Rita Moreno Tells 'In the Heights' Critics 'Can't You Just Wait a While?'

Rita Moreno has spoken out in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda, amid criticism that his new film In The Heights fails to represent the Afro-Latinx community.

The movie—which is based on Miranda's Tony-winning musical of the same name and focuses on a Dominican community in New York City—was produced by the actor and playwright, who also stars in the project.

And while the big screen adaptation has been met with critical acclaim since its release this month, there have also been criticisms about the lack of racial diversity in its representation of the community it focuses on.

Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, Moreno defended Miranda—who produced her new documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It—as she insisted that critics are "attacking the wrong person."

"Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin Manuel?" Moreno asked host Stephen Colbert. "That really upsets me."

"It's like you can never do right, it seems. This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn't do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn't.

"Lin-Manuel has done that really singlehandedly, and I'm thrilled to pieces and I'm proud that he produced my documentary."

Seeking clarification on the West Side Story star's stance, Colbert asked Moreno: "So are you saying that while you may understand where people's concerns come from that perhaps it's misplaced in criticizing him in this?"

TONIGHT: Rita Moreno comments on the controversy surrounding her friend Lin Manuel Miranda and his film "In The Heights." #LSSC pic.twitter.com/4cQcvviaLf

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) June 16, 2021

Moreno responded: "Well, I'm simply saying, can't you just wait a while and leave it alone?" She added that there's "a lot of" people from Puerto Rico and Guatemala "who are dark and who are also fair."

She went on: "We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And this is how it is. It would be so nice if they hadn't come up with this and left it alone, just for now. I mean, they're really attacking the wrong person."

Miranda addressed the criticism in a message posted on Twitter on Monday, stating: "I started writing In The Heights because I didn't feel seen. And over the past 20 years all I wanted was for us—ALL of us—to feel seen.

"I'm seeing the discussion around the Afro-Latino representation in our film this weekend and it is clear that many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don't feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles.

-LMM pic.twitter.com/CHfdLgFUz3

— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) June 14, 2021

"I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy. In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I'm truly sorry."

Adding that he's "learning from the feedback," stage and screen star Miranda vowed to "do better in my future projects."

Miranda spoke further on the issue during an appearance on The Daily Show on Tuesday, after host Trevor Noah asked him how he approached the criticism and requested his thoughts on how he could do better.

"I can't legislate how people feel," responded Miranda, per The Hollywood Reporter. "All I want is for this neighborhood to feel seen. And if there's a segment of it that doesn't feel seen and they're saying that, you have to acknowledge that and let it in. All I can do is learn from it and promise to do better."

In The Heights director Jon M. Chu had previously addressed the casting discrepancy, saying in a June 9 interview with Felice Leó of The Root: "When we were looking at the cast, we tried to get people who were best for those roles.

"But I hear you on trying to fill those cast members with darker skin. I think that's a really good conversation to have, something that we should all be talking about."

Leó explained: "We want to see Black people [in] In the Heights. We wanna see Afro-Panamanians, Black Cubans, Black Dominicans. That's what we want to see. That's what we were yearning for and hoping for."

"I hope that encourages more people to tell more stories, and get out there and do it right then," responded Crazy Rich Asians director Chu.

Rita Moreno defends Lin-Manuel Miranda
Rita Moreno (L) has defended Lin-Manuel Miranda (R) amid criticism over the lack of Afro-Latinx representation in his new film "In The Heights." Monica Schipper/Getty Images for FreshDirect/Roy Rochlin/WireImage