Entertainment

We Finally Got A Peek At Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Casting Picks For ‘In The Heights’ The Play That Made Him Famous

The film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit “In the Heights” is scheduled to hit movie theaters in 2020. As expected, many are excited to see Miranda’s acclaimed play come to the big screen after many years of waiting. The musical is based on the lives of young Latino immigrants living in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. The musical left its mark in 2008 by bringing a Tony award-winning play featuring hip-hop to Broadway.

The film has been in production for a few years and we are finally getting a look at who will be starring in the movie. Here’s who we know that will part of the highly anticipated production.

Anthony Ramos will be playing Usnavi de la Vega.

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Many might be familiar with Anthony Ramos for his role in Miranda’s other hit musical “Hamilton” and in last years “A Star Is Born.” So it’s no surprise that Ramos will be starring in another musical but this time as the lead role. He’ll be playing Usnavi de la Vega, the owner of a small bodega in Washington Heights. Ramos is of Puerto Rican descent and is engaged to Jasmine Cepha Jones, another “Hamilton” cast member.

Corey Hawkins is bringing Benny to life on the big screen.

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Corey Hawkins will be playing the role of Benny, Nina’s Father. Hawkin’s character is notable since it’s the only role that doesn’t speak Spanish in the production. Hawkins made his film debut portraying Dr. Dre in 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” and will be returning to the big screen once again.

Sonny de la Vega will be played by Gregory Diaz.

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He might be just 14-year-old but Gregory Diaz but he’s already well-known on the musical stage. He made his Broadway debut in 2016 on “Matilda” to critical acclaim. He will now tackle the role of Sonny De La Vega, Usnavi’s witty younger cousin. We can expect great things from Diaz as we have already seen.

Melissa Barrera is giving us the Vanessa fans deserve.

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Day off gaD

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Melissa Barrera got her breakout role last year in the hit Starz show “Vida,” that is entering its second season. The Latina actress has also starred in various Mexican novellas but she might have landed her biggest role as Vanessa, Usnavi’s love interest. There’s no doubt Barrera was born to play this role and has the chops to do it justice.

Leslie Grace will be playing Nina Rosario.

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Leslie Grace, known for her singing career, is going to be transitioning to the big screen. She’ll be playing Nina Rosario, the first person in her family to go to college and returns home for the summer to let her family know she’s dropped out. Born to Dominican parents and raised in Bronx, New York, Grace was born to play this role and will surely a strong Hollywood debut.

Who else can play Kevin Rosario than Jimmy Smits.

Jimmy Smits will be playing the character of Kevin Rosario, Nina’s overprotective father. He most famously appeared in the “Star Wars” series in the 2000s and has a slew of TV roles. He’s the perfect role for this character and with a strong acting resume like Smits, he’s sure to nail it.

Daphne Rubin-Vega (Daniela)

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A veteran of the Broadway stage, Daphne Rubin-Vega will be playing Daniela, the energetic owner of a salon where the girls come to talk. Vega, who is of Panamanian descent, starred in the critically acclaimed musical “RENT’ and also the TV show “Smash.”

Stephanie Beatriz is giving us an energetic and exciting Carla.

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Stephanie Beatriz, currently starring in the hit show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will be playing the role of Carla, who works at Daniela’s salon. The character works alongside Vanessa and is of Chilean, Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican descent. Beatriz, born in Argentina, has made a name for herself on the TV circuit with a role as Gloria in “Modern Family” as well.

Dascha Polanco is giving Cuca her own twist.

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Dascha Polanco starred in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” as Dayanara “Daya” Diaz. The role got her a lot of notoriety and now she’ll be making her big screen debut as Cuca. The Dominican-American actress is sure to light up the screen as she did on the Netflix series.

Who else could capture the essence of Abuela Claudia than Olga Merediz?

