On Friday, the long-awaited big-screen adaptation of In the Heights—Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical drama that preceded Hamilton by nearly a decade—premiered. But even before its debut, the film was being derided by some critics for its lack of Afro-Latino representation—especially after the film’s director, Jon M. Chu, admitted that he should be better educated on the issue of colorism.
By Monday, Miranda had issued a formal apology in which he took responsibility for the failure:
“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 trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short.
I’m truly sorry.
I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.”
But Rita Moreno, a fervent fan of Miranda’s and a colleague (he was a co-producer on her documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It), thinks everyone needs to take a breath. While appearing on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night, Moreno came to Miranda’s defense. Unprompted, no less.
In the middle of Moreno’s interview with Colbert, she asked to talk about the criticisms of Miranda and In the Heights and offered her own thoughts:
“It’s like you can never do right it seems. This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto 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 asked to clarify her position, and whether she thinks the current criticism against Miranda is misplaced, Moreno responded:
“Well I’m simply saying: Can’t you just wait a while 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. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is. And it would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and left it alone—just for now. They’re really attacking the wrong person.”
You can watch the full clip below.