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Rita Moreno defends Lin-Manuel Miranda amid 'In The Heights' whitewashing backlash: 'They're really attacking the wrong person'

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lin-manuel miranda and rita moreno collage at various step and repeats
Rita Moreno praised Lin-Manuel Miranda for bringing "Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America" amid "In The Heights" whitewashing controversy. Roy Rochlin/WireImage/ABC/Getty Images
  • Rita Moreno is defending Lin-Manuel Miranda amid "In The Heights" whitewashing controversy.

  • Social-media users pointed out the movie primarily features light-skinned Latinx actors as leads.

  • "It's like you can never do right, it seems," Moreno said while praising Miranda.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rita Moreno thinks viewers criticizing Lin-Manuel Miranda for whitewashing the lead roles in "In The Heights" are "really attacking the wrong person," arguing that Miranda has done a lot for on-screen Latinx representation in America.

After its June 10 release in theaters and on HBO Max, social-media users pointed out that "In The Heights" primarily features light-skinned Latinx leads and that most Black Latinx actors are cast as background actors.

During an appearance on "The Late Show" on Tuesday, Moreno defended Miranda (who produced "In The Heights" and co-wrote the Broadway musical of the same name) over the movie's choice to cast white-passing Latinx actors as most of the main characters.

"Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel? That really upsets me," Moreno told host Stephen Colbert.

"It's like you can never do right, it seems," she continued, while praising Miranda for "singlehandedly" bringing "Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness" to the American entertainment industry.

She added: "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. We are all colors in Puerto Rico."

Moreno, who is of Puerto Rican descent like Miranda, came to prominence playing Anita in 1961's "West Side Story" film adaptation.

That film has been criticized heavily in the past for whitewashing its ensemble cast, including having Russian-American actress Natalie Woods play Puerto Rican character, Maria. Moreno also told the "In The Thick" podcast in 2017 that she was forced to wear "extremely dark" makeup to play Anita.

Miranda promised 'to do better' after 'In The Heights' colorism backlash

Miranda issued a social-media apology Monday, saying he'd tried to "paint a mosaic" of the Latinx community through "In The Heights," but had "fallen short" in its representation of Black Latinx people.

"I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback," Miranda wrote in the apology. "I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted to represent with pride and joy."

"I'm learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I am listening," he added.

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Miranda echoed Monday's apology during his Tuesday appearance on "The Daily Show." He said he "totally understands" why viewers are upset at the lack of Afro-Latinx actors in leading roles in "In The Heights."

"All I want is for this neighborhood to feel seen, and if there's a segment of it that doesn't feel seen, and they're saying that, you have to acknowledge that and let it in," Miranda told host Trevor Noah.

"In The Heights" director Jon M. Chu, who recently acknowledged whitewashing in his earlier film "Crazy Rich Asians," also addressed the lack of Black Latinx actors in "In The Heights" while speaking with The Root's Felice León for a press junket ahead of the film's release.

"In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for those roles and we saw a lot of people," Chu said.

"We tried our best on all fronts of it," he continued. "I do think there's something to be said about sharing in experiences and me never trying to say, 'I know what I'm doing' but just to give room to everybody to speak up about what we're doing in that moment."

Read the original article on Insider