Director Jon M. Chu wanted a big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical In The Heights (out now!), which he pitched about five years ago. 

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It began with a dream. 

with 700 extras. Soon enough, he and writer Quiara Alegría Hudes were bopping around the barrio, with Miranda pointing out the best spots for café con leche.

Chu envisioned an extravaganza shot on location

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similarities to the immigrant Chinese American community in his native California. “All those details played into how we would eventually film.”

“It was amazing to get that kind of tour,” says Chu, who saw

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bodega owner whose sueñito (“little dream”) is to escape his block for a new life, to Hamilton veteran Anthony Ramos after a coffee chat turned teary. 

The director gave the role of protagonist Usnavi, a Dominican 

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“It was one of the most memorable meetings I’ve ever had,” says the actor.

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We got emotional
talking about the parallels from our childhoods and our parents’ upbringing.
There was this connection from the start.” 

on meeting In The Heights director Jon M. Chu

Anthony Ramos

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The cast had to sing, dance, laugh, cry, and sweat through huge-scale production numbers under a relentless New York sun during the summer of 2019.

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For Melissa Barrera, who plays Vanessa, Usnavi’s love interest, a moment of doubt crept in when she struggled with the steps for the song “The Club.” “I had to level up,” she says. “I was holding on to so much fear and I needed to let it out.”

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 shot in one day. Bringing extra emotion to the scene was Miranda, who has a small role as the dessert-dispensing Piragua Guy. 

The celebratory number “Carnaval Del Barrio” had to be 

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 “He’s looking down at hundreds of people who are employed because he wrote this show,” says Chu. “That’s what this whole journey was about.” When dreams come true.

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