Rita Moreno has issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter commenting on remarks she made Tuesday on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, saying she is “incredibly disappointed” with herself for glossing over concerns of representation from the Afro-Latino community in Warner Bros.’ musical In the Heights.
Asked about criticisms of In the Heights over a lack of darker-skinned Latinos among its core characters, Moreno, 89, defended the film’s creator/producer Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also produced the documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It).
Said Moreno: “I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?”
The remarks drew backlash on social media for being an insensitive response to the Afro-Latino population; Moreno was even trending on Twitter on Wednesday as a result of the controversy.
Shortly after landing in Los Angeles from a flight from New York, Moreno issued this statement:
“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. It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others. 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. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks.”
Moreno next serves as executive producer for Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, in which she also plays the role of Valentina. Some Twitter criticism pointed out that she was darkened with makeup to play the role of Anita in the 1961 film version of the Broadway musical that won her an Oscar. Moreno has previously said she resented being darkened for the part, adding, “It wasn’t my color.”
In January of 2019, Spielberg met with a town hall of locals in Puerto Rico to discuss how he’d tackle the material; some in attendance questioned if West Side Story perhaps took a culturally insensitive and dated approach to Puerto Rican culture.
The film, from Disney-owned 20th Century Studios with an updated screenplay by Tony Kushner, opens Dec. 21.