Lin-Manuel Miranda is speaking out amid the criticism surrounding In the Heights. The movie adaptation of his hit Broadway musical centers on characters living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, and stars include Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, and Melissa Barrera. But Miranda and the filmmakers behind it are being accused of colorism, because the film is lacking in representation of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx people.
“I started writing In the Heights because I didn’t feel seen,” Miranda began a statement on Twitter on June 14. “And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us—ALL of us—to feel seen. 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.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda went on to say, “I’m truly sorry. 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. 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.”
The film’s director, Jon M. Chu, and cast members Melissa Barrera and Leslie Grace were asked about the colorism and casting choices within the film in an interview with The Root. Interviewer Felice León brought up “the lack of Black Latinx people represented” in the film and how the movie’s main cast are “light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people.”
“I think that that was something we talked about, and I needed to be educated about, of course,” Chu responded. “In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we were trying to get the people who were best for those roles and that specifically…. But 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.”
Grace added, “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 on screen…. 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.”