Anthony Ramos plays Usnavi in the film adaptation of In the Heights, a role Lin-Manuel Miranda originated on Broadway

By Ale Russian
December 12, 2019 11:24 AM
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For Anthony Ramos, taking over Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s In the Heights role for the anticipated big screen adaptation of the hit musical was deeply personal.

The actor, who has blown up since originating two roles in Miranda’s Broadway smash hit Hamilton, recently opened up about the responsibility of playing the film’s lead hero Usnavi. Ramos attended an event to tout the film in Washington Heights on Wednesday alongside Miranda, director Jon M. Chu, writer Quiara Alegría Hudes and the rest of the cast.

“I felt a huge responsibility, but I also didn’t feel any pressure,” Ramos, 28, said, explaining that the producers did their best to encourage him and the cast to bring their own personalities to the characters.

“The fact that Lin trusted me with this role means more than you’ll ever know, bro. Ever,” Ramos said to Miranda, 39, who was standing a few feet to his right.

The responsibility Ramos felt stemmed from how personal the material is to Miranda, who started writing the show about his life when he was 19. Usnavi’s love interest even shares a name with Miranda’s own wife, lawyer Vanessa Nadal. The two now share two sons: Sebastian, 5, and Francisco, 1.

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera in In the Heights
| Credit: Macall Polay

But the show is also special for Ramos, who was thinking about stepping away from acting and music until he caught a showing of Heights on Broadway before it closed.

“This show was the show I saw when I wanted to quit,” he told the crowd, growing emotional as he recounted his journey. “I remember my college was giving away tickets to this show, and it was closing and I hadn’t seen it yet. I went by myself and I sat in that seat, and it was the first time I saw a show where it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t only relate to these characters, I know them.'”

“I saw Usnavi and he’s a guy that has big dreams, but it feels like he’s in this box,” he continued. “His dreams are so big that he’s so scared of them, and I related to that. There’s so many people that told me no, so many reasons I shouldn’t be up here. But we’re here. And I don’t only feel that way about Usnavi, I feel that way about all these characters. I’m so grateful that we got to bring life to these people. ”

Ramos went on to star in Hamilton — where he met fiancée Jasmine Cephas Jones — and has since appeared as Lady Gaga‘s best friend in a Star Is Born.

In the Heights hits theaters summer 2020.