The actor, writer and activist talks about what it means to create - but not to just "stick to writing" - in divisive political times

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Lin Manuel Miranda mag cover

Lin-Manuel Miranda has had a busy summer on the set of the In the Heights movie, filming on location in N.Y.C.’s Washington Heights neighborhood among “our neighbors, old and young … thanking us, [saying] ‘You’re putting us Latinos on the map in a big way, papa, keep going.’ So. We’ll keep going,” he tweeted in July. And, as he told Departures in its September cover story highlighting “Visionaries,” it’s exactly that reaction that fuels him to bring the story to more people beyond its initial Broadway audience.

And, he says, recent current events in the United States have necessitated changes to the script that he never anticipated. “There are things that were implicit then that are explicit now, like the way this wave of Latinx immigrants has to fight for their personhood,” he says. “In this world we are more demonized than we have ever been.”

He continues. “This notion of, ‘We came from somewhere else and we’re trying to make the best of our lives here. We are just like you’—this, somehow, is a radical statement in 2019. It shouldn’t be. It didn’t feel that radical in 2008 [when In the Heights opened on Broadway], but it actually is, because there are so many who would say, ‘You don’t belong here. This country’s full.’ To see these characters joyously waving the flags of their home countries in New York City, it’s crazy that that’s a radical act. But it’s wonderful to put that on screen.”

Miranda has been a prominent voice in the fight to secure aid to Puerto Rico – with American Express, he helped raise more than $43 million for Hispanic Federation UNIDOS in addition to more than $14 million for Flamboyan Arts Fund – and to call for the resignation of the United States territory’s controversial governor. He also supports March for Our Lives and is politically outspoken on his Twitter. And he has an answer for those who call for him to “stick to acting.”

“When people say … whatever it is they want you to stick to because it agrees with their thing—I would love to!,” he says. “I would love nothing more than to curl up in a ball and just write things, but our work exists in the world and our work exists in conversation with the world. So, we have to talk about the world as we see it.”