HBO is going hard at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. The network has, naturally, brought both Game of Thrones and Westworld III panels to the event. However, it also introduced both the upcoming Watchman and His Dark Materials series. The former is in the form of a popular activation, the "Dr. Manhattan Experience." The latter got a full-on panel in the high-profile Hall H, with stars Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Though there were few spoilers, fans did learn one thing: Lin-Manuel Miranda will sing in His Dark Materials. He has a duet — with himself.
How does that work? It all comes down to the show's premise. Based on the Philip Pullman trilogy, His Dark Materials is set on an alternative version of Earth. As moderator JD Heyman tried to explain to the assembled fans: "Imagine a world where your soul lives outside your body."
There are lots of differences in the Earth of His Dark Materials and our own. This is key to all of them. This is a version of the world where no one ever debates whether or not the human soul exists. They don't have to. The souls are right there, hanging out by their person. Each person's soul, their "daemon," takes an animal form, one that reveals a lot about who they are.
Check out the new trailer which premiered at the panel.
That little mouse Dafne Keen's character Lyra is hanging out with is her daemon, Pantalaimon. (She calls him Pan.) As Lyra is still a child, Pan can transform into any animal he wants. Daemons don't "settle" into their final form until a person grows up.
Every character in this world has a daemon, and those daemons tell a lot about their characters. Ruth's Wilson's evil Mrs. Coulter has a beautiful but cruel golden monkey. James McAvoy, Lyra's Uncle Asriel, who a brave world traveler and explorer, has a snow leopard. And Lin- Manuel Miranda's character, Lee Scoresby, has a rabbit, who goes by the name of Hester.
When asked why his character, who is a tough, Texan cowboy, has a daemon who settled as a rabbit, or to be exact about it, an arctic hare, Miranda responded: "They're a survivor species." It turns out a daemon says more about a person than one might think at first glance.
Miranda was super excited about his character's daemon. The show filmed the daemons using puppet stand-ins for the CGI characters, and Miranda admitted he soon stopped seeing the puppeteer and viewed his little bunny as real. "We're like a buddy comedy," Miranda explained. And then he gave away his opening scene. When viewers first meet Scoresby and his daemon, they arrive by hot air balloon, singing a duet.
Whether or not Miranda does any more singing remains to be seen, though considering his description of his days on set as "the opposite of Mary Poppins," it seems doubtful. His first two days were spent flying his hot air balloon, and the next three were filming a bar fight. Very different from Mary Poppins, indeed.
Fans will get to see Miranda and the rest of the cast in His Dark Materials this fall on HBO.