Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda issued a public apology in response to criticisms over the lack of Afro-Latino actors in the new film “In The Heights,” based on the hit musical he co-created.
In a lengthy message posted on Twitter, Miranda addressed the controversy sparked by the fact that light-skinned actors were cast in most of the roles of the musical’s main Latinx characters. The neighborhood the film and the musical take place in, Washington Heights in New York City, has a strong Afro-Latino community, but it was relegated to the background in the movie, according to some critics.
Here’s Miranda’s full statement, as posted on his twitter feed:
The cast of the film version of the hit Broadway musical, Miranda’s breakout stage hit, only includes one Afro-Latinx performers in a key role, Leslie Grace as “Nina.” The rest were mainly background and dance performers. One of the main characters in the story, Benny, is Black and is portrayed by Corey Hawkins, who is not Latino.
The lack of representation for a key section of the Latino community was brought up in an interview with the film’s director Jon M. Chu and the cast for The Root.
Chu said this about the casting controversy:
“It’s definitely something we talked about. And I needed to be educated about [it], of course. In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for those roles specifically. … I think it’s a really good conversation to have, it’s something we all should be talking about.”
Miranda, who did not take part in that interview with The Root, not only appears in a small role in the film but he’s also one of the producers on the project. Given the superstardom he gained off the phenomenal success of Hamilton: The Musical, he is in many ways the public face for “In the Heights.”
Despite the casting criticism, the musical has earned rave reviews from critics and audiences in part because of its positive representation of Latino culture. The Tony Award-winner wrote that he is trying to balance that joy with an understanding of where the movie didn’t measure up.
“I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings.”
Not everyone feels he had anything to apologize for. CNN political commentator Ana Navarro defended Miranda, saying he was ahead of the curve casting brown-skinned actors for “Hamilton” and shouldn’t be expected to carry the expectations of the entire Latino community on his creative shoulders.
Miranda’s apology was also discussed in detail on The View.
Others agreed with Navarro.
Bottom line-NO ONE MOVIE can represent any and all in a Latino or any other community. The controversy is ridiculous and I’m so sick to death of the endless “it’s never enough” from EVERYONE.@Lin_Manuel is a great creative among many great creatives from all communities.— BonFire&Ice (@TEAMServicesNY) June 15, 2021
Still others noted how the film, whose screenplay was penned by “In the Heights” co-creator Quiara Alegria Hudes, added a minor yet timely subplot involving DACA and the path to legal status for immigrants.
However, Carmen Phillips of the LGBTQ women’s news site Auto Straddle, pointed out the movie also excised an important story thread from the 2008 musical involving Nina’s dad (played by Jimmy Smith in the film) that involves colorists in the Latino culture.
Personally speaking, I cannot get past the storytelling decision of In the Heights to cut the plot about Nina’s dad being anti-Black towards Benny, a key part of the play. If we’re going to tell Latinx stories, we should be honest about colorism and racism in our communities.— Carmen Phillips (@carmencitaloves) June 13, 2021
By removing that storyline, Phillips argues that “In the Heights” missed the chance to tackle a relevant issue among the community it set out to celebrate.
The decision to cut the plot of Nina’s dad being anti-Black from the play and the online conversations about colorism in the movie are of the same coin; In the Heights had an opportunity to say something important about race in our communities and it didn’t. Flat out.— Carmen Phillips (@carmencitaloves) June 13, 2021