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From Broadway To The Big Screen: 'In The Heights'

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'In the Heights' merges Lin Manuel Miranda’s energetic music and lyrics with director John Chu’s (Crazy Rich Asians) eye for storytelling and visuals.

Video Transcript

- Before "Hamilton," there was "In The Heights," Lin Manuel Miranda's tribute to his beloved hometown Manhattan neighborhood, Washington Heights.

- Now, his award-winning musical is a major motion picture, directed by "Crazy Rich Asians" Jon Chu. CBS4's Lisa Petrillo recently spoke with some of the cast.


LISA PETRILLO: From Broadway to the big screen, "In The Heights" merges Lin Manuel Miranda's energetic music and lyrics with director John Chu's eye for storytelling and visuals. Anthony Ramos plays the lead role Miranda brought to life on stage, the bodega owner looking for a better life.

There's an ensemble cast that features Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of the family, played by Olga Merediz, who played the same role on Broadway. There's Nina, played by newcomer singer Leslie Grace, and veteran actor Jimmy Smits, who plays Nina's father.

LISA PETRILLO: First of all, Jimmy, you had me since 1990 television. What is it like for you when they say to you, Jimmy, we want you to do "In The Heights"? Was it Lin Manuel that came to you?

JIMMY SMITS: Well, it wasn't like that.

LISA PETRILLO: Wasn't like that?

JIMMY SMITS: Oh, no. It's more like, hey, guys, I think I might have something to offer here, I don't know.


LESLIE GRACE: It's a real experience. And same. I think we all felt we were doing this, like, please. Like, I know if we get to be a part of this, it's going to be life-changing. And that it was. Just the experience of it for me, personally, it's my first film.


LISA PETRILLO: Shooting took place literally in the heights-- in Lin Manuel's New York neighborhood, with huge dance numbers.

The boot camp part of it, just the staging.

OLGA MEREDIZ: We had intense rehearsals. We would be shooting a scene here. There'd be another room with dancers. There'd be another room with singers. And it was intense and fast. And we had to bond very fast, because we shot it in a short amount of time.


JIMMY SMITS: The shooting part was fantastic, actually, for us, because we were, as you say, in the heights, shooting. So the community's very aware of Lin's success and what he represents to the community. And I think they were aware of the film's presence and their positivity, I think--

LESLIE GRACE: Yes. Boosted us.

JIMMY SMITS: Boosted us, yes.


LISA PETRILLO: Ultimately, "In The Heights" is an epic love letter to a neighborhood, and a tribute to an immigrant community made with and by a diverse cast and crew.

How important was it for you, as Hispanic actors, to be in this, and show that message?

LESLIE GRACE: It is a movie that I hoped for when I was a kid, so I can say, oh, my gosh, that person looks like me, and I can do that. I know that person. I know she looks like my mom, or she looks like my grandma. You know, my story is important. My path is important, too.


LISA PETRILLO: Thank you guys so much. I want to say that "In The Heights" is in theaters June 11th. I'm Lisa Petrillo, CBS4 News.

- Can't wait.

- I am so excited to see that. When we talked about going to the movies a little bit earlier in the newscast, that's one I want to see.

- You better believe it.