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Rita Moreno said she was 'disappointed' with herself for defending 'In the Heights' colorism

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Rita Moreno Anthony Ramos In The Heights
Rita Moreno and Anthony Ramos . John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival/Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Rita Moreno previously defended "In The Heights" over colorism complaints.

  • The actress told Stephen Colbert: "It's like you can never do right, it seems."

  • Now, Moreno has said: "I was clearly dismissive of Black lives that matter in our Latin community."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rita Moreno has walked back on her comments about colorism while defending Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights," which was accused of failing to represent Afro-Latinos.

In a statement given to The Hollywood Reporter, Moreno said: "I'm incredibly disappointed with myself. While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on 'The Colbert Show' last night, I was clearly dismissive of Black lives that matter in our Latin community."

She continued: "It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others."

Moreno said that she applauds Miranda for his "wonderful" movie "In the Heights," but also appreciates Miranda's "sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward."

"See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks," added Moreno, who, like Miranda, is of Puerto Rican descent.

"In the Heights," which follows Anthony Ramos as a New York bodega owner who dreams of a better life, was accused of failing to properly represent Afro-Latino Americans.

People on social media said that the movie primarily featured light-skinned Latinx actors, while dark-skinned Latinx actors were consigned to background roles.

This conversation started with The Root reporter Felice León asking the director and cast about the lack of dark-skinned Latinx actors in principle roles. Their disappointing responses went viral on Twitter.

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While Miranda released a statement promising "to do better" going forward, Moreno appeared on "The Late Show" and defended the movie and Miranda against these accusations.

"It's like you can never do right, it seems," Moreno said, praising Miranda for being a pioneer by bringing "Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness" to the forefront of the film and theater industry.

"I'm simply saying, can't you just wait a while and leave it alone? There's a lot of people who are Puertorriqueños, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark, and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico," Moreno said.

in the heights usnavi
"In the Heights." Macall Polay/Warner Bros.

The actress rose to fame after starring in the 1961 movie adaptation of "West Side Story" as Anita. That movie was criticized for whitewashing its cast and featuring Russian-American actress Natalie Woods as a Puerto Rican character.

Appearing on a 2017 episode of the "In The Thick" podcast, Moreno told hosts Maria Hinojosa and Julio Varela that she was forced to wear "extremely dark" make-up to play Anita.

"It was like putting mud on my face, it was really dark and I'm a fairly fair Hispanic― and I said to the makeup man one day 'My God! Why do we all have to be the same color? Puerto Ricans are French and Spanish...' And it's true, we are very many different colors, we're Taino Indian, we are Black some of us," Moreno said.

Steven Spielberg's remake of "West Side Story" releases in December this year. Last year, the director told Vanity Fair that his remake will be authentic to Puerto Ricans and that the cast is predominantly made up of Puerto Rican actors or actors of Puerto Rican descent. Spielberg also wrote Black characters into the movie, with Curtiss Cook set to play a major role in the movie.

"In 1957, in New York City, there were a lot of Black people walking around. But unfortunately, when they created the original version there weren't a lot of Black people in it," Cook said.

"This time I think they decided to include the landscape as it really was. I'm so fortunate that I am the representation of it."

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