By Rosy Cordero
October 06, 2020 at 04:07 PM EDT
Luis A. Miranda, Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

The father-and-son duo of Luis and Lin-Manuel Miranda are so close that it would seem like an impossibility to surprise either with new information about the other. Nevertheless, the elder Miranda managed to do just that, and surprised members of the family during an early screening of his upcoming HBO documentary, Siempre, Luis.

Before deconstructing the events that left many Mirandas with mouths agape, it's of the utmost importance to introduce the man behind the exhausted smile and the wrinkle-free guayabera whom viewers will get to know during the 95-minute documentary, which premieres tonight. Luis A. Miranda, Jr., the tireless activist, deeply devoted family man, and proud Puerto Rican who always stands up for what's right — but only after he's had his morning cafecito.

Ahead of the film's debut, the Mirandas spoke to EW exclusively about bringing Luis' story to light.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Barely a few seconds into this doc, we learn that Luis has been facing multiple health challenges. Mr. Miranda, how are you feeling?

LUIS MIRANDA: I am doing very well. I am a very good patient, contrary to what my family believes. I still want to be around for a little while more.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: With that being said, he could really do with a little less coffee and a little less relentlessness. His body would not be mad at him if he did this for us.

Mr. Miranda, what was it like preparing to have your life story presented in a documentary?

LM: The only thing I had to get used to was having cameras around me, because incorporating them into the routine of your life was challenging at first. I'm used to being more behind the scenes, so that was the most difficult aspect. Once I accepted the camera was going to be with me for a while, it was just one more thing to adjust to.

Lin-Manuel, you and your dad are so close. Did you learn anything new about him?

LMM: [Laughs] I'll tell you, we did a family screening of the documentary the last time we were all in Puerto Rico around the end of last year. And the biggest reaction that the family had was when a picture of Luis' first wife showed up. Everyone went, "Whoa!" He was married for six months when he was 18, and she's not really been a part of our lives in any way. In that part, me and my cousins from my generation, our minds were blown that that was part of the story. It was fun to watch that big reveal play out.

LM: [Laughs] It was a big reveal, but even though it was part of the narrative, it wasn't a big part of our lives. I'll always remember when Lin-Manuel was at the Richard Rodgers Theatre with In the Heights, my first wife went to see the show. She lives in Chicago now. I remember hearing a voice that said, "Luisito!" I am only called Luisito by people from my town in Vega Alta, so I knew it had to be someone from way back in the past, and it turned out to be her. I had the chance to introduce her to my wife of 43 years, Luz, and Lin-Manuel.

In Siempre, Luis, you are surrounded by powerful women, specifically in the political arena, where you lift up female candidates. Why is this important to you?

LM: When I became the chair for the Latino Victory Fund a couple of years ago, the first thing we did was to declare the year of Latinas. We went all over the country and recruited an amazing slate of Latinas to run, and we ended up with some amazing mujeres in Congress. We need more gender diversity in politics. I'm very proud to have been able to be a part of that movement.

Lin-Manuel, when you announced you'd be taking Hamilton to Puerto Rico in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts, it was met with resistance from the University of Puerto Rico students. Why did you include this?

LMM: That scene in particular was included because that was part of the conversation. We said we would meet with the UPR students, and we had an hourlong conversation with them. The protest was five minutes of that, but it was an important part of that. The university is hurting as a result of these policies, so it was important that we hear them out.

The release of Hamilton on Disney+ in July was also met with criticism, which you received and discussed. Why is that important to you?

LMM: Releasing Hamilton was to give people a reminder of how powerful live theater can be at a moment where there is no live theater anywhere in the United States other than virtual theater. I was really proud that we were able to do that. But I'm also keenly aware of what didn't make it into the two-and-a-half hour musical I wrote. These guys had complicated lives, and they were all flawed. I know what's on the cutting room floor. When I have to cut stuff like that because I'm trying to write this show, what I told myself was, "What was the starting point for conversation?" It's an entry point to say, "Yes, Washington owned slaves," etc. Hamilton allows for those types of conversations to happen because, without it we aren't talking about those guys in the same way. I have to embrace [the criticisms] as a starting point for more conversations.

Mr. Miranda, with so many great lessons packed into Siempre, Luis, what do you hope viewers take with them after watching?

LM: That they could have any life full of passion in the things that are most important to you without ever forgetting that family is number one. Family is something that must be nurtured. There will be many other things to come and go from your life, but family is an important part of who you are. Oh, and that it's important they vote!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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