Perhaps it’s no surprise that the actor said to have set the record for the fastest rap on Broadway (19 words in three seconds) is now experiencing one of the fastest ascents in Hollywood history. In two years, Daveed Diggs has hopped from the stage of Hamilton straight to the sets of Black-ish, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Wonder, and now to writing and starring in his own personal passion project.
But first, that record. Diggs, for his part, insists it’s dubious at best. “Fastest rap on Broadway — what other ones have there been?” he asks. Fair point. The bigger accolade is probably the Best Actor Tony he won, or maybe the Grammy. In any case, he credits the many hats that he had to wear in Hamilton for keeping him from getting pigeonholed by producers and casting agents.
Which leads to his latest endeavour — the genre-bending dramedy Blindspotting, an electrifying portrait of present-day Oakland that opens this July after generating big buzz at Sundance.
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Diggs co-wrote the long-gestating script with his co-star and long- time creative partner Rafael Casal after a producer saw potential in Casal’s spoken word performances online and went on to attend Obama’s inauguration and a John Legend concert with Diggs. Appropriately, the resulting story tackles political subjects with musical spirit, with many key scenes written in verse.
“We wanted to do justice to Oakland as this place with a casual virtuosity where speech is heightened,” Diggs says. “And rhymes force you to listen differently.” That’s especially critical given how much Blindspotting has to say: Diggs portrays an ex-con who witnesses a police shooting during his final three days of parole, while Casal plays his loose cannon of a white best friend. The tension that brews between the two feels so heartbreaking precisely because their bond rings so true.
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In fact, Casal and Diggs are such close collaborators that Casal even authored Diggs’s Twitter bio: “Rapper. Actor. Salt connoisseur.” That last title is a nod to an eccentric ritual of Diggs’s — after every meal, he resets his palate by licking a line of salt off of his hand. Himalayan pink? Fleur de sel? “Just whatever salt’s on the table,” he says. “It’s something my dad used to do.” If it’s a good luck ritual, it seems to be working.
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