Interview: Renée Elise Goldsberry Talks ‘Hamilton’, Her Original Song “Satisfied” and Being a Sci-Fi Geek
Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+! If you haven’t already, please check out our review of the amazing show! In honor of the play hitting the streaming service, Geeks of Color had the chance to sit down with the incredibly talented Renée Elise Goldsberry who plays historical figure Angelica Schuyler in the play.
During our conversation, Goldsberry told us what it meant to her that fans across the globe would get this chance to see the play. We also spoke about her song “Satisfied”, her favorite on set memories and how special her cast mates are. We also chatted about her role on Netflix’s Altered Carbon and what she looks for when she’s deciding on that next role. Lastly, she gave some very powerful advice about always chasing after your dreams – which is something everybody needs to hear!
Check out the interview below:
Firstly, I just want to say thank you so much for taking a little bit of time to sit down with Geeks of Color! We are big fans of you and we’re just so excited to see Hamilton. I’m sure you’ve been asked this before but for us, what does it just mean for folks to finally get to see this play live on Disney+?
Renée Elise Goldsberry: A sigh of relief. We’ve been trying since the beginning to invite as many people into this show and sharing this experience with us as possible. There’s just been so many limitations, such as where we were, size of the theater, and the amount of the ticket. Then just how long we were going to be a part of the show and doing the show, and now the fact that we can’t leave our house.
So, the irony is that you know as hard as we’ve tried to open this up to as many people as possible. Now when we can’t go anywhere we are actually going to have succeeded at this is not lost on us. We are thrilled that new communities will have an opportunity to see the show and join in, if they choose to. We think it is a revelation.
They’ll definitely want to join in! Specifically with your character, they actually released a little bit of a teaser clip showing you singing “Satisfied”. Were you aware that they were going to be doing that ahead of time or was that a surprise for you as well?
Goldsberry: Huge surprise! I was excited too. It’s the song that my character Angelic Schuyler sings and watching it is new to me because I was always inside of it. So, watching the show with me in the same seat of the audience and I get to see what I experienced, but more importantly, I get to see the great work of Andy Blankenbuehler, the choreographer, and the lighting designer Howell Binkley’s great work. And, oh god what I love so much is the cast members that make that number great. I mean literally the dancers are throwing and flinging their bodies in the air around me.
And they are basically turning back time so that we can get the perspective of this woman in the show and I’m grateful that Lin-Manuel Miranda took the time to tell the story from the perspective of a woman in that world at that time. And, and I’m grateful that they decided that, you know, that’s one of the clips that they wanted to represent. You know what, we’re putting out in the world to the world.
Speaking of the cast, how special was it being on set and do you have any particularly fond memories of you guys together that you can remember?
Goldsberry: Ahh, so many wonderful memories! We’re posting them on social media right now. It’s funny we all have this experience when you look back, and we think we remember – and then when we look back at pictures it’s completely different! Remembering the crazy times where we’re backstage rapping or freestyling or sleeping, just trying to make it through and encouraging each other. It brings it all back, it all flows back in.
The bonds that were formed at that time; the way we held each other up when we felt sometimes like we weren’t going to be able to make it. The excitement that the audience gave. That’s what’s wonderful about theater that’s actually captured in this film. And that is, it doesn’t exist without an audience and you can hear them. Remembering the excitement that was in that moment and the anxiety in the moment and knowing that it was all worth it. It feels really good.
That truly sounds amazing! So, although I can’t wait to see you in Hamilton, I did get to see you kick ass in Netflix’s Altered Carbon. What was it like joining the sci-fi series and how did it come about?
Goldsberry: I’m a theater geek, but I am also a sci-fi geek! Someone said something to me that I’m going to repeat now and that is, we look to try and make sense of the crazy times we’re in, you can go to the theater, but you can also go to sci-fi. Sci-fi has always told us the truth, you know? We might have to go to an alien planet for people to be able to palette the truth but it’s always there.
And when I was doing Hamilton, I had a Skype session with Laeta Kalogridis who created many, many wonderful sci-fi shows in the bulk of all of her work. And she was the one that was bringing Altered Carbon to Netflix and served as the showrunner, and she said to me on the Skype call: “I believe it is my mission in life to create worlds where the hero is a woman of color.” I heard those words and immediately thought this is my next job. I thought it was amazing.
The concept of playing Angelica Schuyler, a historical woman from our past and move to playing this futuristic character Quellcrist Falconer excited me. In Altered Carbon, the technology that creates the world is the ability to separate the human consciousness from the body. And so, this character Quellcrist Falconer, is not necessarily born as a Black woman. She actually chooses that body to save the world. The concept of choosing to be this thing felt extremely empowering to me after playing this very powerful woman that was so limited in that body at the time of the American Revolution. It was a dream come true to play after Angelica!
Speaking of that, you’ve gone from theater to television to movies. So, what is it that attracts you to all these different projects and what do you look for when you’re trying to choose between?
Goldsberry: I try look at the balance. A period theater piece would be really cool to balance out with a futuristic sci-fi television show, but also the biggest thing that really guides me is how to be responsible with the platform – how to be a part of stories that I would want my kids to see, maybe not at this time of course, much later.
I don’t necessarily have to be a great wonderful person, but the message has to be important. And so, I have a lot of conversations with the storyteller or whoever’s in charge. What are you trying to do with the story? And if we’re aligned in that way and they want to cast me, I want to do it.
The last thing I wanted to touch on and something that motivated me was how you spoke about finding your career later in life and refused to let anything stop you. Do you have any advice for other actors or anybody that may have interests that they want to pursue, but they don’t think they can now just because of certain circumstances?
Goldsberry: I pray that people see my career and feel that anything is possible for them. There are just people that are just destined for greatness; like everything was in the cards for them and they were destined to be very successful – either because of a freakish talent or really amazing connections.
My hope is you see the grace of God in my life when you look at my career. I think there’s a lot of things that are surprising to me about the order in which a lot of things happened in my life, and I was under the assumption that I would – I would go into this career, it would happen really quickly, I would have a really great run in my 20s. And then maybe in my mid 30s, I would you know go off and farm and you know have kids, and they would fly me in, you know to do a roll every once in a while. But that’s not how it happened for me.
I spent most of my 20s – pretty much all of my 20s – doing a lot of introspection because of things that hadn’t happened in my career and I still do that. Honestly, there’s a lot of things I haven’t done that I would love to do. But I remember how great God is and how you can never think that it’s too late, and you can never think that you’re too ‘anything’ to be able to stand in your gifts and fulfill your calling.
If your prayer is sincerely about something bigger than just your glory, if you’re trying, to answer questions like: “What is my purpose? Why am I here in the sense of the greater good?” You will succeed. I don’t ask the questions all the time, I’m not a perfect person, but I’m definitely motivated by not throwing away my shot. I’m definitely motivated about trying to be a good steward over this life. And, I feel that when you ask those kinds of questions you will find the right work to do.
Thank you so much for talking with us! We cannot wait to see what you do next! You know GoC will be there to support you.
Goldsberry: I really appreciate that! I will be giving you a call! [laughs]