Lights up on Washington Heights… that’s right, the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical In The Heights is releasing on home entertainment this week.
The feel-good film of the summer tells the story of a corner of Washington Heights, a community filled with dreamers including bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who sets his sights on a better life.
We spoke to actors Dascha Polanco (Cuca) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (Daniela) all about their salon ladies, representing what these women mean to the community, and the love on set.
You can watch our full interview with Dascha and Daphne here:
Zavvi: Congratulations on the movie! My first question is for you Daphne. Some of my favourite scenes take place at Daniela’s salon. I think the film really highlights how important this place is for the women in the community. Is this something you felt connected to?
Daphne: Absolutely! To be the boss, the head honcho of this salon where we take care of each other inside and out, it’s where we spill the tea and it is emblematic of what women, and particularly women of cultures, do to be self-sustaining, to be self-empowering, and take care of each other. They get into each other’s heads, and the head is a sacred place.
Also, it is challenging to do hair that is textured, so I think there is a whole nuance with that which marinates into this fabulous place. And I didn’t even mention the nails!
Zavvi: I love the nails, there’s a great scene where they tap along with the music. And Dascha, your character Cuca is new for the film. What freedom did you have to really make her your own?
Dascha: That freedom started when Jon [M. Chu, director], Lin [Manuel Miranda, writer] and Quiara [Alegría Hudes, writer] invited us to get to know what the set would look like, what the colours would be, and asked what would we like to see in the collaboration.
When you feel included from the moment at the table read of a project, you’re free to bring your essence but also, you’re motivated. I was inspired to draw from figures in my family, my aunt, and to be able to celebrate her in that way.
A lot of the women in the communities that we grew up around that helped raise us, I wanted to include them and highlight them. You don’t understand it until you are actually in it, how important and necessary it was.
It wasn’t just salon ladies doing hair, it was about what they represented in their communities and presenting that in the most intimate, most respectful and most authentic way.
Zavvi: And what was the atmosphere like on set? It is such a fun movie – very hot, steamy and there’s a lot of energy there.
Daphne: It was filled with love, true genuine love. We were all really aware of how our collective presence on this project was special before any camera rolled.
And there was also this gratitude, that we had arrived at this juncture by Quiara [Alegría Hudes, writer], who had re-appropriated this script and brought it to a production company who was going to support and nurture it, all the way down.
That meant sitting next to people who we shared cultures with in unspoken ways – even though it wasn’t a monolith.
Zavvi: And finally Dascha – what would you like people to take away from the movie?
Dascha: Empowerment. To feel empowered and free.
Zavvi: Beautifully put, and a great note to end the interview on!
In The Heights is out on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD from 27th September.