During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday night (June 15), Hollywood legend and Oscar winner Rita Moreno (West Side Story) defended fellow Puerto-Rican star Lin-Manuel Miranda. The writer and producer has been receiving criticism for the lack of Afro-Latinos or dark-skinned Latinos in his new film In the Heights.
Moreno argued against the criticism after voluntarily bringing up the controversy. “You can never do right, it seems,” she says. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn’t do it. I mean, I would love to say I did, but I couldn’t. Lin-Manuel has done that, really single-handedly.”
Moreno appeared on the late-night show to promote her new life documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It — which Miranda is co-producing. During an interview with Remezcla earlier this year, Moreno called Miranda “one of my people.”
When asked by Colbert if she felt people were misplacing their criticism, Moreno expanded on her thoughts: “Well, I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” she continued. “There’s a lot of people who are Puerto Rican who are also from Guatemala who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. This is how it is. 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.”
Moreno quickly received backlash on social media following her interview, with many expressing their disapproval.
On June 14, Miranda issued a statement on the film’s criticism, stating that “it is clear” to him that “many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don’t feel sufficiently represented” in In the Heights.
“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback,” he wrote. “In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry.”