Puerto Rican playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda has the Midas touch on Broadway and now he’s bringing his acclaimed play In The Heights to Hollywood. The musical is set in Upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights and follows the lives of Latinx immigrants who reside in the same barrio and whose lives intertwine. The lead character is Usnavi de la Vega who dreams of winning the lottery and leaving the barrio but has a change of heart when he discovers his love interest, Vanessa, feels the same way about him. The four-time Tony award-winning musical broke ground by bringing hip-hop to Broadway, like Miranda’s other famous play, Hamilton. The highly anticipated film has been in the works for years and is set for release in 2020 with Jon M. Chu (of Crazy Rich Asians) as director and Quiara Alegría Hudes, as the original book writer and screenwriter. Here’s a look at the cast members that Miranda has so far announced on his Twitter account so far.
Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega
Anthony Ramos made his Broadway debut as the original actor to play the dual roles of John Laurens/Philip Schuyle in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton. Now he’s set to appear on the silver screen as Usnavi de la Vega, the narrator and major character who owns De La Vega Bodega in Washington Heights and dreams of moving to the Dominican Republic. Ramos, 27, is of Puerto Rican descent and portrayed Sonny de la Vega in a 2012 production of In the Heights and can also be seen in A Star is Born playing Ally’s best friend, Ramon. Ramos is engaged to fellow original Hamilton cast member Jasmine Cephas Jones.
Melissa Barrera as Vanessa
Melissa Barrera is a 28-year-old Mexican actress and singer known for her role as Lyn Hernandez in the Starz series Vida, which is going into its second season at the end of this month. She’ll be playing Usnavi’s love interest, Vanessa, who works at Daniela’s salon. Vanessa gets a lot of attention for her looks but she has eyes only for Usnavi. She lives with an alcoholic mother and hopes to leave the barrio one day but can’t afford to. Barrera is known for her work in telenovelas including Siempre Tuya Acapulco in 2013 and Tanto Amor in 2015, she recorded the theme song “Volver a Caer” with Mexican singer Kalimba for the series.
Gregory Diaz IV as Sonny de la Vega
Gregory Diaz IV is a 14-year-old theater actor of Puerto Rican descent who is set to play Sonny de la Vega. Sonny is Usnavi’s lazy, sassy, and ambitious younger cousin who works in the bodega with Usnavi. Though he’s known as a jokester in the barrio, he’s also an advocate for social justice and a deep thinker. Diaz made his Broadway debut in the Tony-Award-winning musical Matilda in 2016 and went on to tour with the company in 2017. The New York native won an NYMF Performance award for his work as Pedro in the leading role of the Off-Broadway production of Pedro Pan.
Corey Hawkins as Benny
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Corey Hawkins, 30, gained fame for his portrayal of Dr. Dre in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton and for this film he’s taking on the role of Benny. Benny is the only character in the play who doesn’t speak Spanish. He works with Nina’s father, Kevin, and is in love with Nina and hopes to open his own business one day. Hawkins graduated from the Juilliard School in New York City and received a Tony Award nomination for his role in the 2017 Broadway production of Six Degrees of Separation. In 2013, he made his Broadway debut as Tybalt in the revival of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Leslie Grace as Nina Rosario
Dominican singer Leslie Grace has two albums under her belt and is about to embark on the biggest role thus far as Nina. Nina Rosario is Benny’s love interest and the first in her family and the barrio to go to college (Stanford University on the west coast). She returns home after dropping out and though she’s considered a good girl, tensions rise between her parents who aren’t accepting of Benny. Bronx-born and Yonkers raised 24-year-old Grace released a bilingual, bachata-style rendition of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” which peaked at number one on both the Billboard Tropical Songs chart and Billboard Latin Airplay charts, making her the youngest female artist to do so.
