In the Heights: Lin-Manuel Miranda Says “It’s Never a Bad Time to Remind People of Our Humanity” as He Releases New Film | Ents & Arts News
“In the Heights, it costs more every day.”
That’s the message from the fictional residents of the real Washington Heights community in New York City – central to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s latest version.
Already synonymous with Hamilton’s record (which is set to hit Broadway and West End again), Miranda’s debut musical, Tony-winning In The Heights, shines a light on the struggles – and the joys – of living in this predominantly Latino community in the Big Apple.
It first aired on Broadway in 2008 – but now 13 years later the unique issues facing the community remain the same – a reflection on society in the real world.
In just two hours and 20 minutes, we hear about undocumented immigrants, Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) raids, racism, gentrification and poverty in this diverse neighborhood – along with the joy and excitement. of a community about which we speak so little in mainstream cinema.
And it wouldn’t be a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical without its rap numbers, comedic relief, big dance breaks, and catchy pop tunes.
“It’s never a bad time to remind people of our humanity,” Miranda, who grew up in the real Washington Heights, told Sky News when asked why now is the time to wear this musical. on the big screen.
He added: “It will always be relevant.
“There is such a low portrayal of Latinos in a positive light in the mainstream media that it will always feel like the perfect time because it is always late.
“We filmed this in the summer of 2019 and the poignant nature and the power of seeing people in community together, like singing, kissing and kissing, dancing in the streets is the power of what we can do together , I think it really shines on the screen, and like the kids say, “it’s different” now than before. “
Subscribe to the Backstage podcast on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Streamer
Miranda is one of the most requested people in showbiz – following on from his record and groundbreaking musical Hamilton, he’s written songs, starred in movies, and played characters for a number of projects.
And it doesn’t end there – he’s soon making his directorial debut with Netflix’s Tick, Tick … Boom and he’s on board for the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
In The Heights, which has an all-Latino artist cast and was co-written with Quiara Alegría Hudes, centers around Usnavi (named after the time his father spotted a US Navy ship sailing near their country of origin, the Dominican Republic), who dreams of abandoning his bodega (or convenience store for us the British) and flying to the Caribbean.
He is played by Anthony Ramos, who British fans may be familiar with, again, from Hamilton, where he played John Laurens and Philip Hamilton.
“Usnavi is a guy who cares about his community, ”he told Sky News.
“He takes care of his cousin, he takes care, it’s not really his grandmother, but the matriarch of the block, if you will, and of the community.
“Both of his parents are deceased, he inherited a business he did not ask for, but he does so with as much grace as possible.”
He adds that the character is accessible to everyone, saying, “Who hasn’t been there? Where you have days with good, bad ones. It’s just a story about the community and the people. lovers, and family and music and culture. “
Ramos describes his character as the “invisible thread” that runs through the film as we meet the people of Washington Heights trying to get through their lives – whether it’s living room gossip, his cousin Sonny dealing with his immigration status or Abuela Claudia, who just wants to take care of the OR.
Sonny, Usnavi’s cousin and assistant in his bodega, is an undocumented citizen – a story that has gained prominence over the past decade in the United States due to heated debates around border crossings – with around 10 million people living in the country without the paperwork.
However, Gregory Diaz III, who plays Sonny, told Sky News that despite issues with his character’s immigration status, he wanted to portray the good in his life.
He said: “Not wanting (his immigration status) to be something that defines him or something that holds him back – that’s something that Sonny and I want to together uplift and really push these positive messages forward. “
And he has his chance on screen, delivering a mighty rap during music number 96,000, claiming that if he wins the lottery he will invest in education and technology, adding: “Politicians hate racism. in this nation has gone from latent to blatant, I’m going to cash my ticket and my picket, invest in the protest, never lose my focus until the city sees it. “
Elsewhere in the film, the characters Vanessa and Nina also reflect on their experiences living in Washington Heights – both having to deal with racism at some point in the film.
Nina is the first in her family, and everyone she knows, to go to college (at Stanford nonetheless) with her family sacrificing the business to help her – but she gives up amid fears that she be racially profiled by those around her, sharing a story of how she was falsely accused of stealing from her roommate on day one.
His father, Kevin, who is played by West Wing and Star Wars actor Jimmy Smits, secretly sells his cab company to a wealthy developer (who is slowly taking control of the whole block, setting the price for the community local) to bring her back – but it’s Sonny’s story that makes him want to return to California.
Vanessa dreams of being a fashion designer and has saved up a deposit (in cash) for an apartment in downtown Manhattan where she can work – but when she goes to hand over the money, she is told her credit is gone. not good enough, despite having cash and rent in advance, before a seemingly middle-class white couple were greeted at the property instead.
Melissa Barrera, a Mexican music and TV star, who plays Vanessa, told Sky News: “I think it reflects how a lot of things haven’t changed in a very long time and how some communities continue to feel ostracized, especially in countries where they are in the minority.
“I think it’s time to see their stories told in a positive light and to honor and recognize the contributions of communities like these.”
Leslie Grace, who plays Nina, added: “I think it reflects that on a lot of things we still have a lot of work to do… but it’s also an aspiration in the sense that we can do it.”
By completing the set, we have:
• Salon girls, who share Heights gossip in their beauty salon (Brooklyn 99 fans will spot Stephanie Beatriz ditching the down-to-earth, gruff attitude of cop Rosa, for the excitable, hopping hairdresser Carla).
• Benny, played by Walking Dead actor Corey Hawkins, the only black character in the film who works for Nina’s father and is Usnavi’s best friend, dreams of going to business school. He worries the heights will become too expensive for the longtime community.
• Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of the community played by Olga Merediz, who performs a moving number about how her family came from Cuba, lived in relative poverty and did not stop working until the death of her parents .
Merediz, who also created the role of Abuela Claudia on Broadway in 2008, told Sky News: “I want everyone to see us and to see that we are like everyone else.
“We have dreams like everyone else. We are family focused, and we have our nannies or grandmothers, the stones of the family, the community, that we work hard, that we are happy, that we are passionate.“
The person bringing this unique film together is director Jon M Chu, who is perhaps best known as the man behind Crazy Rich Asians.
He told Sky News the film shows how people deal with issues presented to them, saying “the world is changing and we can’t fight it.”
Chu added, “I’m not from Washington Heights and I’m not Latino, yet it told me so personally about what it’s like to be raised by your family – not just by your parents or by your aunts and uncles – by your grandparents and the expectations they place on you and how difficult it can be to deal with and find your own way. “
But amid the political and emotional messages and struggles within the community, the film is packed with song, rap and dance.
At its heart it is a musical with great ensemble numbers (96,000, shot in a swimming pool, is already a fan favorite, as is the colorful carnival block scene), dance breaks thrilling and awesome visuals – something that is sure to make this one of the biggest movies of the summer.
Miranda sums it up by telling Sky News, “There is a very specific kind of weightless goosebumps that only musicals give me. I remember feeling it for the first time in the movies when I saw it. the Under The Sea number in The Little Mermaid … just feeling like, ‘oh my god, that’s a musical number underwater!’
“I will never forget the feeling of being a little lighter than air walking out of this cinema – I hope people leave our film feeling the same.”
In The Heights hits theaters across the UK on June 18 and tickets to Hamilton in the West End are on sale now.