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Olga Merediz will be reprising the role of Abuela Claudia as she did on the Broadway stage. Born in Guantánamo, Cuba, Merediz has received a Tony award for her work on “In The Heights” and has a lengthy career in the entertainment industry. This includes roles in “Les Misérables” and in “Mamma Mia!”. We can’t wait for her to reprise this role and bring that character to the big screen next year.

READ: Watching Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Genius Bring ‘In The Heights’ To Broadway Is So Inspiring

Afro-Latina Actress Ciara Renée Is Taking Over The Role Of Elsa In ‘Frozen’ On Broadway

Entertainment

Afro-Latina Actress Ciara Renée Is Taking Over The Role Of Elsa In ‘Frozen’ On Broadway

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What do Idina Menzel, Caissie Levy, and Caroline Bowman have in common? They’re all Broadway actresses that have portrayed Elsa from “Frozen.” They also happen to be all white. Well, that’s all about to change!

Afro-Latina actress Ciara Renée will be playing the role of Elsa in “Frozen” on Broadway.

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Frozen made its Broadway debut in 2018 and was played by Caissie Levy. Idina Menzel was the voice of Elsa in the animated film. Now, an Afro-Latina has scored the coveted role. 

Renée will be playing Elsa, and McKenzie Kurtz will be making her Broadway debut as Anna. Renée and McKenzie will take over the roles. Caissie Levy and Patti Murin end their run as Elsa and Anna respectively on Feb. 16. Renée was previously in the Broadway show “Big Fish” as the Witch as well as “Pippin.”

“Here it is! It’s official! I’m joining the cast of @frozenbroadway as Elsa alongside this bright new star, @mckenziekurtz! And I am incredibly grateful! This is an opportunity to expand minds, open hearts, and empower folks with the power of LOVE! I can’t wait to get started!”

While we’re still getting to know the 29-year-old, we are learning so much about this extraordinary actress who is pretty amazing at showing her biggest supporters lots of love in return.

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Renée, who is half Black and half Puerto Rican, thanked her friends, family, and supporters by giving them exact instructions on what to do when they come to see her show on Broadway. 

“I just want to extend my heartfelt gratitude for all the support and love I received yesterday. It was honestly overwhelming. Thank you, thank you,” Renée said in a video on her Insta-story. “I am so thrilled to be playing Elsa.” 

“But I wanted to set down some ground rules about people coming to see the show,” she said. “I am always so grateful when people come to see the show, people I know, people I don’t. But it isn’t my favorite thing to know when you’re coming. So, if you’re someone I know well, and we have each other’s phone number and you live in New York City, please do not tell me when you’re coming. Please come and text me at intermission or at the end of the show, which is preferred, and I will make sure to put your name on the list. I will check it right after the show.”

She also gave instructions to those she doesn’t know all that well. “If we don’t know each other well or talk super often or you’re from out of town, please do let me know when you’re coming because I want to make sure that I get to see you. For everybody else, I will 100 percent do my very best to Stage Door [where actors meet fans after the show as they exit the theater] as much as humanly possible. I know people come from all over the world to see Broadway and I want to be there as much as I can. If I am not there, please know it’s for a reason. I may not be feeling well, or something is pulling me away, I don’t know what it is, but I will always do my best to Stage Door because I love meeting you all and I am so honored that you would come to see our shows.”

We just love how precise and in control she is about meeting friends and fans. That kind of gratitude will definitely take her far in Broadway and Hollywood. 

Aside from her work on the stage, Renée has also appeared in several television shows.

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The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native and 2013 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University has appeared in Facebook Watch’s series “Strangers,” Netflix’s “Master of None,” CBS’s “Big Bang Theory,” and on the CW’s superhero series “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Arrow,” and “Flash.”

If you haven’t heard Renée’s stellar voice, here’s a clip of the actress singing Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold.”

Congrats on this new role, Ciara! We can’t wait to see her show on Broadway! Will you be going?

