Puerto Rican star Rita Moreno has defended new musical film In the Heights from accusations of colourism.
Appearing on The Late Show, Moreno said criticism of Lin-Manuel Miranda – who wrote the music and lyrics for the original musical, as well as producing and starring in the film – “really upsets” her.
The criticism has focused on the film’s lack of darker-skinned Afro-Latinx actors in lead roles. Over the weekend, a viral video from The Root showed host and producer Felice León confronting director Jon M Chu, and actors Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV over the film’s casting.
During the interview, Chu acknowledged that the conversation was a “fair” one to have, adding that he hopes more people will be encouraged to “tell more stories and get out there and do it right”.
However, Moreno, who worked with Miranda on her documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, praised him for his championing of the Latin and Puerto Rican communities.
“You can never do right, it seems,” she said. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I mean, I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that, really single-handedly and I was thrilled to pieces and I’m proud that he produced my documentary.”
She was asked by host Stephen Colbert if she meant that, while she understood why the film was being criticised, the critiques were misplaced by focusing on Miranda.
“Well, I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” she responded. “There’s a lot of people who are Puerto Rican who are also from Guatemala who are dark and who are also fair.
“We are all colours in Puerto Rico. This is how it is. It would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and left it alone, just for now. They’re really attacking the wrong person.”
Miranda posted a message on his social media addressing the criticism and offering an apology.
“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colourism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback,” he said. “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.”