movies

In 2011, Anthony Ramos saw In The Heights on Broadway. Now, he’s in the movie musical.

It was exactly a decade ago when Anthony Ramos first saw In The Heights on Broadway.

At the time, Ramos was attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), and students were offered free tickets to Lin Manuel Miranda's award-winning musical.

Initially, Ramos, then 19 years old, wasn't sure about attending. 

Watch the official trailer for In The Heights below. Post continues after video.


Video via Warner Bros.

"I never went to musicals growing up," Ramos told Mamamia over a Zoom call.

"When I went to college for musical theatre, it was because I just love to sing. So I learned as much as I needed to learn to audition for this musical theatre school... and then I just started to love the craft of it," he continued.

"But I very quickly learned in college that there were very few musicals with Latinos in it. And I was like, 'Where do I fit in this equation?'"

After seeing In The Heights on Broadway, however, Ramos was blown away.

"Seeing In The Heights — that was the first time that I watched anything where I was like, 'Oh, wow.' It felt almost like a door had unlocked or someone had said: 'Here’s the key to the future.' [It was] almost like stepping into Narnia or some sh*t. I was like, 'This is another world,'" Ramos shared.

"Seeing all these characters that look familiar and sound familiar to the people that I grew up with and people that I know, from my neighbourhood, was crazy," he continued. 

"It ignited this fire in me and gave me this hope. [It gave me] this extra bit of hope that I don’t think I had before for a more inclusive world in musicals and not only in musicals but in Hollywood. It gave me this hope like, 'There is a place for you here.'"

That same year, Ramos auditioned for an ensemble part in a national tour of the musical. But despite performing for Miranda himself in the final round of auditions, he didn't make the cut. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera in In The Heights. Image: Warner Bros.

However, this wasn't the end of Anthony Ramos' In The Heights journey.

In total, the actor and singer auditioned for the musical three times. And on his third attempt, he landed the role of Sonny, the protagonist's younger cousin, in a regional theatre production of the musical.

Now, 10 years on from that very first audition, Ramos is starring in the lead role of In The Heights — the new musical drama film based on the much-loved Broadway show.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) with a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, the movie is set in the vibrant Washington Heights district of Manhattan, which is filled with Latin American communities.

The film tells the story of Usnavi de la Vega (played by Ramos), a bodega owner on the block who dreams of a better life.

Ramos' role in the film comes after he starred in Miranda's critically acclaimed musical Hamilton in the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton.

In the film, Ramos is joined by a multi-generational ensemble cast who make up his family and friends, including singer-songwriter Leslie Grace, who plays Nina Rosario in her first film role.

Speaking to Mamamia ahead of the film's release, the 26-year-old shared that she felt a "big responsibility" about bringing Nina to life on screen.

Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace in In The Heights. Image: Warner Bros.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It definitely felt like an amazing blessing to be a part of this project... because it’s so beloved. And to be the one to get to say the words that Nina says, that have made me feel so seen and made so many other people feel seen," Grace shared over Zoom.

"I felt a huge responsibility, because it’s the first character that I would be embodying as an actress. And so I was like, 'I don’t know how this process is supposed to go. I don’t know if I’m doing all the right things,'" she continued.

"I had a lot of doubts. But I had a beautiful family to lean on. It was just beautiful to lean on that community that we built within our own cast and to feel valuable enough to be a part of it and play Nina."

Grace stars in the film as Nina, a young woman who has made it into college, but finds herself longing to return home to Washington Heights.

The singer stars opposite Corey Hawkins, known for his role in Straight Outta Compton, who plays Benny, a dispatcher employed by the car service owned by Nina's father.

"This was the first musical I’d ever seen on Broadway," Hawkins told Mamamia.

"I had seen other plays on Broadway when I was going to school in New York. But for me, it wasn’t My Fair Lady or Phantom of the Opera. It was In The Heights, and seeing Christopher Jackson up there representing with this community," the Tony Award-winning actor added.

"As a Black man growing up in the states, I know what it feels like to not see yourself on screen, to not see yourself in films, to not see yourself on Broadway. So, to be a part of lending my voice to the Latinx community, it was just incredibly special. And it feels like it’s a privilege and an honour and just something that we have to do more of, because when one of us wins, we all win."

ADVERTISEMENT

Melissa Barrera, Stephanie Beatriz, Leslie Grace, Dascha Polanco, and Daphne Rubin-Vega in In The Heights. Image: Warner Bros.

Other cast members in the film include Star Wars' Jimmy Smits as Kevin, Rent's Daphne Rubin-Vega as Daniela, Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Stephanie Beatriz as Carla, and Orange Is the New Black's Dascha Polanco as Cuca.

Christopher Jackson, who originally played Benny in In The Heights and George Washington in Hamilton, also makes an appearance in the film alongside creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Speaking to Mamamia, Vida star Melissa Barrera, who stars as Vanessa in the film, shared that she hopes viewers "have fun" and "feel hope" when watching In The Heights.

Melissa Barrera and Anthony Ramos in In The Heights. Image: Warner Bros.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I think this is a movie that’s just filled with joy, and it’s exactly what we need right now in the world," she said.

"For our community specifically, [I hope] that it makes them feel proud and seen and important. I hope that our people claim this movie as their own because I think that's the idea," she continued.

"It’s a love letter to the Latinx community around the world. It’s all about home, you know, it’s about where home is. 

"I think it’s a beautiful thing that Latinx people all over the world, wherever they’re living, are going to get to see this movie and feel at home and feel like they’re in the right place at the right time and that their dreams are important and achievable."

In The Heights is in cinemas from June 24th.

Feature Image: Warner Bros.

Share your thoughts in this super-quick survey!