Lin-Manuel Miranda Responds to ‘In the Heights’ Colorism Complaints

New York, NY - November 30, 2019: Lin-Manuel Miranda attends American Express interactive Main Street shop celebrating 10th annual small business Saturday at 632 Broadway. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Lin-Manuel Miranda has issued an apology following criticism that his new film In the Heights intentionally excluded darker-skinned Black Latinx actors from the lead roles.

The movie musical is based on Miranda’s Tony Award-winning play by the same name and centers on New York City’s diverse Washington Heights neighborhood. Critics say the film relegated Black Latinx performers to the background while the main roles went to lighter skinned LatinX performers. Corey Hawkins, who is not Latino, is the only Black performer in the main cast.

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In response, Miranda issued a lengthy apology Monday on Twitter.

“I started writing In The Heights because I didn’t feel seen,” he wrote. “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 unseen in the feedback. I hear that, without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the world feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.”

Miranda went on to say he’s “learning” from the criticism.

“In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short,” he continued. “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. Thank you 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. Siempre, LMM.”

In the Heights received rave reviews from film critics, with a rare 96 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Warner Bros. release opened simultaneously Friday in theaters and on HBO Max, and had been expected to help lift the box office after a year of losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the results rolled in Sunday, the film’s earnings weren’t exactly something to sing about.

As previously reported, the movie earned $11.4 million over the weekend, despite getting a wide release in 3,456 locations. The film’s box office take was only about half of what analysts projected it would earn.

The big screen adaptation is directed by Jon M. Chu, who previously addressed colorism complaints about In the Heights in an interview with The Root.

“I think that was something we talked about and I needed to be educated about, of course. In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people that were best for those roles,” he said in an article published last week.

Social media users lit up Twitter over the weekend with some calling for a boycott of the film.

“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,” one person tweeted.

Another added on Twitter, “Dark skinned Afro-Latinx actors are put into boxes where they can’t even audition for Latinx roles. I’m so proud of being Black, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when we are literally written out of the narrative of our own communities’ stories b/c we aren’t in the room.”

Someone else tweeted, “In the Heights really said ‘oh yeah it’s in Washington Heights but we are gonna pretend afro latinos don’t exist and it’s just light skinned latinos’ is a format of colorism and misrepresentation. while i love this movie it’s upsetting that there’s 0 proper representation.”

Still, many people praised Lin-Manuel Miranda on Monday after he addressed the criticism, with his tweet generating more than 1,000 comments.