France has become a through line in the career of Oakland-born Daveed Diggs.
On ABC’s black-ish, he plays Johan, the little brother of Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross), a Francophile and a spoken-word poet. Before joining the comedy last year, he won a Tony for the dual role he’d originated in Broadway’s Hamilton, as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette
The actor-rapper has been involved in music and theater most of his life. “But I didn’t do any TV until Hamilton came along,” he explains. “While there [in New York], I managed to do a couple of Law & Order: SVU episodes, which was great.” And, despite doing eight shows a week in the hit musical, he also took on roles in Netflix’s The Get Down and HBO’s Tour de Pharmacy, a mockumentary about doping and the Tour de France in which he stars alongside Andy Samberg and Will Forte.
Since departing Hamilton last summer, Diggs has been acting, touring with his band — an experimental hip-hop group — and writing music and scripts with collaborator Rafael Casal. He’s also executive-producing a pilot for ABC.
“It’s good to be able to jump from project to project and get inspired in new ways,” he says. “When you’re in a play for a long time, it’s about tricking yourself into thinking you’ve never said these words before.
"With television, the scripts have changes up to the last minute, so half the time you really never have said the words before! Because it’s so new to me, I feel like I learn so much every time I’m on a set working with people who have new ways of doing things — I’m trying to take it all in and come out a better person at the end of every project.”
Diggs is ready for whatever comes next.
“As an artist who’s spent all his life sort of making it up as I go along — trying to create everything from scratch and just hustling through — it’s crazy to have so much access,” he says. “I feel very lucky.“
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 4, 2017
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