Producer Lin-Manuel Miranda apologized Monday for the lack of Afro-Latino representation in the film adaptation of his play, “In the Heights,” set in his Washington Heights neighborhood.
During the musical’s opening weekend, people on social media discussed issues of colorism in the movie. On Sunday, The Root’s report “Let’s Talk About In the Heights and the Erasure of Dark-Skinned Afro-Latinx Folks” and video interview went viral on Twitter and on Monday, Miranda addressed the criticism in a lengthy post.
“I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented, particularly among the leading roles,” wrote Miranda. “I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy. In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry.”
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On Tuesday’s episode of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” guest Rita Moreno came to Miranda’s defense. “Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel?” Moreno asked. “That really upsets me.”
Moreno, who appeared on Colbert’s show to promote her documentary “Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” added that it seems “you can never do right.”
She continued: “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly, and I’m thrilled to pieces and I’m proud that he produced my documentary.”
When asked if she believed the criticism was “misplaced” toward Miranda, Moreno responded: “Well I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?”
“There’s a lot of people who are Puertorriqueños, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair,” she said. “We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is, and it would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and just left it alone, just for now. I mean, they’re really attacking the wrong person.”
“Hamilton” playwright Miranda went on in his statement Monday about the predominantly Latino “In the Heights” cast, featuring Anthony Ramos, of Puerto Rican descent, in the lead role: “I’m trying to hold a space for both incredible pride in the movie we made, and be accountable for our shortcomings.”
Author of The Root’s article Felice León addressed the film’s casting choices in a video interview with director Jon M. Chu and actors Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Gregory Diaz IV. She asked: “What would you say to folks who say that ‘In the Heights’ privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?”
“I hear you on, you know, trying to fill those cast members with darker skin. I think that’s a really good conversation to have,” Chu responded, later adding: “I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right.”
Grace, who plays Nina Rosario, added that she didn’t “realize until making this movie that I didn’t really get to see myself or people that look like my siblings that are darker than me onscreen.”
León also took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the film’s lack of “leading Black Latinx ppl,” adding that “there are plenty of Black dancers & Black women in the hair salon — go figure.”
“Anti-Blackness in Latinidad is pervasive and leaving out darker Afro-Latinx ppl #InTheHeights continues this legacy,” León added in another tweet.
“I still enjoyed #InTheHeightsMovie,” Woods wrote. “The bottom line I can root for my community and still address colorism, classism etc. There are 33 counties in Latin America. (One) thing is true, that many of us are still struggling to be seen.”
Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist,” wrote on Twitter, “I enjoyed the movie/love the musical. But it makes no sense to erase the AfroLatinx community who should have been broadly represented in lead and secondary roles. It’s egregious. And it cancels out the enjoyment!”
Miranda, born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, wrote in the statement about the origins of his first major play.
“I started writing ‘In the Heights’ because I didn’t feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us — ALL of us — to feel seen.”
“Thanks for your honest feedback,” Miranda wrote. “I promise to do better on future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”
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