Director Jon M. Chu’s upcoming film adaptation of In the Heights promises to expand the Washington Heights-set story to showcase the myriad locales of the community and their dreams, as evident in the two recently revealed trailers. But Chu and screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes have also crafted another new, inclusive element with two beloved characters.
Beauty salon owner Daniela and hairdresser Carla, while portrayed as coworkers and gossip buddies in Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hudes’ stage musical, will also be romantic partners on the big screen. Rent Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Stephanie Beatriz play the two, respectively, in the movie.
Chu and Rubin-Vega had previously confirmed the evolution of the characters’ dynamic. At a recent press event celebrating the release of the latest two trailers, Beatriz discussed the significance of the decision.
“What was so gratifying to me as a person who is queer is to see this relationship in the film be part of the fabric of the community,” Beatriz says, “and to be normal, and be happy and functioning, and part of the quilt they’ve all created.”
She continues: “So much of this film is about where home is and who home is to you. And for Carla, Daniela is home. Wherever Daniela is, that’s where Carla feels at home.”
The change is one of several aimed to make the film more reflective of the community it represents, as well as their contemporary dreams and plights. The trailers mention DREAMers and offer glimpses of a rally with posters that read “Immigrant Rights are Human Rights” and “Refugees Are People Too.” Additionally, it appears that Usnavi (as played by Miranda’s Hamilton co-star Anthony Ramos) makes it back to the Dominican Republic, telling a younger generation on the island about the tight-knit community in Manhattan.
In an alternate timeline, audiences would have already had the chance to see In the Heights in theatres. However, the coronavirus pandemic delayed the film’s release; it’ll now play in movie theatres and on HBO Max beginning June 18. “It’s been a year that we’ve been waiting. The lid has been on it,” Rubin-Vega says. And now: “We’re just so ready to explode.”