Rita Moreno 'Disappointed' in Herself for Dismissing' In the Heights' Colorism Criticism

"I was clearly dismissive of Black lives that matter in our Latin community," Rita Moreno said

Rita Moreno says she is "disappointed" in herself for being "dismissive" of the Black Latinx community while she was defending Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has recently faced criticism for colorism in the film adaptation of his Tony-winning musical, In the Heights.

On Wednesday, the 89-year-old actress issued a statement on Twitter saying that she was "disappointed" in herself for comments she made on Tuesday's episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

"I'm incredibly disappointed with myself. While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Colbert Show last night, I was clearly dismissive of Black lives that matter in our Latin community," Moreno said. "It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others."

Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno.

"In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In The Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward," the Oscar winner continued.

Moreno concluded her statement, "See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks - RITA."

On Tuesday, Moreno had lamented over the colorism criticism Miranda, 41, was experiencing.

"You can never do right, it seems," she told Colbert, 57. "This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn't do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn't. Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly and I'm thrilled to pieces, and I'm proud that he produced my documentary [Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It]."

When asked by Colbert whether she understood "where people's concerns come from" and whether she thought the criticism against Miranda specifically was "misplaced," the actress replied, "I'm simply saying, 'Can't you just wait a while and leave it alone?' "

"There's a lot of people who are Puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico," Moreno said. "This is how it is, and it would be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and left it alone, just for now. I mean, they're really attacking the wrong person."

Rita Moreno and <a href="https://people.com/tag/lin-manuel-miranda/" data-inlink="true">Lin-Manuel Miranda</a>
Rita Moreno and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Miranda — who produced and stars in In the Heights — posted an apology Monday 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," he wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. "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."

"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."

"In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short," the Hamilton star continued. "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," Miranda concluded. "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."

in the heights
Macall Polay

Chu, 41, was asked by The Root's Felice Léon, who described herself as a "Black woman of Cuban descent," 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."

The director said that it was something that had been discussed and that he "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 and that specifically, and we saw a lot of people, people like Daphne [Rubin-Vega], or Dascha [Polanco]," he said.

Chu added, "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."

In The Heights is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

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