"In the Heights" is continuing to stir backlash, prompting an apology from producer Lin-Manuel Miranda for the lack of Afro-Latino representation in the movie, as well as a controversial defense from Rita Moreno which was then also followed by an apology.
During the musical's opening weekend, people on social media discussed issues of colorism in the movie. On Sunday, The Root's report "Let's Talk About In the Heights and the Erasure of Dark-Skinned Afro-Latinx Folks" and video interview went viral on Twitter and on Monday, Miranda addressed the criticism.
"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, particularly among the leading roles," wrote Miranda about the film adaptation of his play set in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. "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."
Miranda elaborated on how he can do better in terms of representation for the Afro-Latino community while appearing on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" Tuesday and a live Q&A with Amazon Live Music Wednesday.
"Theres so much Afro-Latinidad in the movie, the beef really was specifically dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in leading roles … and I totally understand that and I receive it and I just have to do better on the next one," he said on "The Daily Show," adding he wants "this neighborhood to be seen."
Rita Moreno apologizes after being criticized on social media for the way she defended the film
On Tuesday's episode of "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," Moreno came to Miranda’s defense. "Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel?" Moreno asked. "That really upsets me."
Moreno, who appeared on Colbert's show to promote her documentary "Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It," added that it seems "you can never do right."
She continued: "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."
When asked if she believed the criticism was "misplaced" toward Miranda, Moreno responded: “Well I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?”
"There’s a lot of people who are Puertorriqueños, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair," she said. "We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is, and it would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and just left it alone, just for now. I mean, they’re really attacking the wrong person."
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists denounced Moreno's comments Wednesday, calling it "unacceptable."
"Remarks made by Rita Moreno last night are unacceptable. There is no time to wait. The Latino community cannot dismiss colorism and must actively fight anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. We must demand visibility now," the organization tweeted.
Others on Twitter also criticized Moreno's pithy response.
"Colorism is such a problem among Latinos. As a 'darker' Mexican, I’m tired of the Euro-looking Mexicans in novelas," wrote @SoniaMGrey. "As someone who has lived in NYC for a decade, Afro-Latino representation seems like a no brainer. We’ve given these issues plenty of 'time.' We need action."
User @TheDadLaws wrote that Moreno is a "national treasure" but was "so very wrong here."
"Casting is part of the immutable core of good filmmaking. The omission of #AfroLatinos from media is intentional. And pervasive. And disgusting. I don’t know why but I expected so much more from #LinManuelMiranda," the tweet read.
Moreno issued a statement on Twitter Wednesday taking accountability for her take on the lack of Afro-Latino representation in the movie.
"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," her tweet read. "It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others."
The actress added that in celebrating Miranda 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. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks."
Why 'In the Heights,' Lin-Manuel Miranda are facing backlash
"Hamilton" playwright Miranda went on in his statement Monday about the predominantly Latino "In the Heights" cast, featuring Anthony Ramos, of Puerto Rican descent, in the lead role: "I'm trying to hold a space for both incredible pride in the movie we made, and be accountable for our shortcomings."
Author of The Root's article Felice León addressed the film's casting choices in a video interview with director Jon M. Chu and actors Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Gregory Diaz IV. She asked: "What would you say to folks who say that 'In the Heights' privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?"
"I hear you on, you know, trying to fill those cast members with darker skin. I think that’s a really good conversation to have," Chu responded, later adding: "I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right."
Grace, who plays Nina Rosario and identifies as Afro-Latina, added that she 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."
León also took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the film's lack of "leading Black Latinx ppl," adding that "there are plenty of Black dancers & Black women in the hair salon — go figure."
"Anti-Blackness in Latinidad is pervasive and leaving out darker Afro-Latinx ppl #InTheHeights continues this legacy," León added.
"The bottom line I can root for my community and still address colorism, classism etc," Woods wrote. "There are 33 counties in Latin America. (One) thing is true, that many of us are still struggling to be seen."
Roxane Gay, author of "Bad Feminist," wrote on Twitter, "I enjoyed the movie/love the musical. But it makes no sense to erase the AfroLatinx community who should have been broadly represented in lead and secondary roles. It’s egregious. And it cancels out the enjoyment!"
Miranda wrote in the statement about the origins of his first major play.
"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."
"Thanks for your honest feedback," Miranda wrote. "I promise to do better on 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."
Contributing: Pamela Avila, Jenna Ryu
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'In the Heights': Rita Moreno and Lin-Manuel Miranda apologize