Mandy Gonzalez is fearless, and not shy about saying so. The Hamilton and In the Heightsstar is taking a one-night break from performing on Broadway to “really launch” her Fearless album at the Halloran Centre in Memphis, with a title track penned by none other than Hamilton’s author, composer, and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“Memphis was where it's was at,” She says excitedly, talking a mile-a-minute. “Because when I was a kid my dad worked a lot. He worked three jobs, and he worked nights. Sundays were like our only day with dad and by then my mom kind of needed a break. So dad used to put on Elvis movies and we’d watch them. I really fell in love with music and rock-and-roll through Elvis. So I've always wanted to go to Memphis. It's kind of where I feel rock and roll began. I wanted to see Sun Records, and Graceland. It's the perfect place to start.”
#Fearless started as an online movement to create support “squads” and combat negativity on Social Media. “Everybody needs a squad,” Gonzalez says explaining four simple rules of membership: Embrace differences; Help one another when we fall; Look for the good; and dream big. “I don’t know where I’d be without my squad,” she says. “And if somebody doesn't have a squad, they can be a part of mine.”
Gonzalez says she always wanted to make a record but was too busy doing other things — until now.
Intermission Impossible: You’re a pro. You’ve done this for a while now. But Hamilton’s not just another show, it’s a cultural touchstone. That’s got to be different.
Mandy Gonzalez: It's so different. Because people are screaming because before the show even starts. They're so excited because they’ve waited so long to see it. They worked so hard to get tickets. And when the lights go out people start screaming. And I never heard that before. Screaming tears of joy. Not, you know, terrified screaming. At the end people jump from their seats and I see so many people crying. And to hear what Hamilton means to so many people. I’ve heard a lot of beautiful things from people about In the Heights because it connected to so many young college students. And my character Nina was part of that. But you come to Hamilton and you see a young person with their parents with their parents, and their parents, and they're all sitting together. And they're all screaming. And they're all cheering. And it really is this ray of bringing people together which is a beautiful thing. It's what theater is supposed to do.When I go to the stage door at night it takes 45 minutes to get through because everybody has a story about what Hamilton means to them. Because I think that it's the first time they've really felt connected to our forefathers. The first time they’ve seen them as people. And they go, “Oh, I can do that. I can move mountains.” Or, “This person had a characteristic that’s a lot like mine.” I hope it gives people that. It gives people hope. It certainly does for me performing it.
True story. I heard someone playing Hamilton in the checkout line at my neighborhood dollar store. People may blast show tunes when they’re out buy toilet paper in New York but that just doesn’t happen in Memphis.
It used to be, if you were in the theater, you felt like you were only part of this certain community. But the community continued to grow. Like The Greatest Showman, the movie The soundtrack is by Broadway composers. There's something happening. Now it's become a part of our culture and it's something that, if you can't get a ticket to Hamilton, you can go and see another incredible show. It's opening up culture which, I think, is a beautiful thing.
Don’t tell anybody, I don’t want to be run out of town. While I do really like Hamilton, I love the street life of In the Heights. It may be my favorite. Okay, it’s my favorite.
I love them both.
Can you tell me just a little bit about having had the opportunity to work on both shows?
The beautiful thing about Lin and Tommy and Alex and Andy is they are the same guys that I met when I did a little reading of In the Heights in the drama book shop.They're the same. They're humble and passionate about what they do. It's about collaboration. It's about lifting people up. It's just now everybody recognizes their brilliance. I think this thing about Lin is he just shines this light wherever he goes. Not like literally with a light.
Yeah, that would be weird.
Now to see him on all these talk shows and in all these places, that's the same guy I met when I first started. And he's got the same heart. And the same passion for what he does. The beautiful thing for me, is to watch my friends have the success. That's an incredible thing. But also to have him say, “Hey, why don't you come along with us?” is a very rare thing. I don't take any of it for granted and I'm very super grateful and proud of this. The people that they are. And what they represent. My love for them started with in the Heights, and we really became like a family, that cast.
Hamilton has a life apart from the script and story. It’s associated with ideas about action and accountability. And being fearless. When you are a part of that are there expectations?
I don't know about that. But I know because of social media, if you have a platform I think it is your right and your hope to do good with that platform to help people.