A year later than planned, it finally debuts “In the Heights”, film based on the first musical success of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The play tells the story of different characters who live in the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights, mostly Hispanic. Among them, Usnavi de la Vega, a young man who runs a winery and dreams of saving enough to return to his family’s land, the Dominican Republic.
The role in the film is played Anthony Ramos, singer, songwriter and actor born in New York of Puerto Rican family. At 29, Ramos accumulates a career with performances in musical theater, such as the hit “Hamilton”, and supporting roles in Hollywood films such as “A Star is Born” or “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” But “In the Heights” can be his great leap into leading roles, to become a star.
Ramos met us a few days before the US premiere of “In the Heights” from Montreal, Canada, where he is shooting another movie.
Question: You are from New York. Not from Washington Heights, but from Brooklyn. How close do you feel to the story of “In the Heights”?
Anthony Ramos: Very close. So many Latinos grow up in New York… and we have a lot in common. The culture in each county is different in some ways, but we all eat the same food, we listen to the same music. The pulse is there and deep down we are very similar. This story hits me hard and close, because I see the characters and I say to myself: I know all these people. I know each one of them. This girl reminds me of the one I liked in 5th grade; This guy reminds me of the one with the warehouse on the corner; this person reminds me of my grandmother… I am deeply connected to this story. Many Latinos, not just in New York, connect with this in a personal way.
P .: The musical was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first hit. And you participated in a theatrical production of “In The Heights” …
AR: It was at a regional theater in Salt Lake City, Utah. The national tour and New York production had already ended, so the rights for these regional shows were beginning to be given. I auditioned and it was my first job, the one that allowed me to get my theatrical actors union card, which is what you need to be able to get into a show on Broadway, the highest professional level in theater. A friend told the casting director about me, but I didn’t have an agent. The casting director didn’t call me. But they were doing auditions, I went to the place and I didn’t even know what it looked like. Something told me to follow a guy to the elevator, I asked him if it was him and I told him the story that my friend – my teacher – had contacted him, and I gave him my resume. He told me that an appointment had been made for the next day. Three auditions later, I had landed my first role.
P .: It was a different role than you have now in the movie.
AR: Yes, he was playing Sonny, his little cousin.
P .: Then you were in “Hamilton”. Did being part of that regional production of “In The Heights” help you?
AR.: I had auditioned for “In The Heights” [la obra original] when I was 19 and Lin-Manuel was there. But I didn’t get the part. Three years later I was auditioning for another show and the casting director was also casting for “Hamilton.” I sang a song and he said, “Good job.” And I got an email that said, “I want you to audition for this thing called Hamilton Mix-Tape.” I didn’t even know what it was, but it was Lin-Manuel’s project in development. I went and four auditions later they gave me the role of John Laurens. The craziest thing is that I had another job at Radio City Musical and that day they fired me, they removed the entire cast at 1 pm. At 4 pm they called me: “Hey, we know what happened to the show in Radio City. Do you want to come make Hamilton Mix-Tape? ”. Boom!
Anthony Ramos greets Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) during the filming of “In the Heights.” On the left, Jon M. Chu, director of the film, who also directed the box office “Crazy Rich Asians.” / Photo: Warner Bros.
Q .: What is it like to work with Lin-Manuel?
AR.: There isn’t a single day that I don’t learn something from him. Your brain is working all the time. I also learned from him how important it is to surround yourself with collaborators you trust. That when you don’t have an idea, they are the ones who have it. That you can be vulnerable and at the same time able to let them get an idea of you. Contributors to help you do better what you have written. I learned a lot from him. And he has taken great care of me during these years. He has been a friend and a mentor. Just watching him work every day is a masterclass.
Q .: Do you more like working on stage in the theater or on the set of a movie?
AR: I do not know. I love movies. I like to write songs more than anything, that’s my favorite activity. But if I have to choose between stage and screen, maybe I’ll stick with the movies, because you make them and that’s it. You move on to the next one.
· Read more: ‘Tick, tick… Boom!’ marks Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature film directorial debut