Lin-Manuel Miranda Admits In the Heights "Fell Short" of Representing Afro-Latinx Community

After In the Heights faced criticism for its lack of Afro-Latinx representation, Lin-Manuel Miranda addressed the backlash and apologized for his "shortcomings."

By Alyssa Morin Jun 15, 2021 12:32 AMTags
Watch: Lin-Manuel Miranda Responds to "Hamilton" Criticism

Lin-Manuel Miranda is addressing the backlash In the Heights has received.

Just last week, the movie adaptation of the 2008 Broadway musical—which was a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes and featured original lyrics by the 41-year-old star—faced criticism for its lack of Afro-Latinx representation.

After people expressed their disappointment on Twitter, which became a hot topic on the platform this past weekend, Lin-Manuel issued an apology.

"I started writing In the Heights because I didn't feel seen," the Hamilton creator began his statement on Monday, June 14. "And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us—ALL of us—to feel seen."

But despite his good intentions to celebrate the Latinx community, Lin-Manuel said he's recognizing where he and others "fell short" when adapting the musical for the big screen.

"I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, or feeling still unseen in the feedback," he continued. "I hear that without sufficient Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy. In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I'm truly sorry."

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Lin-Manuel reassured his fans that he's "learning from the feedback" and appreciates that this conversation is taking place.

As he explained, "I thank you for raising it, and I'm listening. I'm trying to hold space for both the incredible pride for the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback."

Mat Hayward/Getty Images for The Latinx House

The playwright and actor promised that moving forward, he plans to "do better" with his future projects.

He concluded his message, "I'm dedicated to learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community."

On Sunday, June 13, the movie became a trending topic on Twitter after an interview by The Root went viral on the platform. The outlet's Felice León spoke to director Jon M. Chu, as well as several of the cast members, including Leslie GraceMelissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV, on Wednesday, June 9.

During the interview, Felice asked Jon, who was previously called out for "whitewashing" Crazy Rich Asians, why there was a lack of Afro-Latinx representation in the film. He admitted it was a subject "I needed to be educated about."

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"In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get people who were best for those roles," he shared. "But I hear you on trying to fill those cast members with darker skin. I think that's a really good conversation to have, something that we should all be talking about."

Although Jon noted that they cast diverse background dancers, Felice pointed out why it would've been more powerful to cast Afro-Latinxs as the leads.

"Those are roles that, historically, we've been able to fill. We've been able to be the dancers, we've been able to be in the hair salons...but, like, a lead? That's the breakthrough," she explained. "We want to see Black people In the Heights. We wanna see Afro-Panamanians, Black Cubans, Black Dominicans. That's what we want to see. That's what we were yearning for and hoping for."

Jon responded, "I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories, and get out there and do it right then."

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Mexican actress Melissa Barrera, who plays Vanessa, touched on the subject as well and commented on the casting decisions. 

"In the audition process, which was a long audition process, there were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people. And I think they were looking for just the right people for the roles," she told Felice, adding, "And because the cast ended up being us, and Washington Heights is a melting pot of Black and Latinx people, Jon and Lin wanted the dancers and the big numbers to feel very truthful to what the community looks like."

Additionally, Leslie, who is Dominican-American and plays Nina, opened up about what it meant for her to star in the film.

"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 shared. "And I didn't realize how much that affected the limitations that I put on myself—being someone who wanted to be an artist, an actress and even be in the Latin music industry being Afro-Latina."

"I feel so blessed that we get to express the diversity that is within the Latinx community in a way that we haven't been able to see 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."

E! News previously reached out to reps for the cast members interviewed by The Root, as well as Jon and Warner Bros. Studios for comment. We haven't received a response.

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