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Rita Moreno walks back defending Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'Heights' casting

Rita Moreno said of her intial defense of

Rita Moreno said of her intial defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda's casting of the "In The Heights" movie: "It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others." Credit: Pool / Getty Images / Chris Pizzello

Stage and screen legend Rita Moreno, who spent her teen years in Valley Stream, has had second thoughts about defending playwright-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda over criticism that the movie of his Broadway musical "In the Heights" downplays Afro-Latinos in favor of lighter-skinned actors.

"I'm incredibly disappointed with myself," the 89-year-old "West Side Story" Oscar-winner tweeted Wednesday evening. "While making a statement in defense of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Colbert Show last night, I was clearly dismissive of black lives that matter in our Latin community. It is so easy to forget how celebration for some is lament for others."

On CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Tuesday, Moreno responded to criticism that had coalesced in a video interview at last week in which cast members and director Jon M. Chu addressed the dearth of Afro-Latinos among the film's lead roles.

"You can never do right, it seems," Moreno told host Colbert. "This is the man who literally has brought Latino-Ness and Puerto Rican-Ness to America," she maintained of Miranda, composer of the 2008 Tony Award-winning "In the Heights" and playwright-composer of the primarily Black and Latino 2015 musical "Hamilton," which took 11 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

"I'm simply saying, can't you just wait a while and leave it alone?" she went on to say Tuesday. "There [are] a lot of people who are Puertorriqueño, who are also from Guatemala [and elsewhere in Latin America], who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. And … it would be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and left it alone, just for now. I mean, they're really attacking the wrong person."

In the second tweet Wednesday, Moreno wrote that, "In addition to applauding Lin for his wonderful movie version of In The Heights, let me add my appreciation for his sensitivity and resolve to be more inclusive of the Afro-Latino community going forward. See, you CAN teach this old dog new tricks."

Miranda on Monday had tweeted in response to the casting criticism that "many in our dark-skinned Afro-Latino community don't feel sufficiently represented within it, particularly among the leading roles. … In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I'm truly sorry. … I promise to do better in my future projects, and I'm dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community."

He has not commented publicly on Moreno's most recent statements.

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