Rita Moreno Defends Lin-Manuel Miranda Amid In the Heights Colorism Backlash: "Leave It Alone"

After her friend Lin-Manuel Miranda received criticism for the casting of his film In the Heights, Rita Moreno defended the Tony winner in no uncertain terms.

By Ryan Gajewski Jun 17, 2021 3:41 AMTags
Watch: Lin-Manuel Miranda Responds to "Hamilton" Criticism

UPDATE: Rita Moreno has apologized for her recent defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights.

The star took to Twitter on Wednesday, June 16 to post that she's "incredibly disappointed" in herself for what she told Stephen Colbert the night before on his show. 

"While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Colbert Show last night, I was clearly dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community," she wrote. "It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others."

Rita added in a follow-up tweet, "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. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks."


Rita Moreno has a lot to get off her chest surrounding the backlash toward Lin-Manuel Miranda's film In the Heights.

The 89-year-old Puerto Rican acting legend was a guest on The Late Show on Tuesday, June 15, where host Stephen Colbert asked if she'd ever struggled with being an icon for her community, and she said she never had. But this led the star to bring up a related topic that appeared to be weighing on her, which was the recent criticism of the lack of Afro-Latinx performers in lead roles for In the Heights

"Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel? That really upsets me," the One Day at a Time star shared. "You can never do right, it seems. This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rico-ness to America. I couldn't do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn't."

She continued, "Lin-Manuel has done that, really, singlehandedly, and I'm thrilled to pieces, and I'm proud that he produced my documentary." Rita was referring to Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, a documentary about her life that is set to be released later this month and counts the Hamilton mastermind as an executive producer.

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When Stephen asked if Rita was saying she understood the concerns but found them to be "misplaced," the West Side Story actress further explained herself.

She replied, "I'm simply saying, can't you just wait a while, and leave it alone? Here's a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, 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. It would be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and left it alone just for now."

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Rita concluded with, "They're really attacking the wrong person," which was met with applause. 

On Monday, June 14, Lin-Manuel posted an apology to social media following recent criticism on Twitter of the film adaptation of the Tony-winning 2008 musical. The show featured a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel.

"In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short," the 41-year-old Mary Poppins Returns performer shared in part. "I'm truly sorry."

This story was originally published June 16, 2021 at 12:35 a.m. PST.

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