Alia Shawkat previews the Alexander Hamilton episode of 'Drunk History'
What’s your name, (wo)man? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical Hamilton has rocked the theater world with its nontraditional casting, and a new Alexander Hamilton-focused episode of Drunk History (narrated by an inebriated Miranda) takes that even further by gender-flipping the title role.
Here, Hamilton is played by Alia Shawkat, with Aubrey Plaza taking on the part of nemesis Aaron Burr. Shawkat got the call only a short time after seeing the show in New York and falling in love with the cast recording. “It felt so meant to be,” Shawkat says. “Hamilton was just everywhere in my life. I even sent a picture to my friend who took me to the show, like ‘So now I am Hamilton, that’s what’s happened.’”
Hamilton is known for its extravagant period costumes, and this Drunk History is no slouch in that department either. Gender-flipping those primary roles mandated some thorough cross-dressing for Shawkat and Plaza.
“Me and Aubrey loved the outfits. We talked about how different we felt,” Shawkat says. “We were acting different, walking different, interacting with the crew differently. There was something trippy about being dressed like a man all day. It looked kinda cool, kinda hot. I looked like a male version of my mom.”
Although Miranda wasn’t on set to offer tips for playing the young, scrappy, and hungry treasury secretary, his presence was felt. Drunk History creator Derek Waters would blast the soundtrack in between set-ups, and Miranda did Face Time to check on the production the day after the Tony Awards—“after having probably the craziest night of his life,” Shawkat notes. The episode (airing November 29) also reunited the actress with Arrested Development co-star Tony Hale, who plays James Monroe — a Founding Father who didn’t make it into the musical.
That cast addition won’t be the only deviation from the stage narrative. “Lin knows the history backwards and forwards,” Shawkat says. “He used [Drunk History] to tell different specifics of the story, so it’s not like we’re watching the same stuff. He told the specifics of personal fights they got in and other stuff that still ties into the overall story of Hamilton, but stuff I didn’t know.”