Lin-Manuel Miranda Apologizes for Colorism in In The Heights: 'I Promise to Do Better'
"In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short," Lin-Manuel Miranda said in a statement
Miranda, who produced and stars in the film which is based on his smash Broadway hit, posted an apology after 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.
"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," Miranda, 41, wrote in a statement on Twitter Monday. "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."
Miranda continued, "I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling 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."
The writer and composer added that "in trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short."
"I'm truly sorry," he wrote. "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. Siempre, LMM."
Last week, Chu and actresses Barrera, 30, and Grace, 26, discussed were asked about colorism and the lack of Afro-Latino actors in leading roles within the film in an interview with The Root's Felice Léon.
León, who described herself as a "Black woman of Cuban descent," asked Chu, Barrera and Grace about "the lack of Black Latinx people represented" in the film considering the movie's main cast "were light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people."
"Yeah, I mean I think that that was something we talked about and I needed to be educated about, of course," Chu, 41, 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, and we saw a lot of people, people like Daphne [Rubin-Vega], or Dascha [Polanco]."
"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," he added.
Grace, who plays Nina in the film, said, "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 didn't realize how much that affected the limitations I put on myself, being someone who wanted to be an artist and be an actress and even be in the Latin music industry, being Afro-Latina," she continued. "I feel so blessed that I get to express the diversity that is within the Latinx community in a way that we haven't been able to see onscreen because 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 got."
"I hope that this is cracking that glass ceiling," Grace said. "Because I do hope to see my brothers and sisters that are darker than me lead these movies."
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Barrera, who plays Vanessa in the movie, added, "I think it's important to note, though, that in the audition process — which was a long audition process — there were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people, and I think they were looking for just the right people for the roles, for the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent."
"And I think we are all very much like our characters, so much so that a lot of times it didn't even feel like we were acting, they just kind of let us live in there," Barrera continued. "And because the cast ended up being us, and Washington Heights is a melting pot of Black and Latinx people, Jon and Lin wanted the dancers and the big numbers to feel very truthful to what the community looks like."
Chu added later in the interview that he hopes people are encouraged to "tell more stories" that star Afro-Latinx actors.
"Listen, we're not going to get everything right in a movie, we tried our best on all fronts of it," he said. "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."
In The Heights is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.