The movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway show, In the Heights, premiered this weekend, both in theaters and on HBO Max. Though a critical success, the film, which focuses on a group of people in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, has received criticism for its casting choices. Online discussions noted that the movie does not accurately represent the neighborhood's Afro-Latino population, favoring light-skinned and white-passing actors.
Miranda recently posted an apology on Twitter, after the film's director, Jon Chu, and cast members, Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace, were asked about colorism in an interview with The Root host and producer, Felice León. In the interview, Léon asked, "As a Black woman of Cuban descent, specifically from New York City, what would you say to folks who say that In the Heights privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?"
Leslie Grace, who is Afro-Latina and plays Nina, responded, noting, “I didn’t realize until making this movie that I didn’t really get to see myself or people that looked like my siblings, that are darker than me, onscreen.” She added, “I hope that this is cracking that glass ceiling. Because I do hope to see my brothers and sisters that are darker than me lead these movies.”
After the interview gained traction online, Miranda posted the following statement on his Twitter account on Monday, apologizing for the lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation in the film.
"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," Miranda wrote in his Twitter statement. "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 within it, particularly among the leading roles."
He continued: "In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I'm truly sorry. I'm learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I'm listening. I'm trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my 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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