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"In The Heights" Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda Apologized For A Lack Of Dark-Skinned Afro-Latino Actors In The Film

"I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback," Miranda said.

Posted on June 14, 2021, at 9:02 p.m. ET

Evan Agostini / AP

Lin-Manuel Miranda apologized Monday in response to criticism that Afro-Latinos were underrepresented in his new film In The Heights, particularly dark-skinned actors in lead roles.

Based on New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood, the movie was initially celebrated for putting Latino stories at the forefront and giving Afro-Latino culture a rare spotlight in Hollywood. But after the film premiered in theaters and on HBO Max, many critics took issue with the lack of dark-skinned actors in leading roles.

I won't watch In The Heights. Why are AfroLatinas who look like me excluded from the lead? Have y'all ever been to Washington Heights? We're not all White Adjacent. When will they stop erasing us? Representation matters. Our Black is beautiful y somos Latinas tambien.

Twitter: @lynnv378

For some, it was a reopening of wounds for dark-skinned members of the Latino community who are often excluded from television and movie productions.

if the movie is set in mexico? white/mestizo actors! texas? white/mestizo actors! cuba (large black population)? white/mestizo actors? los angeles? white/mestizo actors! WASHINGTON FUCKING HEIGHTS????????? white/mestizo actors! so……. WHEN? when do u include black latinos????

Twitter: @thecityofjules

Go watch Novelas. I used to watch them & still do. Afrolatinos(as) were the maid, janitor, or some shit & were rarely in the lead. They did this with In The Heights. Y'all don't have to agree. I've experienced this erasure & colorism my entire life. I know what it looks like.

Twitter: @lynnv378

Colorism and anti-Blackness is pouring outta ppl. Asking for Afro-Latinx representation in a film about a community they are prevalent in is NOT a huge request. Don’t say your film is abt WASHINGTON HEIGHTS then. Say it’s about the light-skinned community in Washing Heights.

Twitter: @DarkSkyLady

In all of this “In the Heights” discourse, I hope y’all amplify the voices and analysis of *dark-skinned Black Latinas* who constantly bear the brunt of misogynoir, anti-Blackness and xenophobia in Latin America and the US. I’m TIRED of my sisters being erased. why aren’t you?

Twitter: @aliciasanchez

The criticism was amplified after director Jon Chu defended the movie by noting how many of the backup dancers were Afro-Latino.

"Did you not see that in the dancer as well?" Chu told the Root's Felice León when asked about the lack of representation in lead roles.

León pointed out that those kinds of roles have already been filled by dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in the past.

"We've been able to be the dancers, and we've been able to in the hair salons, and this and that, but a lead, that's the breakthrough," she said. "We want to see Black people in The Heights."

For some, the lack of representation especially stung since the film depicted a community with Dominican, Panamanian, Cuban, and Puerto Rican ancestry, many of whom have darker skin.

"When we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for those roles specifically," Chu said, admitting that casting a more accurate representation of Latinos "is a really good conversation to have."

"I hope at least that encourages more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right, then," he added.

Chu's statements did little to curb much of the criticism.

The In The Heights cast pointing out the Black Latinos in the movie

Twitter: @I_Hate_Ted_Cruz

Miranda, who wrote and starred in the original Tony-winning musical of the same title, weighed in Monday, saying he had heard the criticism around Afro-Latino representation sparked by the film.

"I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback," he wrote. "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."

Twitter: @Lin_Manuel

Miranda also apologized, saying the filmmakers "fell short."

"I'm truly sorry," he added. "I'm learning from the feedback, and 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."

Chu retweeted the statement.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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