Alexandra Shipp on "Risking Our Lives" to Make Tick, Tick...Boom!

Alexandra Shipp has plenty to say about her first day filming Tick, Tick…Boom!, depending on which first day you mean.

“There were two different first days on set,” says Shipp, 30, who stars as Susan in the Lin-Manuel Miranda-directed movie musical streaming now on Netflix. “My actual first day, we were filming at the Strand bookstore. This was before lockdown, people were like ‘sanitize your hands and don’t get too close,’ and I thought, we can do that, it isn’t so hard. So, we were dancing around the bookstore, singing, talking about the different ideas we had and what the scenes all really meant—and then we were gone. When we finally came back six months later, it was a whole new experience.”

For Shipp, a Rent fan who had never seen Tick, Tick…Boom!, the role was immediately appealing. “I was definitely a fan of Jonathan Larson, and so when this came along, I just dove into it,” she says. “After reading the script learning more about Susan, I saw myself within her. Every person can relate to being that someone who loves an artist but hasn’t had the opportunity to fully have a relationship with them, because their art is their first love. There was something really beautiful and sad about Susan that I identified with.”

Julie Oh, a producer on the film, explains that finding the right actress to play Susan wasn’t as simple as just casting an ingenue. “When Jonathan Larson performed Tick, Tick…Boom! as a monologue, he was speaking about his own journey and point of view, but at its core the movie we wanted to make was about three artistic paths, so we had to zoom into the character of Susan and put flesh and bone to her,” Oh says. “What emerged is a character with her own hopes and dreams—she wants to move to the countryside and dance and focus on her artistry— and we wanted to be clear that that is its own special journey.”

Oh continues, “We went through an involved process to find the right actress, and what was always undeniable to us was Alex’s ability to embody all of the complexity we needed for this part. She’s the kind of actress who brings her own unique spin to everything. From her first audition to her chemistry read with Andrew, it was the first time in our process we felt we were really looking at Susan.”


While it wasn’t the least complicated project Shipp’s ever worked on, she’s quick to point out that the hurdles Tick, Tick…Boom!had to clear were all worthwhile. “One day when we came back after the lockdown, the cast was all eating pizza together, and we were like, ‘Why are we doing this? We're not just doing this for Jonathan Larson, we're not just doing for Lin. Why are we all risking our lives to come back and tell this story,’” she says. “The reality is that this is a movie that people need, because it's a movie saying, ‘don't ever stop, keep going, you have to live because we only have so much time.’”

Read more on: skin