Jimmy Smits as Kevin Rosario
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Jimmy Smits (born July 9, 1955) is an American actor. . Accomplished actor and tireless Latino advocate, he became known for his roles; as attorney Victor Sifuentes on the legal drama L.A. Law (1986-1992).. . ..Detective Bobby Simone on the police drama NYPD Blue (1994-1998, 2004).. . ..and Matt Santos on the political drama series The West Wing (2004-2006). . Smits appeared as Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) and in Rogue One (2016). . He co-starred as ADA Miguel Prado in the Showtime thriller series Dexter (2008).. . ..and joined the main cast of the FX crime drama series Sons of Anarchy (2012-2014) as Nero Padilla. . Although Smits has featured most prominently in television, his film roles include; Running Scared (1986), Old Gringo (1989), Switch (1991), Fires Within (1991), My Family (1995), Price of Glory (2000), Bless The Child (2000), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), Mother and Child (2009) and Who We Are Now (2017). . Original photographer credit: Maarten de Boer.
Puerto Rican and native Brooklynite actor Jimmy Smits is best known for his role as Victor Sifuentes on L.A. Law, Matt Santos on The West Wing and recently on How to Get Away With Murder as Dr. Isaac Roa. As Kevin Rosario, he’ll play Nina’s overprotective father who comes from a long line of farmers and owns a taxi cab service named Rosario’s. His previous experience in theater includes a stint in the critically acclaimed Broadway play God of Carnage from November 2009 to February 2010 and he was also in Rogue One as Senator Bail Organa in 2016.
Daphne Rubin-Vega as Daniela
Singer, actress, and dancer Daphne Rubin-Vega is an acclaimed theater star known for originating the role of Mimi Marquez in the Broadway musical Rent. In 2012, she appeared as Bombshell publicist Agnes in the second season of the TV series Smash. The 49-year-old Panamanian actress will play Daniela, the overly dramatic owner of the salon where the barrio girls go to gossip. She is known as being very bold, loud and a lover of good banter. Rubin-Vega received two Tony nominations, one for her role in Rent, and the other for her performance as Conchita in the 2003 play Anna in the Tropics.
Stephanie Beatriz as Carla
Actress Stephanie Beatriz is best known for her role as Detective Rosa Diaz in on the comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Born in Argentina to a Colombian father and Bolivian mother, Beatriz will take on the role of Carla in the film. Carla works at Daniela’s salon and is portrayed as young and attractive but a little slow to catch on to people’s jokes. She’s Daniela’s close friend and is of mixed descent including Chilean, Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican. Beatriz is also known for her portrayal of Sonia, Gloria’s sister on Modern Family and made her directorial debut on Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s “#MeToo” episode.
Dascha Polanco as Cuca
Dascha Polanco rose to fame through her first full-time role in Hollywood as Dayanara “Daya” Diaz on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. The 36-year-old Dominican-American actress is set to play a new character named Cuca. Born in Santo Domingo and raised in Brooklyn and Miami, Polanco’s TV credits include a recurring role in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story in 2018, and a recurring role in Russian Doll on Netflix this year. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Hunter College located in New York in 2008 and auditioned for Orange is the New Black in her scrubs while in nursing school.
Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia
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Brought in my original notes from #intheheightsbroadway to the recording studio today for #intheheightsmovie. I feel like I ran a marathon. It was wonderful, working alongside Lin, singing from my heart and soul once again for ALL of you! #intheheightsmovie #linmanuelmiranda #abuelaclaudia #pacienciayfe #singingfrommyheart #myognotes #mytreasures
Iconic Cuban Broadway star Olga Merediz originated the role of matriarch Abuela Claudia, for which she received a Tony nomination, and is now reprising her role in the film. Abuela Claudia is affectionately considered the grandmother to everyone in the barrio and she looks after Usnavi after his parents die. She and her mother moved from Cuba to New York in 1943 while she was a child and she worked as a maid for several years but never earned the money for her and her mother to travel back home. Similarly, Merediz left Cuba with her family when she was five years old, moving to Miami then relocating to Puerto Rico where she grew up. Her TV credits include J.Lo’s series Shades of Blue and Orange Is the New Black.