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Rita Moreno Walks Back ‘In the Heights’ Colorism Defense: ‘I’m Incredibly Disappointed With Myself’

FILE - Rita Moreno arrives at
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Rita Moreno has posted a new statement saying that she is “incredibly disappointed” following her comments about the lack of Afro-Latino representation in “In the Heights.”

During an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night, Moreno defended “In the Heights” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda over criticism that the film did not cast any dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in its leading roles.

“Well I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” Moreno said on the show. “There’s a lot of people who are Puertorriqueños, 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 just left it alone, just for now. I mean, they’re really attacking the wrong person.”

In a new statement posted to Twitter, Moreno acknowledged that she was “clearly dismissive” of dark-skinned Afro-Latinos and the importance of the community’s representation on-screen.

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“I’m incredibly disappointed with myself. While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Colbert Show last night, I was clearly dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community,” Moreno wrote. “It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others.”

Moreno’s statement continued in a thread, in which she praised Miranda’s response to the criticism.

“In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In The Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward,” Moreno said. “See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks.”

Online discussion on the topic over the weekend stemmed from a video article in The Root, published on Wednesday. In an interview with “In the Heights” director Jon M. Chu and stars Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV, journalist Felice León questioned the film’s casting decisions. “What would you say to folks who say that ‘In the Heights’ privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?” León asked, to which Chu replied: “I would say that’s a fair conversation to have. Listen, we’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We tried our best on all fronts of it.”

On Monday, Miranda issued an apology for the lack of representation, saying that he “fell short.” “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,” Miranda’s statement said in part. “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.”