Rita Moreno defends Lin-Manuel Miranda amid In the Heights colorism controversy: 'You can never do right, it seems'
"This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puetro Rican-ness to America," Moreno told Stephen Colbert.
While visiting The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, stage and screen legend Rita Moreno spoke out about the recent criticism surrounding the lack of Afro-Latino population in the musical adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, saying it "really upset her."
The actress appeared on Colbert to promote her new documentary Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It, which just premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and was co-produced by Miranda. Almost as soon as she sat down in the late night chair, she brought up the controversy over her friend.
"You can never do right, it seems," noted Moreno. "This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puetro Rican-ness to America. I couldn't do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn't. Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly and I'm thrilled to pieces and I'm proud that he produced my documentary."
When Colbert followed up, asking if Moreno understood the criticism but thought putting it on Miranda's shoulders was misplaced, the actress didn't back down from her defense.
"I'm simply saying, can't you just wait awhile and leave it alone? There's a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair," Moreno replied. "We are all colors in Puerto Rico. This is how it is and it would be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and left it alone, for now. They're really attacking the wrong person."
Controversy over the issue of colorism in In the Heights came to a head last weekend, when an interview from The Root went viral after director Jon M. Chu was confronted about the lack of Afro-Latino representation in the film and acknowledged that it was something "he needed to be educated about." On Monday, Miranda - the musical's creator, composer, and original star - responded in a lengthy social media post, addressing the criticism in his own words.
"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. In wanting to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short," Miranda wrote in a tweet. He also made it clear that he was listening to the feedback and promised that he would hold himself accountable for not doing better by his own community.
"I'm trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects," the actor wrote.