Actress Rita Moreno is pushing back against critics of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” after the film and its creators were criticized for its lack of Afro-Latinx representation in major roles.
“You can never do right, it seems,” Moreno said in a Tuesday interview with “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert. “I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?”
“In the Heights,” the film adaptation of Miranda’s award-winning musical, debuted on June 11 and was criticized for casting light-skinned Latinx actors for the lead roles. Miranda first wrote the story in 1999 — an effort to show Latinx representation through the story of a summer blackout in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Miranda has since apologized and vowed to do better in his future projects.
Moreno, who is best known for her role as Anita in “West Side Story,” praised Miranda and said she was upset by the controversy surrounding the film. “Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel? That really upsets me. You can never do right, it seems,” she added. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I mean, I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t.”
The actress, who has won most major acting awards, has been extremely vocal on the role typecasting and racism played in the parts she received as a younger actress. When asked if the criticism was misplaced, Moreno said it focused on the wrong person.
“There’s a lot of people who are Puertorriqueno, who are also from Guatemala who are dark and also fair,” Moreno added. “We are all colors in Puerto Rico and that is how it is. It would be so nice if that hadn’t come up with that and had just left it alone just for now.”
Miranda, who is a co-producer on Moreno’s new documentary, made an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” on Tuesday, again apologizing for the casting decisions.
“I can’t legislate how people feel,” Miranda said. “Again, 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 that in.”
“There’s so much Afro-Latinidad in the movie. The beef really was specifically dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in leading roles,” he added. “You are hearing from this community that feels underrepresented, that is hurting… We made this thing and I’m proud of this thing. We don’t get to make things like this much.”
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