There’s always something new to learn as an actor, even when you’re reprising a role for a character you’ve performed several times before.
That’s where Puerto Rican actor Anthony Ramos (A Star Is Born) found himself when he was cast in the lead role of the film version of In the Heights. In the musical, Ramos stars as Usnavi de la Vega, a first-generation Dominican American bodega owner living in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan who dreams of a better life.
In March 2018, Ramos played Usnavi in the regional stage production at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Although he said going into the film version that he “had a feel for the character,” it was a distinctive experience portraying Usnavi on the screen.
“There’s a lot to learn,” Ramos, 29, told Remezcla during a recent interview. “Film is different from theater. You’re filming in the streets. You’re filming with a different cast. The relationships are different. It was a new adventure because it was a new interpretation. I had a handle on it. It helped that I knew the words.”
Prior to joining the cast of the stage version of In the Heights in 2012 as Usnavi’s young cousin Sonny, Ramos said the production was the show that pushed him into the entertainment industry. “This musical is the show that gave me the spark plug,” Ramos said. “I knew these people. They were talking about things that I knew about.”
Ramos hopes that a film like In the Heights will help Hollywood realize that Latino talent is part of the conversation and always has been. It’s time to start taking notice. “If Hollywood and the world doesn’t understand that Latinos are here and we’ve got a story to tell, they will eventually,” he said. “We have a lot to say and to give and to share.”
In the Heights premieres at theaters and on HBO Max June 11.