The lights are up on Washington Heights and filming for the big screen adaptation of In the Heights has begun, but the latest bit of casting news might just be the most thrilling addition yet. On Friday, June 14, Lin-Manuel Miranda revealed that he will play the Piragua Guy in the In the Heights movie, fulfilling the dreams of theater kids everywhere who were hoping to see the actor and composer 181st Street onscreen as well.
Miranda shared the exciting news on Twitter, where he's been sharing casting announcement and updates about the movie, which Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu is currently helming. "One last bit of casting. [Rolls piragua cart on set...]," Miranda wrote, alongside a black-and-white photo of himself behind the show's iconic piragua cart. "(See you on set.)" In the show, the Piragua Guy — played by Eliseo Román in the original Broadway production — helps to break the July heat wave by selling flavored, shaved ice to the various characters in Washington Heights.
The news of Miranda's casting as the Piragua Guy also means that fans no longer have to worry about the character's fan-favorite song being cut from the movie. In early June, Miranda confirmed reports that the In the Heights score was being condensed for the film, which led many to speculate that "Piragua" would be one of tracks left out. "There will be no new songs. The focus was to keep as many of the original songs as possible; some, alas, have been cut," the fan account @Linmanuelcom tweeted, citing an interview that Miranda gave to Remezcla.
While the In the Heights movie might not be adding any new songs to its roster, Miranda did reveal earlier this month that the film will feature a brand new character — Sonny's father — played by Marc Anthony. "Okay I actually can’t hold it in anymore," Miranda wrote on Twitter. "Sonny’s father will be played by Marc Anthony. It’s a brief but pivotal role… And I still can’t believe it."
The addition of Sonny's father hints that the new adaptation of In the Heights will add new depth to some of the show's supporting characters, including possibly delving into the story of how Sonny ended up running the bodega with his cousin, Usnavi (Anthony Ramos). In the interview with Remezcla, Miranda explained that he wanted to ensure that the film was anchored in reality, which included fleshing out storylines and characters. "I want this neighborhood to recognize themselves in this film," he told the outlet.
Another major change that Miranda and the film's creative team made was to update the setting of In the Heights to occur in the present day. "I mean, immigration was an issue in 2008," he said. "But when I think of Sonny’s lyric — you know ‘Politicians be hating / Racism in this nation has gone from latent to blatant.’ It’s more true in 2019, than it was in 2008."
In addition to Miranda and Anthony, the star-studded adaptation will star Hamilton alum Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, the rapping bodega owner with dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic. (Miranda recently gave fans a sneak peek of Ramos' version of the iconic character when he shared a video of the latter singing "96,000" during a commercial break at the 2019 Tony Awards on Twitter.) Gregory Diaz IV will play Sonny, while Mexican artist Melissa Barrera will portray Usnavi’s love interest, Vanessa.
The film's cast will be rounded out by Leslie Grace as Nina Rosario, Jimmy Smits as her father, Kevin and Straight Outta Compton's Corey Hawkins as Benny, her love interest. Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Stephanie Beatriz and Broadway legend Daphne Rubin-Vega will also star in the film, as Carla and Daniela, respectively.
And now, with Miranda on board as the Piragua Guy, it seems more evident than ever that the In the Heights movie will delight old fans and new audiences alike when it arrives in theaters in 2020.