Viral interview showed director Jon M Chu struggling to explain the lack of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx people in the film
On 10 June, a viral interview with The Root’s host and producer Felice León saw her address the film’s director Jon M Chu – along with actors Melissa Barrera, Leslia Grace and Gregory Diaz – over the fact that most of the actors in his film are light-skinned or white-passing.
“What would you say to folks who say that In the Heights privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?” she asked.
Chu responded: “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 who were best for those roles.”
“I hear you on trying to fill those cast members with darker skin. I think that’s a really good conversation to have and something we should all be talking about,” he said.
Miranda, who served as co-producer and also wrote the Tony Award-winning musical upon which the film is based, has now shared his own statement.
“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colourism, or feeling still unseen in the feedback,” he wrote in a statement.
“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.”
The 41-year-old actor who is the film’s composer, lyricist, co-writer, and star admitted “he fell short” while “trying to paint a mosaic of this community”.
“I’m truly sorry,” he said.
“Listen, we’re not gonna get everything right in a movie, we tried our best on all fronts of it,” continued Mr. Chu. “I do think there’s something to be said about sharing in experiences and me never wanting to say I know what I’m doing but to just give room to everybody to speak up about what we’re doing at that moment.”