‘Hamilton’: Why Lin-Manuel Miranda Wanted to Play Aaron Burr Instead of Lead

Hamilton, the smash-hit play that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, not only started a cultural revolution but made a star out of show creator Lin-Manual Miranda. Although Miranda has worked on many hugely successful projects, Hamilton has cemented his legacy and earned him multiple awards. With the advent of Hamilton on Disney+, more people than ever are getting the chance to experience the musical, and are learning even more about Miranda himself — including why he initially wanted to play Aaron Burr rather than Alexander Hamilton. 

‘Hamilton’ is a popular stage play

Lin Manuel-Miranda
Lin Manuel-Miranda | Theo Wargo/WireImage

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Hamilton is described by Miranda as “American then, as told by America now.” It tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, as well as other historical figures such as John Adams, George Washington, and Aaron Burr.

The show was written entirely by Miranda, based on a popular biography of Alexander Hamilton, and premiered Off-Broadway in early 2015.

The show was a hit from the very beginning. Audiences loved the way that the show fused different genres of popular music together, from rap to soul. It quickly became the hottest ticket in town, and eventually, it went on the road, playing to packed houses all over the country.

With Miranda playing the lead role of Alexander Hamilton, and a cast of talented non-white actors as the remaining historical figures, Hamilton soon became known as a masterpiece. Much of the credit goes to Miranda, who has been heavily involved in every aspect of the show’s production since the beginning. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning artist

Miranda was born in 1980 and raised in New York City. He was drawn to music and stage productions while very young, and by the time he was in high school, he had begun writing stage plays. He began working as a director and performer while in high school as well, and by the early 2000s, he had started to create a name for himself on Broadway as a brilliant writer.

In 2008, Miranda began working on the original concept for the play that would eventually become Hamilton. It took him years to perfect, and he spent countless hours researching the history behind the people portrayed in the play.

The debut of Hamilton on stage in 2015 changed the course of Miranda’s life as well as his career and led to him winning numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and three Grammy Awards. It also opened the door for Miranda’s successful collaboration with Disney, with whom he has worked on several major projects. 

Why did Lin-Manuel Miranda originally want to play Aaron Burr?

From the beginning, Miranda has portrayed Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton. Still, there was a time when Miranda wasn’t sure whether he should take the stage as Hamilton or as Aaron Burr, another major player in the story.

As Miranda later revealed: “I feel an equal affinity with Burr. Burr is every bit as smart as Hamilton, and every bit as gifted, and he comes from the same amount of loss as Hamilton. But because of the way they are wired Burr hangs back where Hamilton charges forward. I feel like I have been Burr in my life as many times as I have been Hamilton.”

Eventually, Miranda landed on Hamilton as the one whom he should portray. He said: “As Hamilton, I get to be cockier than I really am; I get to be smarter than I really am; I get to be more impulsive than I really am—it’s taking the reins off your id for two and a half hours.”

Ultimately, it all worked out for the best, and Leslie Odom Jr. is truly brilliant as Aaron Burr.