Update: Following a weekend of controversy, on June 14, Lin-Manuel Miranda released a statement on Twitter apologizing for In the Heights‘ lack of Black representation in lead roles. “I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, or feeling still unseen in the feedback,” Miranda wrote. “I hear that without sufficient 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.”
Miranda’s apology is his second attempt to address the movie’s backlash. His first response missed the mark, as he tried to make excuses for the film’s lack of comprehensive casting. See how he, director Jon M. Chu, and the film’s cast initially reacted to criticism in the story ahead.
Original story: The conversation surrounding In the Heights and its lack of Black representation started long before the movie’s release on June 11. When the trailer was first released back in December 2019, multiple Twitter users pointed out that the film didn’t seem to be realistic of the Washington Heights neighborhood since darker-skinned Black Latinx characters weren’t featured. Their concerns about Washington Heights, which is a predominantly Dominican neighborhood, are valid and highlight the issues of colorism and prejudice found within the community. “Latino is a very broad statement, but what it has done traditionally is weed out people that are Black inside that community,” actress Stephanie Beatriz said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. And she’s not the only one from In the Heights addressing the criticism.
In an interview with The Root on June 9, director Jon M. Chu’s response to the lack of Black Latinx representation shows just how far Hollywood still has to go when it comes to dealing with colorism on both a conscious and subconscious level. “In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get people who were best for those roles . . . But I hear you on trying to fill those cast members with darker skin,” he told Felice León. “I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories, and get out there and do it right then . . . We tried our best on all fronts of it.”
Melissa Barrera, who plays Vanessa in the film, discussed the audition process in the same interview. “In the audition process, which was a long audition process, there were a lot of Afro-Latinos there. A lot of darker-skinned people. They were looking for just the right people for the roles, for the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent,” she explained to The Root. “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.” Barrera’s response touched on the issue social media had…