The Hamilton star adapted his 2005 stage show In The Heights into a feature-length film that was released this month.
It takes place in Washington Heights, a predominantly Latino area in New York. However, none of the main characters are dark-skinned Afro-Latino and few are seen in the background.
As criticism mounted on social media, Lin-Manuel took to Twitter on Monday night to address the controversy.
‘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,’ he began.
‘I’m seeing the discussion around 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.’
Lin-Manuel, who himself is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, said he can ‘hear the hurt and frustration’ over the colourism issue and understood how particular people felt ‘unseen’.
He continued: ‘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.’
The entertainer added that he was listening and learning from the feedback and wanted the team to be ‘accountable for [their]shortcomings’.
‘I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honouring our diverse and vibrant community,’ he added.
His statement came after The Root presenter Felice Leon interviewed In The Heights director John M Chu and actors Melissa Barrera, Leslia Grace and Gregory Diaz about the colourism issue.
During the online chat, Felice asked: ‘What would you say to folks who say that In the Heights privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?’
Chu responded: ‘I think that was something we talked about and I needed to be educated about, of course. In the end, when we were looking at the cast, we tried to get the people who were best for those roles.
‘I hear you on trying to fill those cast members with darker skin. I think that’s a really good conversation to have and something we should all be talking about.’
The conversation has grown heated in recent weeks as the Afro-Latinx community discovered the lack of representation for those with darker skin.
One commented: ‘I lived in Washington Heights for 5 years. You can’t take a step in Washington Heights without seeing dark skinned Black-Latin people. #InTheHeights erases them from the neighborhood. This ‘light skinned Latinx only’ story is very disappointing.’
Another agreed: ‘In the Heights is getting dragged all over the TL, as it should. The erasure of dark-skinned Afro-Latinx folks in a musical film set in Washington Heights, NYC, a black Dominican neighborhood, is colorist and racist.’
However, others wanted to draw attention to seeing Latino people being represented on-screen overall, with one arguing: ‘Can we just celebrate this win for our people, even if it’s not how “you” would’ve written it, or if yours aren’t perfectly depicted?
‘It is the most diverse musical created to date. It also happens to be amazing, accurate, and current. Support your own, so others do too!’
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