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Warner Bros.’ adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical In the Heights has been promoted as a long-overdue corrective to the underrepresentation of Latinos in Hollywood. And yet, during the film’s opening weekend, discussion trended online over the movie’s failure to accurately represent its namesake neighborhood’s Afro-Latino population.
On Sunday, a video from The Root went viral in which host and producer Felice León confronted director Jon M. Chu and actors Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Gregory Diaz IV over colorism in the film’s casting choices: “What would you say to folks who say that In the Heights privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?”
Chu acknowledged that it was “a fair conversation to have,” adding, “I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right.”
“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 onscreen,” said Grace, the only Afro-Latina among the principal cast. “So many times we’re put onscreen in one particular way, and since we get so little opportunities, everyone wants to claim that one story because it’s all we’ve got.”
On Monday afternoon, Miranda responded to the criticism. “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,” he wrote in a message posted to Twitter. “I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.”
Read Miranda’s full message below.
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.
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 still 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.
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.
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.
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