Lin-Manuel Miranda apologises for lack of dark-skinned actors in 'In the Heights': 'I promise to do better'

The acclaimed playwright says he 'hears the hurt and frustration' over the big-screen adaptation of his hit musical

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Anthony Ramos in a scene from "In the Heights." (Warner Bros. via AP)
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The film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's uplifting Broadway musical hit In the Heights has received near-universal acclaim, but the playwright is now apologising for the movie's casting, after criticism that it only features light-skinned Latin American actors and actresses in main roles.

Miranda, best known for his record-breaking musical Hamilton, posted a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, saying: "I can hear the hurt and frustration over colourism, of feeling unseen.

"I hear that, without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the world 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. I'm truly sorry," the Grammy and Tony Award winner said.

"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 said.

"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.”

Set in the largely Dominican neighbourhood of New York City's Washington Heights, In the Heights is told over the course of three days, and centres on the dreams and struggles of its Latin American community. Hamilton star Anthony Ramos and singer Leslie Grace play the lead roles.

Last week, a video from online magazine The Root was widely circulated, which seems to have sparked conversations about representation in In the Heights.

“As a black woman of Cuban descent, specifically from New York City, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the fact that most of your principle actors were light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people,” host and producer Felice Leon told the film's director, Jon M Chu.

Chu, who also faced criticism for his lack of Asian diversity in his record-breaking film Crazy Rich Asians, said it was a good conversation to have.

"It's definitely something we talked about, and I needed to be educated about [it], of course,” Chu responded. “In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for those roles specifically.”

He said he hopes more people will be encouraged to "tell more stories and get out there and do it right".

In the Heights premiered on the opening night of the Tribeca Festival in New York City.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 09: Marc Anthony, Christopher Jackson, Mitchell Travers, Melissa Barrera, Jon M. Chu, Dascha Polanco, Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Gregory Diaz IV, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Nelson Coates, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Christopher Scott attend the opening night premiere of 'In The Heights' during 2021 Tribeca Festival at United Palace Theater on June 09, 2021 in New York City.   Noam Galai/Getty Images/AFP
The cast of 'In The Heights' attend the opening night premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Festival on June 9, in New York City. AFP

On Tuesday, Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno, star of the 1961 classic West Side Story, defended Miranda, saying the criticism "really upsets me".

"This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn't do it. I mean, I would love to say I did, but I couldn't," she told The Late Show host Stephen Colbert. "Lin-Manuel has done that, really single-handedly, and I'm thrilled to pieces.

"It's like you can never do right, it seems."

In his Twitter statement, Miranda said he was “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,” he said.

“Thank you 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 honouring our diverse and vibrant community."

In the Heights will be released in the UAE on Thursday, June 17


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