The Latin American community residing in New York City takes a leading role in “In the Heights”, a film directed by John M. Chu, based on the musical work created by Lin-Manuel Miranda with a libretto by Quiara Alegría Hudes. In both versions of the story several main characters are of Dominican descent and among them is Cuca, who is played by Dascha Polanco.
The Dominican actress, best known for her participation In the Heights the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” when playing the character of Dayanara Díaz, joins a cast full of Latino talents here to tell a story that is worthy of their culture. .
—How did it feel to participate in a film in which much of the focus is devoted to Dominican characters?
I believe that it was time and necessary that the visibility of our community be shown in a different, respected, authentic way and that inspires our community to stand out and shine as it should.
“Did you always want to participate in a musical?”
My interest in music, dance, and acting has been around since I was little. I have that light and that personality since I was born in the Dominican Republic. I felt it and my family has always noticed. For me it was important to jump in, take the risk and show that I can too, that I have the talent and that I believe in myself. Now I am making my own music and since my thing is acting I wanted to be part of a musical and more if it is based in Washington Heights. It was important to me to play a new and unique character. I am the first to play that character, but I think I represent my country high on the screen and in history.
—Unlike the rest of the cast, you play an original character that was not in the play, did that give you more freedom as an actress when it came to giving life to Cuca?
It gave me more freedom because I was able to draw inspiration from my aunt Chabela. In my family, and I believe that in many Dominican families, we have a relative who is involved with a salon, who is a cosmetologist. My mother, may she rest in peace, was also an inspiration. In all the work that I have done, to do my character study, I always use my experiences for emotion and details. When Cuca came to me, I was able to use my aunt’s essence and that made me feel proud.