Screen legend Rita Moreno has jumped to the defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda, stating the criticism he has received following the release of In the Heights "really hurts" her. The EGOT actress, who was born in Puerto Rico and is probably best known for her role of Anita in West Side Story, spoke out about the criticism of Miranda by some complaining that the new film adaptation of the Broadway musical doesn't go far enough in its diversity, claiming there is a lack of representation for Afro-Latinos.
Moreno has recently worked with Lin-Manuel Miranda on her documentary Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It, the story of her rise from being an unknown girl in Puerto Rico to the Broadway stage and Hollywood glory. As part of her interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, the actress couldn't hold back on the subject of inclusion in the new movie and the industry in general.
"It's like you can never do right, it seems," Rita Moreno 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'm thrilled to pieces, and I'm proud that he produced my documentary."
The host questioned what her opinion was on the controversy around the movie, to which she responded, "I'm simply saying, can't you just wait a while and leave it alone? There's a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. This is how it is, and it would just be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and left that alone, just for now. They're really attacking the wrong person."
Miranda has already apologized to anyone who feels that the movie did not managed to portray the right representation. In a statement he said, "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," he said. "I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latinx 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."
The subject of racial inclusion is becoming harder to negotiate for anyone working in movies and TV, with many different factors to be considered while trying to develop a realistic cast in what is usually a limited number of prominent roles. With more emphasis put on color-blind casting by the likes of Netflix in their recent period drama Bridgerton and the upcoming Persuasion and a lot of effort seemingly going towards attempting to show a greater diversity in new productions, the fact that a movie like In The Heights, which has tried hard to be inclusive of all, can still gain so much criticism suggests that this is an issue that is still a long way from resolved.