Rita Moreno says she's "incredibly disappointed" in herself over In The Heights comments

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Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno

EGOT-winner Rita Moreno has issued a statement on social media tonight, saying that she’s “incredibly disappointed” in herself after comments she made on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert last night regarding the In The Heights colorism controversy. During the interview, Moreno brought up (apparently unprompted) criticism that’s been levied against the film for its lack of Afro-Latino representation, including specific critiques of her friend and sometimes collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Praising Miranda for bringing “Latinoness and Puerto Rican-ness to America,” Moreno stated that, “You can never do right, it seems…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. 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.”

Moreno has now said that she finds these comments—which were criticized online, and which stood in contrast to Miranda himself, who has apologized for the film’s handling of race and skin color—“clearly dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community.” While noting that she intended her statements on Colbert as a defense of Miranda (who, among other things, recently co-produced a new documentary about her), Moreno stated that, “It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others.”

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Questions about In The Heights’ casting and representation have been brewing since the film’s first trailer released online last year, but came into focus over the last week after our colleagues at The Root asked its stars and director about the topic. Director Jon M. Chu called questions about the film’s focus on actors with lighter skin “a fair conversation to have,” while also stating that “We’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We tried our best on all fronts of it.” Miranda issued a fuller apology, stating, among other things, that “I’m truly sorry. I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.”

In issuing her own apology, Moreno called out Miranda’s for praise, stating that, “In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In The Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward.” She ended on a joke, noting that, “See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks.”