Lin-Manuel Miranda is apologizing and promising to do better after his latest project, a theatrical release of In The Heights, sparked discussions of colorism this past weekend.
Before he wrote Hamilton, Miranda made a name for himself in musical theatre with the smash, Tony-winning Broadway hit In The Heights. The musical revolves around three days in the life of Usnavi de la Vega (played by Miranda onstage and by Anthony Ramos in the big-screen adaptation), and his neighbourhood in New York’s Washington Heights.
Leading up to the film’s release, it was being celebrated as a movie that would finally depict Latinx communities in a real and meaningful way. However, over opening weekend, many viewers pointed out the film failed to accurately represent the real Washington Heights community as it chose to cast predominantly light-skinned and white-passing Latinx people.
The conversations prompted Miranda to respond with a very personal tweet to fans and followers on June 14, in which he apologized.
“I started writing In the Heights because I didn’t feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us – ALL of us – to feel seen,” he wrote. “I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles,” he continued.
“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned 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.”
The 41-year-old then promised to learn from the experience. “I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening. I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings,” he wrote.
“Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”
Miranda’s apology came after Felice León of The Root addressed the criticism straight on during an interview with director Jon M. Chu and stars Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Gregory Diaz IV, asking them what they would say to the criticism over the casting choices in a video that has since gone viral.
“Yeah, I mean I think that that was something we talked about and I needed to be educated about, of course. In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we were trying to get the people who were best for those roles,” Chu responded.
“I hear you on trying to fill those cast members with darker-skinned [actors]. I think that's a really good conversation to have, something that we should all be talking about,” he continued.
"Listen, we're not going to get everything right in a movie, we tried our best on all fronts of it," he added. "I do think there's something to be said about sharing in experiences and me never trying to say I knew, I know what I'm doing, but to just give room to everybody to speak up about what we're doing at that moment."
“I didn’t realize until making this movie that I didn’t really get to see myself or people that look like my siblings that are darker than me onscreen,” added Grace, who is the sole Afro-Latina within the leading cast. “So many times we’re put on screen in one particular way, and since we get so little opportunities, everyone wants to claim that one story because it’s all we’ve got.”
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