Lin-Manuel Miranda Addresses In the Heights Afro-Latinx Representation Concerns

Miranda’s comments follow director John Chu, after critics called out the film for it’s lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx actors, misrepresenting the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood it’s celebrating.

It may not be quite as egregious as “Friends” and “Seinfeld” almost completely whitewashing New York City, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” is coming under scrutiny for its lack of accurate representation of the people who live in the Washington Heights neighborhood it celebrates.

In particular, both Miranda and the film’s director, John Chu, have responded to criticisms that the film offers up mostly lighter-skinned Latino stars — especially in lead roles — despite a strong presence of dark-skinned Afro-Latino people living in the community.

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“I’m seeing the discussion around Afro-Latinx representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latinx community don’t feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles,” Miranda wrote on social media.

“In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short,” he conceded. “I’m truly sorry.”

Miranda explained that he wrote “In the Heights” because he didn’t feel seen, and that it’s been his goal for the past two decades “for us — ALL of us — to feel seen.” And so, the feedback that this casting still left some feeling unseen resonated with him.

“I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening,” he wrote. He then promised to do better in the future, writing, “I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”

His comments came after some expressed frustration with Chu’s comments regarding the lack of Afro-Latinx representation in the film. The director was asked about it prior to the film’s release in an interview with The Root.

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While acknowledging that it was a worthy conversation to have, Chu told the outlet, “In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people that were best for those roles.”

“Listen, we’re not gonna get everything right in a movie, we tried our best on all fronts of it,” he added. “I do think there’s something to be said about sharing in experiences and me never wanting to say I know what I’m doing but to just give room to everybody to speak up about what we’re doing at that moment.”

Released on June 10 to theaters, and streaming on HBO Max, “In the Heights” came in second at the box office in its opening weekend behind “A Quiet Place Part II, underperforming expectations with $11.3 million. The film was initially projected to gross $25-35 million in its opening.

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