Oprah Winfrey held her first-ever virtual Block Party on Thursday, June 10, welcoming the cast of new movie musical “In the Heights”, adapting Miranda’s pre-“Hamilton” Broadway hit for the big screen.
On hand were creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Jon Chu, screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes, and stars Anthony Ramos, Olga Merediz, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Corey Hawkins.
Winfrey kicked things off by declaring how much she enjoyed the new film.
“I had no words. I was speechless. I don’t know what to say except spectacular, in all caps, with an exclamation point,” she said. “’In the Heights’ is here to show the world how to get back up. How to keep believing.”
Looking back at the story’s complicated journey to the screen, Miranda said he saw destiny at play.
“All of the setbacks, all of the false starts, all of the, ‘We’ve got a show but no movie, we’ve got a director but no studio,’ every twist and turn led to the constellation of talent on this screen. It wouldn’t have happened if any of those incarnations didn’t go this way. I feel like it all happened for a reason and here we are,” he said.
Anyone who saw the original may notice that “In the Heights” has been updated with new culturally relevant references.
“Since we opened on Broadway, the country had continued to evolve. The immigration conversation got super heated and intense,” says Hudes, who wrote the screenplay. “It was almost as if we weren’t talking about people anymore. I was like, Let me ground that in a person and a community that that’s affecting,” Hudes said.
The biggest change, however, is that Miranda isn’t playing the role of Usnavi, which he originated on stage but has passed to Ramos.
“When I saw Anthony play Usnavi at a production in D.C., I cannot tell you how that felt — to see someone play that part and go, ‘Oh, I was writing it for him that whole time. Even before I met him, I was writing it for him.’ That’s how I felt,” he said.
Ramos, however, has his own complicated history with “In the Heights”, revealing he once auditioned for the play’s touring company but was “crushed” when he didn’t get a callback.
“I thought I killed that, and crickets,” he said. “Now I get to play this role that has inspired me in so many ways — my hope in this business, especially for Latinos all over the world. This means a lot. It is a full circle moment, for sure.”