Thomas Kail revealed more on how Lin-Manuel Miranda ended up playing Roy Scheider in Fosse/Verdon in an interview with Vanity Fair: “When I was first thinking about the show, I mean years ago, like when we were talking about Sam, I mean the next idea I had for casting—I was like, you kind of look like Roy Scheider. I mean, you’re not as attractive or sinewy, but we should do that. And he was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then we kind of got closer and he was like, Hey, remember when you mentioned that? I was like, yeah, no, I remember. He’s like, well what do you think? And I was like, I don’t know. Do you have a SAG card? And so he did. So I made him read for the role.”
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Under the cut, you can find more quotes from the Vanity Fair article and some from a TheaterMania interview.
Was that basically you auditioning him, like Bob is auditioning Ann to play herself in the movie?
That’s right. Um, no, Lin was offer only. So we also wanted to keep it a secret. We thought that’d be fun to have it sort of just be a part of the fabric of that last episode. But it felt like—you know, Lin loves musical theater in such a profound way. And so there was something really exciting about letting him participate as an actor. He obviously has these other skills and these other talents, but we loved letting him, you know, wear a chest merkin.
That wasn’t real?
That was not real. Chris Fulton and Debbie Zoller, hair and makeup. They really rocked it out, and the chest merkin lives on.
Is it in your possession?
I can’t talk about it too much on this particular podcast, but let’s just say it exists.
Well, I will look forward to when you’re on Chest Merkins Today, getting into the details.
That’s right. But we did break it here. We did break the news here. There’s the clickbait: “Miranda Wears Chest Merkin.”
Truth be told, Miranda was determined take on a role — any role — at some point in the series. “My side joke was, ‘Well, who am I playing? Kander? Schwartz?,'” Miranda said on the afternoon that the finale aired. “It was a general ‘put me in, coach!,’ like I do on any and all things.” Ultimately, it was executive producer, director, and longtime Miranda cabinet member Thomas Kail who made the final decision. “Tommy looked me up and down and said, ‘Maybe Scheider.’ Cut to me getting measured for my sparkly top.”
The real Nicole Fosse choreographed this small pas de deux, an aspect that Miranda calls “very meaningful.” “The way Nicole describes it is, ‘What we know as Fosse choreography was a language in my home that my mother, my father, and I spoke,'” Miranda explains. “To get to work with her directly was really amazing.” (And in yet another touching moment, Nicole’s real-life son Sean plays a production assistant who gets to shush his onscreen mother and grandmother.)
The second sequence is the filming of the movie’s finale, Gideon’s death song “Bye Bye Life.” Unlike other re-creations of iconic numbers from Fosse’s career, Miranda didn’t have to learn the original choreography, “just the moment where he’s going up and down the aisles.” In the scene, Scheider encourages Bob to take an on-set bow for himself, and Miranda took that opportunity to give credit to his creative team. “I said, ‘Give it up for Tommy Kail and Nicole Fosse!,’ and they jumped up and danced up and down the aisles as everyone cheered.” It was a special moment for Miranda to orchestrate and witness. “I’m sure people who didn’t know who I was were like, ‘How does this day player get to order around the director of the show?'”
That Fosse/Verdon has afforded Broadway geeks the chance to have “a weekly water cooler moment” where there never was a water cooler moment (at least since Smash) has given Miranda great pride, and it’s been amplified by his weekly live tweeting. “It’s a joy to get to connect with other people who love these musicals and love the work that this couple is responsible for. I saw my live tweeting as a ‘produce-orial’ task — as a producer, you’ll do anything,” he concludes. “Some days, that’s just tweeting every Tuesday night, and some days, that’s putting on a chest hair merkin.” And a sequined button-up.