READ: The New Cinderella Remake Tapped Camila Cabello To Play The Princess And Billy Porter To Be The Fabulous Godmother

The Internet Reacts to Jennifer Hudson In the New Aretha Franklin Biopic Trailer

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The Internet Reacts to Jennifer Hudson In the New Aretha Franklin Biopic Trailer

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On December 20th, the teaser trailer for the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” was dropped for the first time. The 44-second clip shows Oscar-Winning actress Jennifer Hudson silhoutted in front of giant letters spelling out the word “Respect”. We then hear the legendary lyrics: “What you want, baby I got it. What you need, you know I got it” almost completely in A-Capella, save for a few background singers. 

With the lights finally highlighting her face, Hudson is transformed into the Queen of Soul, standing alone onstage wearing a sparkling gold dress  and a wig fashioned after Franklin’s signature 60s-era bouffant ‘do. Unfortunately, that is all the sneak-preveiw the trailer gives us into the upcoming movie before quickly cutting to black.

According to the video’s description, “Respect” is “the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice”. The description goes on to explain that the hotly-anticipated movie will follow “the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom”.

The trailer made waves upon its release and has racked up almost 5 million views on YouTube as of publication.

Hudson has already proved herself as a powerhouse actress and vocalist, winning over the hearts of America in the third season of American Idol. She then further impressed the world in her star turn as Effie White in 2006’s “Dreamgirls”. For that role, she earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.Recently, on “The Kelly Clarkson Show”Hudson shared her gratitude at being given the chance to step into the iconic Queen of Soul’s shoes for a short period of time. “My [audition] song for American Idol was ‘Share Your Love With Me’ by Aretha Franklin’. To flash forward fifteen years later where I’m playing Aretha…She’s an iconic figure that we all love and respect”.

The role is a boon for Hudson, who was hand-picked by Aretha Franklin before her death to play her in the upcoming movie. According to Hudson, Franklin made the final decision after seeing her perform in “The Color Purple” on Broadway in 201_. “We were in talks a long time about me playing her,” Hudson told People magazine earlier this month. “So I just hope I make her proud [and] do her justice.” 

The biopic has been in the works since at least 2010, when Franklin suggested that Halle Berry should play her in the movie.

The movie has been through many changes since then, cycling through many different potential cast members, directors, and producers. As of now, the movie is a star-studded affair that boasts a cast of household names like Forest Whitaker, Marlon Waynes, Audra McDonald, and Mary J. Blige. In addition, the movie has the distinct honor of being directed by a woman of color, “Jessica Jones” auteur Liesl Tommy. 

This movie has been long-awaited, as Franklin’s life was truly cinematic. Born in Memphis in 1942, Franklin was born to a father who was a pastor and a mother who was a professional pianist and a vocalist. Noticing her gift for singing, her father began managing her career at the age of 12 after she stunned her congregation with her show-stopping solos. By the time she was 21, she was already being crowned the “Queen of Soul” by her contemporaries. She is most famous for her chart-topping hits “Respect”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, and “I Say a Little Prayer”. She died of pancreatic cancer on August 16th, 2018 at the age of 76.

In general, fans on the internet heartily approved of Hudson playing The Queen of Soul in her official movie.

For once, the internet didn’t immediately disapprove of the casting of an upcoming movie.

This Twitter user summed up the general reception of the trailer perfectly: 

Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones we didn’t even know we needed.

Of course, some people joked about the tendency for Hollywood to white-wash films that are based on true stories:

Based on the cast and the director, we’re pretty positive that this movie isn’t going to veer into problematic territory. 

Of course, there were whispers of another Oscar on the horizon for J-Hud

If there were ever a role Hudson was born to play, it’s this one. 

This person made a snarky joke about Hudson’s less-than-stellar recent track record with movie musicals.

In Hudson’s defense, no amount of raw talent and impressive vocals could’ve saved “Cats” from its critical and commercial declawing.