In The Heights' Olga Merediz has spent a decade with Abuela Claudia

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Olga Merediz has been with In The Heights since the beginning. Originating the role of Abuela Claudia in the show’s off-Broadway run way back in 2007, Merediz received a Tony Award nomination for her work in the show in 2008. She’s performed the character hundreds of times, and knows songs like “Pacienca y Fe” like the back of her hand. And yet, when it came time to bring In The Heights to the big screen, the actress had to rethink her approach what she’d always done, figuring out how to grow even more within the constraints of the work. As she tells us in the video above, it was hardest during the filming of her parts of “Pacienca y Fe.”

It was three days of shooting at three different locations in the subway, down three levels. The oxygen level was very thin. It was 100 degrees out with the prosthetics, the wig, and the makeup. I knew that it was difficult, but I knew that I had to bring it. I had to bring this number to match John Chu’s visual magic up from the way I did it on the stage to the movie. I would just breathe a lot, drink a lot of water and just, you know, meditation, visualization. I wanted it to be the best that I had ever done.

Merediz delivers, as anyone who sees the film will attest, and the rest is history. But it’s a history that Merediz was almost not a part of. As she told us, when Heights first started off-Broadway, “It was a much different story, different characters, different songs. I played a different role. I was telling my agents, “I don’t know about this show. These kids, they’re rapping. It’s got a lot of heart, though, so let’s just give it a try. Let’s do it.”

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There’s more from Merediz and her on-screen pal Jimmy Smits above, as well as bits from the whole cast of In The Heights in the video below.

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In The Heights hits theaters and HBO Max this Friday, June 11.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures