The film production is based on the musical of the same name that was presented on Broadway for two years, starring Miranda himself in the character of Usnavy, the owner of a winery, and that won the Tony Award for Best Musical, the award most important of the New York stages. If we follow his career chronologically,
the actor was only 22 years old during that Broadway experience, it was his first play and for the first time, also, on the stages of the most recognized theatrical circuit a musical integrated rhythms of hip-hop, rap and sauce. In the Heights today, Miranda has the spotlight on the premiere of In the Heights – which was postponed a year due to the pandemic – and now it becomes the first Hollywood film release with projection in both theaters and streaming, and a ceremony opening like those of 2019, with a red carpet, a grand gala and the presence of all the actors in famous designer outfits, but considering rigorous social distancing measures. It is a reflection that life explodes vibrantly after the dark days of the flagellant confinement.
Just weeks before the premiere, Lin-Manuel Miranda opens a space in his overwhelmed schedule to tell me about this particular project that at 41 years of age he is excited like a child. In pre-Covid times, I once ran into the actor at his favorite cafe in Washington Heights, where he would hop around and listen to music on his iPod. This time the talk is over the phone, although we are not so far apart: he in his apartment from which he observes the Washington Bridge, and I a block away in the same cafe where he met me the previous time. “The pandemic changed our lives,” he says by way of greeting. “I have been locked up since last year with my wife (the lawyer Vanessa Nadal) and my children, but I have not stopped working; and not only in my work, but also as a kindergarten director that they have forced me to have at home with them ”. Asking the actor a question is like detonating a grenade, he responds at lightning speed, makes quick associations and manages his talk between Spanish and English, despite having asked him to speak to me in the first language so as not to have to inaccurately translate his concepts. He tells me “Yes, yes, yes” and in two minutes he is speaking in English again. It seems impossible to control him but I insist on him and he returns to Spanish.
Although In the Heights is Lin-Manuel’s most recent project, in which he pours all that nervous energy that characterizes him and that is expected with great expectation, it is not, by any means, his first letter of introduction. But when listening to him speak, it seems that there has been nothing previous in his curriculum, he only makes references to In the Heights, a film that was already concluded in 2020 and scheduled to premiere in the summer of the same year. The pandemic arrived. Everything stopped. Lin-Manuel insisted that it be released in streaming. “I’m very desperate,” he says in his Caribbean-accented Spanish. “I thought that people would welcome her during her days of confinement, it would bring her joy, but director Jon Chu convinced me that it would be worth putting off a whole year, and he was right.” And what the director and the actor agree on is that the film will have a better reception and will allow it to give legitimate recognition to its new protagonists, dazzlingly talented actors, among them the Puerto Rican Anthony Ramos, who plays the main character, Usnavy, and his girlfriend in fiction, the Mexican Melissa Barrera, accompanied by others already well known such as Jimmy Smits, Marc Anthony and Olga Merediz.