Actor, singer, rapper, Thomas Jefferson. The man does it all. And he did a lot of it sporting a gorgeous afro, a 900-watt smile, and a unique voice that is legit the most charming sound in the world. I’m of course talking about Daveed Diggs.
He exploded onto the scene after being handpicked by Lin-Manuel Miranda to co-star in an obscure musical you’ve certainly never heard of. Friends from the rap group Freestyle Love Supreme, Miranda invited Diggs to sit in on some demo tapes and the rest is a Tony win, White House performance, and history rewritten in the stars. But what’s so brilliant about Daveed Diggs is how he uses his fame to make art that is a direct commentary on the world around us.
My first experience with his work was similar to most musical theatre artists who couldn’t afford a ticket to Hamilton… I watched the “Slime Tutorial” (bootleg) on YouTube. “Guns and Ships” (Lafayette’s record-breaking rap in Act I) is one of the best songs on the album. Diggs spits the fastest verse in Musical Theatre History (el oh el) while sporting a French accent. Act II, however, is where he shines. As legendary dickhead Thomas Jefferson, Diggs let his natural hair out and charms the pants off the audience, much to Hamilton and Burr’s annoyance. These two vastly different roles earned him a Tony for Best Featured Actor and a Grammy from the cast recording.
From there, he could have followed Hamilton fame to large paychecks and sell out status, but instead he created Blindspotting with real life bff Rafael Casal. Using the poetry of rap, they wrote a knockout of a film focusing on gentrification and class in Oakland, a story Diggs and Casal lived out first-hand. The final ten minutes of the film has Diggs giving a powerhouse soliloquy to a cop. It’s full of fire, emotion, and skill. Three qualities Diggs personifies as a performer.
As a performer, I look for the kind of work Diggs has been creating since his time as a teacher. It’s a career that has ping ponged between MEGAMUSICALOMGNOBODYSHUTSUPABOUTHAMILTON and quiet indie drama that packs a punch. It’s DISNEY and self-producing in an Oakland garage.
Diggs is voicing Sebastian in the upcoming live action The Little Mermaid, continues to appear in Snowpiercer, and had a small voice role in Soul. He continues to create experimental music with his group Clipping and is in pre-production for a TV series based on Blindspotting. His star will continue to rise, and I can’t wait to watch everything he is involved with.
Originally posted on MovieJawn.com