- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2021

Award-winning actress Rita Moreno on Wednesday apologized for being “dismissive” of concerns by the Afro-Latino community after she defended Broadway playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda for his casting choices.

“I’m incredibly disappointed with myself,” Ms. Moreno, 89, said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

Mr. Miranda came under fire this week for having a lack of dark-skinned Hispanics in his new film “In The Heights,” which takes place in Washington Heights, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in New York City.

The “Hamilton” creator, who is of Puerto Rican descent, apologized Monday and said he and the production team “fell short” in not casting any Afro-Latinos in the film’s leading roles.

Ms. Moreno, who is Puerto Rican, faced a backlash after she defended Mr. Miranda during a Tuesday night appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” saying she was “proud” to have him produce her 2021 documentary, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.”

“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,” said Ms. Moreno, who won an Oscar for her role as Anita in the 1961 film “West Side Story.”

“I’m simply saying, ‘Can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?’” she added. “There’s a lot of people who are puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala, who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is.”

In her statement Wednesday, Ms. Moreno referred to herself as an “old dog.”

“It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others,” she wrote. “In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of ‘In the Heights,’ let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks.”

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