This post contains spoilers for Fosse/Verdon’s finale episode.
Broadway stars have been popping up on Fosse/Verdon throughout the show’s entire run, but FX’s limited series saved one last surprise for its curtain call.
In Tuesday night’s finale, Fosse/Verdon executive producer and all-around multihyphenate Lin-Manuel Miranda makes an appearance as Roy Scheider — the actor who plays Joe Gideon, Bob Fosse’s version of Bob Fosse, in the director’s acclaimed 1979 semi-autobiographical film All That Jazz. EW was on set earlier this year when the finale was being filmed, but Miranda’s casting as Scheider was kept under wraps until now.
A few days before the episode aired, Miranda got on the phone to talk about his cameo — which he wasn’t even sure if people would catch. “I think most people are not going to notice because the work of our makeup and costume departments are so good they’re gonna think, Oh, some guy is playing Roy Scheider. When I watched the cut, I didn’t think it looked like me,” he said, laughing. “We didn’t ever want to go like, Oh, here’s a cameo! None of the people cast in this show have been like that, and we’ve got serious musical theater luminaries in there — you’ve got Bianca Marroquín as Chita [Rivera] and Ethan Slater as Joel Grey — but it’s never like, wink, nudge. It’s just that’s who’s playing the part. And I think this was in a similar vein.”
The appearance happened thanks to a “running joke that came to fruition,” Miranda explained. “There are so many theatrical heroes that pop up in the lives of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon — Hal Prince and John Kander and Stephen Schwartz, all people we genuinely love. So my running joke was, am I playing Schwartz? Am I playing Kander? It was sort of my way of nudging [director Tommy Kail], and then Tommy was like, ‘You don’t look unlike Roy Scheider.’” Once they settled on which parts of Jazz would make it on screen, though, Miranda faced a costume-centric challenge: “Cut to me realizing, oh, that ‘Bye Bye Life’ outfit is really tight… and then I got to the gym because I realized, crap, I have to be in ‘Roy Scheider in All That Jazz’ shape for the two scenes I’m doing!”
The framing of All That Jazz in the finale involved a pair of meta moments: First, Gwen (Michelle Williams) and Nicole (Juliet Brett) watch Roy rehearse with the actress playing his daughter, working on a scene that Bob (Sam Rockwell) blatantly mined from a moment he’d recently shared with Nicole. (To make it even more surreal, the PA who shushes Gwen and Nicole on set is played by Sean Fosse, Nicole Fosse’s real-life son — so he’s shushing his fictional mother and grandmother. “It’s so many layers,” Miranda said. “And it felt that way on set!”)
The second moment is the filming of that aforementioned “Bye Bye Life” sequence — where we’re seeing Bob direct Roy, his avatar of himself. During filming, Miranda said, “There was a really extraordinary moment, where the ‘Bye Bye Life’ scene is [Roy]’s telling Bob Fosse to go up and get his applause from this fictional audience he’s assembled. And I basically did the same thing on set — I had Tommy and Nicole Fosse get the same applause. So again, it’s layers on layers. Here’s Tommy and Nicole Fosse running through the stands, getting the applause just like the scene you saw in the episode.”
Saving Jazz for the finale, Miranda told EW, allowed viewers to look at the film through the lens of all the other Bob Fosse-Gwen Verdon collaborations and revelations that came over the previous seven episodes. “By the time we get to the making of Chicago, we know so much about Bob and Gwen and how they work — and how they don’t work — as a couple, that every moment is charged. We know how they met, we know the sacrifices they made,” he said. “And so when we get to All That Jazz, where we’re seeing Bob’s version of his story, we know how much more story there is, and we know it’s the perspective of a brilliant director and choreographer, but it’s a perspective and it’s a very particular perspective.”
He also added, “One of the things that we heard early on when we announced this project was, well, how do you do a miniseries about Bob Fosse? He told his own story brilliantly in All That Jazz. And I think our response throughout has been, there is so much more story. There’s so much he left out in crafting that brilliant movie. And so to be able to glance off it from this different angle, it really, really changes the way you watched the movie too, because [executive producers Joel Fields and Steven Levenson] and our great writers have given us so much more about Gwen and their partnership, and also his life. So it’s fun to revisit this masterpiece from a slightly different angle.”
And while Fosse/Verdon has had plenty of razzle-dazzle over its eight-episode run, the final moment of the final episode is the opposite of that. It’s a quiet, pastoral scene of a family — Nicole Fosse’s family — getting into a car, and driving away. “It’s a coda that I think is poignant and beautiful, which is her parents could never get out of the life and they could never get out of that cycle of needing that applause and needing that validation, and Nicole did it — she got out and she raised a family,” Miranda said. “You see it’s something that Gwen is struggling to do, but then she gets called back in. And so it’s Nicole being able get that ending that her parents could never quite manage, or maybe never even wanted to manage.”