Actress Rita Moreno came to the defense of her friend and colleague Lin-Manuel Miranda from colorism charges during her appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
The 89-year-old EGOT actress dismissed accusations that Miranda had under-represented darker-skinned actors in his just-released film, “In the Heights,” saying the criticism “really upsets me.”
Moreno discussed her own career in the interview as she brought attention to the backlash against Miranda, the creator of the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” While widely praised for his groundbreaking work on “Hamilton,” he is now drawing criticism from some quarters of the African-Latino community.
Miranda apologized on social media Monday for the lack of cast diversity after several cast members and the “In the Heights” film director, Jon Chu, expressed their disappointment and displeasure.
(Video: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
“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,” Miranda said in a statement posted to Twitter.
“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. 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,” Miranda continued. “In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry. I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.”
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) June 14, 2021
The musical, adapted from the Broadway show of the same name, features both lyrics and music written by the highly successful Miranda. Located in the far Upper West Side’s neighborhood of Washington Heights, the movie portrays characters attempting to achieve the American Dream of a better life.
After Moreno danced on stage on the late-night talk show, she settled down to more serious matters with the show’s host.
“Can we talk for a second about the criticism of Lin-Manuel?” she asked Colbert. “That really upsets me.”
“You can never do right, it seems,” she continued. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I’d love to say I did but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that really single-handedly.”
Asked if the colorism criticism of “In the Heights” was unfounded, Moreno lamented that critics were targeting the “wrong person” in Miranda.
“Well, I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” she said. “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 colors 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.”
Moreno, best known for her iconic role of the fiery and self-assured Anita in the 1961 film classic, “West Side Story,” explained that she “came from an era where there were no role models, none, there were no mentors and it took me forever to find someone I could model myself on.”
“And it turned out to be Anita. This was a Latina woman who had dignity, who had self-respect. I never got to play a Latina like that before,” she added.