Daveed Diggs is a multi-hyphenate: He’s an actor, singer, rapper, producer, and writer. He famously starred in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, for which he won a Tony Award.
Here are 18 more things to know about this Black Jewish star:
1. Diggs was born in Oakland, California to a Jewish mom and African-American non-Jewish dad.
2. His parents named him Daveed, the Hebrew pronunciation of David (a biblical Jewish king). Why spell with two e’s? “My dad liked the look of it,” Diggs said.
3. “I went to Hebrew school, but opted out of a bar mitzvah,” Diggs said. “My mom is a white Jewish lady and my dad is Black. The cultures never seemed separate — I had a lot of mixed friends. When I was young, I identified with being Jewish, but I embraced my dad’s side too.”
4. He attended Brown University, where he competed on the track and field team. He graduated in 2004.
5. Brown “felt conservative” to him. As he explained, “I think I had, maybe, a more liberal upbringing than most people at that time, at least. Even Brown, which everyone told me was this crazy liberal school, felt very conservative to me.’’
6. In 2010, Daveed Diggs joined clipping., an experimental hip hop group. The group has released three alums, a mixtape, and two remix albums.
7. Diggs grew up participating in slam poetry competitions. “When I started, it was a way to present my ideas in a way that people would listen to,” he explained. “I was a poor Black kid from east Oakland; nobody had any reason to listen to me. Historically, no one listened to me. But all of a sudden with this trick of making it sound pretty, everybody was not only hearing you but excited to hear what you were going to say next. That’s a very powerful thing for a kid to learn.”
8. He is a member of Freestyle Love Supreme, an improv hip-hop group.
9. Diggs co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in Blindspotting with his long-time collaborative partner and friend Rafael Casal. The film came out in 2018, and tells the story of Collin (played by Diggs) who tries to make it to the end of his probation when he sees a white police officer kill an unarmed black man.
10. In 2012, Lin-Manuel Miranda invited Diggs to read early versions of Hamilton, and he eventually wound up in the original cast. Diggs recalls, “[Lin] told me, ‘It’s this rap musical about Alexander Hamilton.’ I told him it was a terrible idea.”
11. Once he heard the Hamilton demos, he immediately wanted to be involved, and the part of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson ended up evolving to fit his skills as a really fast rapper. “I have this thing. I can rap really fast. I can rap really, really fast. It’s a thing I’m good at and I’ve trained myself to do; it’s a thing I do in the Bay Area. Lin likes writing for me because I can do things he can’t. He can write these things he can’t do, but which I find technically pretty easy,” Diggs said.
12. He won a Tony Award for his role in Hamilton (beating out two of his Hamilton co-stars, lol). Here’s the start of his acceptance speech: “When I was in preschool, we were supposed to do a performance for the parents. I didn’t want to do it, so my mom talked to the teachers, she came back, and she said you don’t have to do it, but you have to do something. And I said I want to do a gymnastics routine with my dad. And a couple days later my dad showed up, with me, in matching rainbow tights and we did this gymnastics routine in front of the parents at the preschool. And the important thing about that story to me is that, one, my mom gave me permission to do something that everybody else wasn’t doing and, two, my dad supported me and made it possible.” You can watch it here:
13. He left the show in 2016, but explained, “What Hamilton did for me, more than anything else, was allow me to keep working in the way that I’ve always been working but making money off of it.” Essentially, Diggs said, “nobody cared, and then Hamilton happened and everybody cared.”
14. He’s had guest appearances on Black-ish, Sesame Street as Mr. Noodle’s Brother (!!), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The Sesame Street one is clearly the most important:
15. He has a dog named Soccer. This photo may be our favorite photo of all time:
— Daveed Diggs (@DaveedDiggs) October 24, 2015
16. In 2020, Diggs is set to star in Snowpiercer, a TV show based on the 2013 Bong Joon-ho film of the same name. He’s co-starring with Jewish actress Jennifer Connelly.
17. He’s also set to voice a character in Apple TV+’s Central Park, about a family of caretakers who live in Central Park, and will portray abolitionist Fredrick Douglass in The Good Lord Bird.
18. If you haven’t listened to all his music yet, what are you waiting for??
Image of Daveed Diggs in header by Amy Sussman/Getty Images.