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Anthony Ramos Was Pressured To Appear Less Latino and More ‘Ethnically Ambiguous’ Early In His Career

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The multi-hyphenate Anthony Ramos will soon appear in the much-anticipated “In the Heights” movie, which the pandemic delayed by a year. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote “In the Heights” in his sophomore year of college as a musical center Latino characters. The storyline centers on the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of the inhabitants of the majority-Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City.

Recently, “In the Heights” star Anthony Ramos opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about how people told him to seem less Latino and more “ethnically ambiguous” at the beginning of his career.

“Folks would say to me that if you grow your hair out and speak in American Standard, you can be more ethnically ambiguous; you won’t be in the ‘Latino box,'” he revealed. “I thought that s— was a box, as opposed to being a superpower and just who I am.”

Ramos explained that it took him a while to understand that being Latino was part of what made him special. “I believed that [box] s— for a little bit, but I don’t want to be hired for being ambiguous,” he said. “I want to be hired for who the f—- I am.”

In “In the Heights”, Anthony Ramos plays a Latino bodega owner named Usnavi de la Vega. Usnavi’s dream is to save up enough money to move to the Dominican Republic–where his family originally comes from.

Ramos explained that he was excited about the movie because it’s the first time that a big-budget movie will hit theaters with an almost all-Latino cast. “We haven’t had a movie that feels like ‘Black Panther‘ or ‘Crazy Rich Asians’,” he explained to THR (side note: friendly reminder, one of “Black Panther”‘s stars, Lupita Nyong’o, is Afro-Mexicana).

According to Ramos, on the set of “In the Heights,” he would kick off every day with a rallying cry of: “For the culture!” or “For la raza!” or “For my familia!” The dream that “Heights” would be a reflection of themselves onscreen for Latinos across America is what kept Ramos going on the difficult days on set.

Ramos, an actor-singer-dancer of Puerto Rican descent, grew up in a housing project in Bushwick, Brooklyn. His ascent to a leading man in a blockbuster studio movie was not an easy one.

“Figuratively and physically, New York has done a number on my ass. I know what it’s like to struggle, to walk eight blocks in the cold to your apartment,” he said. “I know how it feels to be hungry for my dreams and also hungry like, ‘I could use some McDonald’s right now.’” But since filming “In the Heights,” he’s grown to appreciate the legacy of being a New Yorker. And above all, a Latino New Yorker.

“At the end of that shoot, everybody was so hyped that we all huddled in a circle cheering, ‘New Yorrrrk! New Yorrrrk!’ ” he told THR. “It was just this New York resilient moment we had together singing this song about pride: alza la bandera, raise the Puerto Rican flag, the Dominican flag, the Mexican, Cuban flag. Pa’rriba esa bandera, alzala donde quiera! Raise that flag wherever you want.”

“Until the day I die, I’m going to be proud of where I’m from,” he said. “That was the s—. Some of the days were hard, but every day was more than worth it.”

“In the Heights” will hit theaters and HBO Max on June 10th.

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