Rita Moreno defended Lin-Manuel Miranda after critics of In The Heights claimed there was a lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in the film’s cast. The movie tells the story of a Washington Heights, New York neighborhood where generations, on the brink of change, lean on one another to tell their stories and assist each other through life. Set over three days, a vibrant Latino community comes together when a lottery ticket changes the life of one resident.
Moreno appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to promote her documentary, Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, produced by Miranda. During their discussion, she brought up the controversy which came after the film’s director Jon Chu answered questions regarding the film’s casting decisions. Moreno defended Miranda and his love letter to a neighborhood, whom she said had done more to introduce Latin culture into America than anyone else thus far.
“You can never do right, it seems. This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly, and I’m thrilled to pieces and I’m proud that he produced my documentary. 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. I mean, they’re really attacking the wrong person.”
On June 14, Miranda responded to critics who felt he did not accurately portray all Latinos via his casting in the film. He apologized in a lengthy Twitter post where he explained that the movie’s producers fell short in trying to paint a mosaic of the community. Miranda said he was sorry and was listening to the feedback regarding casting issues and promised to do better in his future projects.
Moreno, the only living EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner who won all four of her awards for her performances, has been an icon in the Latin community since playing the role of Anita in West Side Story. Her frustration at the response to a film that celebrates the Latinx community likely comes from years of paving the way for those in her community to be fairly represented, only to see this type of unfavorable response. In The Heights may have its shortcomings, according to critics, but the good the musical has done to celebrate the Latin community far outweigh any negative commentary.
Source: The Late Show With Stephen Colbert