Lin-Manuel Miranda has explained more about his character, Jack, in Mary Poppins Returns, and specifically how he connects to Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke in the original Mary Poppins movie. Though its still more than a year until its release, Mary Poppins Returns has already given us a whole host of concept art and filming images to pour over, as well as information regarding the plot of the Disney musical.
Set in 1930s London, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer play the adult Michael and Jane Banks, respectively. They are visited by the titular, magical nanny, played by Emily Blunt, when Michael becomes distant from his children following the death of his wife. Mary’s magical touch brings the family back together again, and just like the original, the nanny takes the Banks children- Annabelle, Georgie and John – on many adventures. This time, in place of Bert, comes Jack, a lamplighter, played by Broadway star Miranda.
Speaking to EW about his first major movie role, Miranda explained that Jack served as an apprentice chimney sweep to Bert when he was a child, and just like his predecessor, he shares his sense of fun and spirit of adventure:
“The magical is commonplace, at least to a couple of people like Mary and Jack, similar to the way it was to Mary and Bert. It’s almost like, ‘Well, yeah, we’ll just jump into the painting and spend the day in the painting, because why wouldn’t we do that?’ They’ll say, ‘Come on, we have a very busy day,’ and that busy day involves dancing with penguins and flying. That’s the thrill of it.”
The original Mary Poppins was based on the first two P.L. Travers novels about the nanny, while Mary Poppins Returns pulls influence from the further six books in the series. Interestingly, though, Jack is an original character created by screenplay writer David Magee and director Rob Marshall. It’s an easy way to get around recasting Van Dyke’s role, and it gives Miranda a chance to bring a fresh new character to life, and in turn that means we get to see how Mary Poppins interacts with someone other than the Banks family of Bert. This being Disney, it’s unlikely we will see much reference to the hardships of being a child chimney sweep, but we should at least hear some of what it was like to work for Bert.
Van Dyke will also make an appearance, playing George Dawes Jr., a role he also played in the original movie. Though he and Miranda won’t share any scenes, Miranda did watch him film and praised the 91-year old’s energy and work ethic. Undoubtedly a huge fan, Miranda will no doubt seek to emulate the magic and sparkle that Van Dyke brought to the original- though he probably won’t seek to copy his cockney accent.