Rita Moreno Defends Lin-Manuel Miranda In Wake Of ‘In The Heights’ Controversy: “You Can Never Do Right, It Seems”

On Tuesday’s episode of The Late Show, Rita Moreno spoke out against criticism of Lin-Manuel Miranda that she said “really upsets” her.

“It’s like you can never do right, it seems,” said the screen legend.

Moreno worked with Miranda on her new documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, which charts her journey from humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to success on Broadway and in Hollywood. The criticism she’s referring to pertains to the lack of Afro-Latinx representation in Warner Bros.’ In the Heights, the film adaptation of his acclaimed Broadway musical, on which he served as composer, lyricist, producer, co-writer and star.

“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,” Moreno told Stephen Colbert. “Lin-Manuel has done that, really single-handedly, and I’m thrilled to pieces, and I’m proud that he produced my documentary.”

Colbert followed his guest’s comments up by asking what exactly her position is, as far as the In the Heights controversy itself. “I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” she remarked. “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, she said, “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.”

Directed by Jon M. Chu, In the Heights centers on Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a sympathetic New York bodega owner, who saves every penny every day, as he imagines and sings about a better life. In the film, Miranda plays the role of Piragüero.

The Tony-winning Broadway star took to social media yesterday to acknowledge the controversy surrounding him, and to make his thoughts on it known. “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 wrote. “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,” Miranda continued. “I’m truly sorry.”

Check out Moreno’s conversation with Colbert about Miranda below.

TONIGHT: Rita Moreno comments on the controversy surrounding her friend Lin Manuel Miranda and his film “In The Heights.” #LSSC pic.twitter.com/4cQcvviaLf

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) June 16, 2021

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