It’s been two years since the In The Heights cast spent a summer in Washington Heights filming the big screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit. In all it’s been almost 20 years since Miranda first envisioned a musical that represented the world he grew up in. “No one was was writing parts for people like him, so he wrote them,” In The Heights’ film director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) told reporters this weekend ahead of the release of two new trailers. “No one was writing parts for his community, so he wrote them.”
For over an hour on Saturday—during a conversation moderated by New York City radio personality Angie Martinez—Chiu, Miranda, writer/producer Quiara Alegría Hudes, and cast members Anthony Ramos (A Star Is Born, Hamilton), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton), singer/songwriter Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (Vida), Olga Merediz (Broadway’s In The Heights), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s Rent), Gregory Diaz IV (Broadway’s Matilda The Musical), Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Dascha Polanco (Orange Is The New Black) and Jimmy Smits (Sons Of Anarchy) detailed the film’s delayed journey to screens and the unique experience of filming on a set so full of Latin artists of all kinds. Watch the new trailers here, and read a few highlights from the conversation further below.
Quiara Alegría Hudes: I want to take it as an opportunity for people who already know and love musical to discover even new things in it, as opposed to try to make the same experience. Keep the heart and soul and add to it, and go new and surprising places too, so that you can have an even deeper experience if you already know it.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: I have to say, Jon, I think, dreamed bigger than any of us in terms of the size and scope of this. We spent our summer [of 2019] on 175th St. and Autobahn. You know, he was committed to the authenticity of being in that neighborhood.... And then also, when it comes to the production numbers, dreaming so big, I mean this is a big movie musical. I think we’re so used to asking for less—just to ask to occupy space, as Latinos. Like, let us make our little movie. And Jon, every step of the way, was like, ‘No. This is a big movie. These guys have big dreams. We’re allowed to go that big. And I’m just so thrilled with what he did because I think it’s bigger than any of us ever dreamed.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: When we’re first generation kids and we come from somewhere else, we always wonder what it would be like if our parents had stayed. You know, those questions of home being real personal. Like, what does home meant to me? And every character is sort of answering it in a different way. For some people, home is somewhere else. For some people, home is the block there. And so, you know, that’s that’s worth singing about. That’s worth celebrating in a movie this size.
Jon M Chu: I was so lucky to be invited into [Lin’s and Quiara’s] homes, literally—they’re all in Washington Heights. To meet the block, meet the people who they get their café con leche from, their piragua guy. All those things, I got to witness. And it reminded me, [as it did] when I saw the show on Broadway years and years ago, of my own upbringing—even though I was not from Washington Heights. I’m from the completely other side of the country, a Chinese family and a Chinese restaurant. I recognize all the love. I recognize the characters. I recognize the aunties and uncles who raise you and say, “I love you” by their food. And you have to decode everything that they’re putting on you from their own baggage, but then you have to pick up your own and make your own path. And I love that this story that they’ve created has no villain. It’s everyone’s internal struggle on the path they want to make to their future. And to me, that’s really what home is. This is not a destination. It’s the people around you on your journey, and everyone finds their own way and finds what home means to them in their own way. And all of that is okay.
Jon M. Chu: We’ve had a hard year, but this movie has so much joy, so much passion, so much community, so much hope in it, that I it pours out of every frame. And I think this trailer, this new brand new trailer, no one’s seen it, evokes that.... We call this trailer “Powerful,” as the, sort of, code code name for it. But actually, it’s power full. When you see this community, when you see these actors, when you see these people.... That’s all I can describe of what it feels like.
Quiara Alegría Hudes: It’s so fun and so thrilling. You know, growing up, the beauty standard I saw in magazines did not reflect the beauty standards I saw in abuela’s living room on the block, which had all different body types, all different hair textures, all different skin tones. And we would just celebrate it. And you would own it, who you were. I was it was the plucking, and the spraying, and everything. And it was also about just the spirit of celebration as you were getting ready or getting dressed, and the fun of that. And so, the opportunity to really say, “Well, here’s another notion of beauty that’s more expansive, and here’s how we take up space as we’re getting ready for the day.” It was so fun.
Stephanie Beatriz: Quiara and Jon really expanded on what Lin and Quiara originally created, and now they’re partners–and not just work partners but they’re life partners. And what was so gratifying to me, as a person who is queer, is to see this relationship in the film be sort of just part of the fabric of their community, and be normal, and be happy and functioning, and just part of the quilt that they’ve all created.