TV

Emmy Raver-Lampman On ‘Hamilton’ And The Civil Rights Movement Parallels In ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Emmy Raver-Lampman likes to joke that she’s taking it easy during quarantine. On any given day she might be downing a pint of ice cream or enjoying a long hike. She’s taking things one moment at a time. But, with all due respect to Emmy Raver-Lampman, we’ve seen her IMDb page. We know that’s just not true. Between starring in the original cast of Hamilton, playing Angelica Schuyler on the national tour, filming two seasons of The Umbrella Academy, and scoring a new gig on Apple TV+’s Central Park, Lampman is one of the busiest actors in the game right now. The second season of Netflix’s sci-fi series about a dysfunctional group of superpowered siblings just landed on Netflix, and with it came a chance for Lampman to transport her character back to 1960s Texas.

It marks a bold storytelling choice by creator Steve Blackman and his team, to address a very real, often ugly part of our history with a show about talking chimpanzees and time-traveling assassins, and an alien masquerading as a mysterious tycoon. But it’s one that pays off and gives Lampman a chance to showcase her range. So no, we just don’t buy the idea that Lampman is sitting in her pajamas all day, watching The Office re-runs and considering giving herself a quarantine haircut. It was nice of her to try though. We chatted with The Umbrella Academy star about the eerie parallels of season two, Hamilton fun-facts, and her fight for representation.

We’ve got to start off with Hamilton because…

It’s Hamilton?

Exactly. You were in the original cast, what’s it like to see it reach a new audience on streaming?

I’m so grateful. I think Hamilton is told by a group of actors that represent and look like what our world looks like. So it’s just been amazing to watch the world kind of take in the show and be able to experience it in places that it hasn’t reached yet and to people that couldn’t afford a ticket to New York and then on top of that, a ticket to a Broadway show. For me, it’s just been so interesting because I was a part of the original cast. I helped to create this musical. But it’s so funny how I’m learning from fans of the movie and the show, stuff that I didn’t even know about it because people are diving deep in the best way possible — finding hidden Easter eggs and doing all this research and really devouring the material in a way that I’ve just never seen before.

After Hamilton, you made the switch to TV. Was that a “what’s next” kind of move? How do you top this show?

I think that was part of it for sure. The way that people are feeling after they watch Hamilton, I felt that as an artist. I was just like, “This is theater at its best and it’s being told by so many unbelievably talented Black and Brown bodies,” I think I was at that point where it’s like, “Well, I don’t know of a musical that’s coming to Broadway any time soon that I can see making me feel like this.” I had almost a decade of being a theater performer under my belt, I was feeling ready to be challenged in a different way. I came to LA with Hamilton as Angelica [Schyuler] and Umbrella Academy was one of the first self-tapes that I did. I didn’t put any stock into it because I’m so new here and nobody knew my name. I sent in my audition, no expectations, and didn’t hear anything for four months. And then out of the blue, heard from my manager that they wanted me to come in the next day and do a camera test. It happened so fast.

We’ve made it to season two and your character is dropped into ’60s Texas. I think we all have a watered-down idea of the Civil Rights Movement. Did you have to do more research to understand Allison’s journey this season?

Yeah, I mean, we learn the bare minimum in school, and we are never asked to confront the harsh realities and the brutal violence of our history, especially towards Black and Brown bodies. I think I wanted to be as fully educated as I could be so that I understood some of the harsh realities of the ’60s. The level of hatred that people had to live through in the ’60s as a Black person and as a Brown person and as an LGBTQ person… I just really rooted myself in facts of the time. I wanted to educate myself as much as I could because, at the end of the day, that’s the least that I could do.

How does filming something as traumatic as that sit-in scene influence how you view protests happening right now?

I think it’s the same. Allison sitting at that protest and then having it escalate to violence because of actions of white aggressors is the same violence that we’re seeing playing out on our TV screens today, especially in the midst of all of these protests. These are peaceful protests that are escalating to violent acts and to the point of violence because of white aggressors. It’s very clear to me that, yes, the ’60s was the ’60s, and today is today, but that fight, that struggle, that movement is the same movement. It’s just a different hashtag. We are still fighting injustice. We are still fighting systemic racism. We are still fighting hate. We are still fighting homophobia. We are still fighting so many of these things that all of these unbelievable people were fighting in the ’60s, and to be completely honest with you, for centuries. The ’60s wasn’t the beginning of this movement. You know what I mean? There is still so much work to be done.

Probably the biggest questions fans have about Allison’s arc this season is why she didn’t use her powers to help in this fight?

Yeah, that was a big part of the conversation at the beginning because I was like, “If she’s not using her powers, it has to be very clear why she’s not.” Allison’s powers are complicated, and her relationship with them is complicated. We don’t know the lasting effects of her powers. She has a biracial daughter in the 21st century, so for her to do a quick fix to solve the problems of civil rights, what are the long-term effects? I think it just was not worth the risk.

I also think that the work that is the most important and the work that is long-lasting, and the work that is the most needed is always the hardest to do. Having landed in the ’60s and not having her power, the beginning of the season is like a new beginning for herself. It forced her to observe and to listen and to kind of recreate herself without using her powers. At the end of the day, she’s actually liking this version of herself who isn’t using her powers because everything she has, she’s worked for and she likes that. That applies to her life, but I think she’s also realizing that it applies to this movement.

You’re replacing Kristen Bell on Central Park. Why is that an important move in the representation fight?

Representation is so important because it broadens our ability to tell stories. I think my lived experience as a biracial woman and what I have to give forth to a story about a biracial teenager coming of age is so important because that is a very unique and singular experience. That is true for the queer experience and the trans experience and the Black experience and the Asian experience. I think it is so important to give opportunities for people to tell their stories of their people. We have to start making those moves and that transition to opening up writers’ rooms and opening up directing opportunities and opening up producing opportunities and opening up acting opportunities.

I think the only option is to make art that is a true reflection of the world that we live in, and you can’t do that if everyone is white and everyone is male because the world is not all white and the world is not all male.

I mean, thank God.

[Laughs] Right? Everybody’s experiences are so unique because of their sexual orientation, because of their race, because of how they grew up, because of their location, because of their religion. I think it’s important also for people to turn on the TV and to go to a movie and to see a character that looks like them and connect to that. What a disappointment on an animated show, to see a Black character, and then go Google who voices it, and it’s not a reflection of the character that’s being voiced. I think that’s such a missed opportunity, and I’m so grateful for Josh [Gad] and Kristen [Bell] and the creatives of Central Park. It’s just so amazing that they’re opening it up to allow room for people to voice characters that look like them.

Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is streaming its second season now.

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