Lin-Manuel Miranda is a 41-year-old actor, singer, songwriter, and playwright that was born in Washington Heights, New York, where the musical “Into the Heights” is set.
Best known for creating and starring in the critically acclaimed musical, “Hamilton,” his new musical drama “Into the Heights” tells the stories of different members of the Washington Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan in New York City.
Each of the characters has a common goal of enriching their community, while at the same time, pursuing their own dreams and passions.
Even though stars like Rita Moreno credit Miranda as “the man who literally brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America,” other fans felt that Miranda did not do enough to bring diversity to the big screen.
Even though “Into the Heights” has a cast that is primarily comprised of Afro-Latinx individuals, many pointed out that many of the characters that had notable roles on-screen were light-skinned.
Even actress Leslie Grace, who played the role of Nina Rosario, admitted that there could have been more done to increase the levels of diversity portrayed in Washington Heights.
She explained, “I 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 on screen.”
In a Twitter statement, Miranda apologized to “many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community [who] don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles.”
Miranda continued, “I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling 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.”
He admitted, “in trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short.”
Although it appears that some fans were not satisfied with the amount of diversity on screen, apparently the auditions process contained actors from all backgrounds.
Melissa Barrera, who plays Vanessa in the movie, mentioned that “in the audition process – which was a long audition process – there were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people, and I think they were looking for just the right people for the roles, for the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent.”
Director Jon M. Chu admitted that while they didn’t get everything right, they tried their best.
“Listen, we’re not going to get everything right in a movie, we tried our best on all fronts of it,” he said. “I do think there’s something to be said about sharing in experiences and me never trying to say I knew, I know what I’m doing, but to just give room to everybody to speak up about what we’re doing at that moment.”
If anything, he hopes the musical will open a dialogue and encourage others to “tell more stories” about the Afro-Latinx community.
Keep scrolling to read more about the lessons that Miranda says he learned during the 2020 pandemic!