
And there are a million things she didn’t do, but you just wait, you just wait, you just wait.