Rita Moreno Defends Lin-Manuel Miranda Amid Colorism Criticism: ‘Leave It Alone’

Acting legend Rita Moreno defended “In the Heights” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda on Tuesday and implored those criticizing the film for whitewashing to “leave it alone.”

In an interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” the PEGOT winner addressed complaints that the film based on the 2008 Broadway musical by Miranda did not properly represent the demographic in Washington Heights, the community on which it’s based. Namely, there’s been much backlash for a glaring lack of Afro Latinx representation alongside many light-skinned and white-passing actors, including Anthony Ramos and Leslie Grace.

Moreno asked Colbert if she could address the criticisms about Miranda, stressing that it “really upsets me” and emphasized that Miranda co-produced her documentary, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.”

“You can never do right, it seems. 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,” the Puerto Rican actor told Colbert.

Colbert interjected to ask if Moreno meant that the critiques were founded, but perhaps the criticism on Miranda was misplaced to which she clarified: “Well, I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone? 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.”

In response to Moreno’s remarks, many people ― including within the Afro Latinx community ― have said her opinions are “disappointing” and that “colorism doesn’t affect her.”

Moreno’s comments come after both the film’s director, John M. Chu, and Miranda himself addressed the controversy.

Speaking to The Root’s Felice León about the colorism criticisms in a video interview last week, Chu said: “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 went on to add that he thinks it’s a “really good conversation to have, something that we should all be talking about.”

Miranda issued a statement on social media on Monday, admitting he heard “the hurt and frustration” the film had prompted and said: “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.”

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