Years from now, newer converts to Hamilton fandom will marvel at how Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail assembled such a notable cast. It will be viewed like Rent, like American Graffiti, a remarkable gathering of young talent that’s a tribute to those who managed to bring them together, including the casting team at Telsey + Company. It’s not that the Hamilton cast was entirely unknown, to be sure, but the acclaim for the project raised the public’s awareness of each and every one of them, regardless of what they had – or hadn’t – done before.
In the case of Daveed Diggs, who is surely one of the true breakout stars of Hamilton due to his Act 1 performance as Lafayette and Act 2 role of Thomas Jefferson, his primary prior recognition was as a rapper. But that’s not to say that Diggs hadn’t acted before. In one of the wonderful discoveries hiding in plain sight on YouTube, Diggs can be found in the eight-episode video series Hobbes and Me, playing Bill Watterson’s beloved philosophically named tiger from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
The decidedly low-budget series was created by Bay Area actor, rapper, writer and producer Rafael Casal in 2014; Casal also plays Watterson’s Calvin – though that name never appears on the videos. Neither does Diggs’s or, for that matter, Watterson’s. The “scripts” are eight selected original strips; the settings suggest they were filmed at Casal’s home. Diggs’s tiger costume is a tiger-patterned coat and striped pants seemingly out of a 1930s prison film.
Of course, as more people learn of Hobbes and Me, it’s possible that recognition may also prove the undoing of these charming novelties. It’s widely known that Watterson has never permitted any adaptation of his strips, live-action or animated. No doubt Hobbes and Me, which doesn’t even carry credits, is an unauthorized riff that, by both showing Calvin and Hobbes strips and utilizing their dialogue verbatim, is very likely on the wrong side of the copyright line.
But with Diggs’s star on the rapid rise, the eight episodes are a four and a half minute (in total) opportunity to see him before the glossy magazines and TV interviews came calling. Take a look while you can.
Incidentally, Hobbes and Me isn’t the only Casal-Diggs collaboration. There’s also a Star Trek riff called The Away Team, with Diggs playing a key role in Episode 2, “Boletus Frequencia.”
P.S. Casal’s website says he’s developing a musical called The Limp for Diggs. Stay tuned.