Why Stephanie Beatriz Got Emotional While Filming 'In the Heights' (Exclusive)

Stephanie Beatriz
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

The 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' star talks to ET about next summer's musical blockbuster and showing the Latinx community as it is.

In the Heights, the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical, was originally set for a June premiere, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed its anticipated opening until next summer. Still, Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Stephanie Beatriz, who plays salon employee Carla, is already counting down the days to the movie's premiere on June 18, 2021, if all goes according to plan.

"I'm really excited," Beatriz told ET. "I mean, I think it will be really lovely and awesome for us to be able to go to the theater again and feel excited about the film, and to share that experience all together. I'm so excited for people to see this incredible talent. The talent in this film is just, like, whew. It's amazing. There's so many incredible voices in it. God, I could just go on and on."

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Step Up franchise), the film tells the story of a tight-knit community in New York's Washington Heights, where likable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Hamilton's Anthony Ramos) hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

The ensemble cast includes Corey Hawkins as Benny, Leslie Grace as Nina, Melissa Barrera as Vanessa, Olga Merediz reprising her role as Abuela Claudia, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Daniela, Gregory Diaz IV as Sonny, Dascha Polanco as Cuca, Jimmy Smits as Nina's father Kevin, Noah Catala as Graffiti Pete, Marc Anthony as Mr. de la Vega and Miranda in a cameo as Mr. Piragüero, the "Piragua Guy."

Beatriz spoke glowingly about Grace and her performance in the film, calling the 25-year-old singer "an extremely gifted artist." "Her voice is just... it's like angels on a rainbow sliding down into a lagoon where there's a mermaid and fairies," she marveled. "I mean, it's just incredible; her voice is fire... You won't hear her singing on the album yet, but she's incredible. Not only is she a gifted, gifted singer, but she's also the kindest, most lovely human, and to watch her work in the film was really exciting."

Beatriz also praised her time working with Chu on location in New York City for In the Heights. 

"And also to be around Jon Chu was great because as somebody who wants to learn more about producing and directing, it was really exciting to see him handle this huge musical. Hundreds of people on set. Huge dance numbers. An incredible team of people from the choreographers to the choreography team," she said, promising that the musical numbers "are thrilling."

'In the Heights' hits theaters next summer. - Warner Bros.

But as Beatriz explains, In the Heights represents the full breadth of the Latinx experience and is unapologetic about celebrating the diversity within the community. 

"One of the things that's most exciting is that in this moment of social justice reckoning -- there's so many levels of it -- but one of the levels that the Latino community really needs to come face to face with, in my personal opinion, is there's a lot of racism and colorism in the Latino community. And part of that is we're from all different places, we're from all different countries, we're from all different parts of [the world]," she said. "Latino is a very broad statement, but what it has done traditionally is weed out people that are Black inside that community."

"And so one of the things that I'm really thrilled about about In the Heights is that we have so many kinds of people in this cast and so many different colors of people and Black people and so many different shades of people. And that is really, really important because what you see on the screen, it counts," Beatriz added. "And for people to be able to see themselves in this film, and specifically for Black people see themselves in this film, it is really important to me, because I think that the erasure -- that I unfortunately have taken part in that erasure in my past, and that's on me because that's my responsibility to look at my unconscious bias. But also, it's really thrilling that that part of the Latino community is going to see themselves onscreen in this film. I think that that's going to be -- I hope that that will be a moment of recognition and possibly healing."

Though audiences will have a little over 10 months before In the Heights takes over their lives, Beatriz assured fans of the Broadway musical that the magic of the Tony Award–winning production is still intact.

"There were times when I watched some of the dance numbers that Jon showed me -- he's incredibly talented, he edits so fast -- and there were times when I watched some of the dance numbers and I was just bawling since I've never seen that onscreen that way," Beatriz shared. "So many of us, so many different kinds of us. Because that's the thing, we're not a monolith. We're not just one type of person and we don't come from just one type of place. We don't have just one kind of story. And it's really important that we continue to investigate why we've left out so many of the stories inside that world."

In the Heights hits theaters June 18, 2021.

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