All You Need to Know About the ‘In the Heights’ Cast (and Where to Find Them on the ‘Gram)

In the Heights

It took 13 long years, but Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway show turned movie musical In the Heights will finally land in cinemas on June 24.

Like his hip-hop stage show about the first US Secretary of the Treasury, Miranda’s tale of bodega owner Usnavi (whom Miranda himself played in the original show) and his community of dreamers in Washington Heights, New York is a paragon of diversity and the importance of Latinx stories.

The playwright and performer previously told Variety of his struggles in getting the movie version greenlit, with studios insisting that they needed a “bankable” Latinx celebrity — such as Jennifer Lopez or Shakira — to star in it.

“The sentence that rings in my ears from that era is ‘There’s not a lot of Latino stars who test international,’” Miranda told the publication.

“‘Test international’ means ‘We’re not taking a chance on an expensive movie with Latino stars.’”

Having finally overcome that hurdle (and several others) Miranda and director John Chu assembled a cast of incredibly talented actors to take the story from stage to screen, including a former Hamilton star.

Read on to learn more about the cast of In the Heights.

Anthony Ramos — Usnavi de la Vega

Anthony Ramos plays Usnavi de la Vega — the narrator and main character of In the Heights. 

Usnavi is a bodega (corner shop) owner in Washington Heights who dreams of escaping New York and opening a bar in his home country, the Dominican Republic. He is in love with Vanessa, who works at the local hair salon and dreams of moving to the artsy and glamourous West Village.

In the film, Usnavi’s bodega sells a winning lottery ticket for $96,000 —prompting the residents of Washington Heights to ponder what they would do with so much money.

Ramos was one of the main actors of the original Hamilton cast, where he played both John Laurens and Philip Hamilton and has also previously performed in In the Heights as Sonny de la Vega in a 2012 touring production of the show.

Find him on Instagram @anthonyramosofficial

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Leslie Grace — Nina Rosario

Nina returns home from her first year at Stanford University, too afraid to tell her family that she has dropped out under the financial pressure of attending school and the fact that she was racially profiled. The first in her family to “escape” Washington Heights, Nina grapples with her feelings for Benny and the dichotomy of wanting more for her life and loyalty to her home.

Leslie Grace is a singer and songwriter who has released two studio albums — 2009’s Pasión and 2013’s self-titled Leslie Grace. She has been nominated for three Latin Grammys and three Billboard Latin Music Awards. 

In the Heights is her first film role.

Find her on Instagram @lesliegrace

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Corey Hawkins —  Benny

Benny is Usnavi’s best friend and works for the car dispatch service run by Nina’s dad, Kevin. He has long been in love with Nina but worries how her family would react to the pair being together, given that he is not Latino.

Corey Hawkins plays the role of Benny and if he looks familiar, it’s because he has quite the acting resume.

The talented performer has previously appeared in The Walking Dead and 24: Legacy, as well as playing none other than Dr Dre in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. The Tony-award winning actor also starred in Netflix’s 2019 movie 6 Underground.

Find him on Instagram @coreyhawkins

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Melissa Barrera — Vanessa

Vanessa works at Daniela’s hair salon and fantasises about moving downtown to the West Village and becoming a fashion designer. She is the object of Usnavi’s affection but doesn’t realise that she just might reciprocate his feelings.

The role of Vanessa is played by Mexican actress and singer Melissa Barrera, who has appeared in several telenovelas such as  Siempre tuya AcapulcoTanto amor, and Club de Cuervos. She also starred in the drama series Vida and will be seen in the slasher horror film Scream in 2022.

Find her on Instagram @melissabarreram

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Olga Merediz —  “Abuela” Claudia

Abuela Claudia is beloved in the neighbourhood and comes from an impoverished upbringing in Cuba.

She is the buyer of the winning lottery ticket from Usnavi’s bodega, causing her to reflect on her struggles and gratitude to be living in the US.

Olga Merediz is no stranger to In the Heights or the role of Abuela Claudia, having won a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for playing the part on Broadway.

Her television credits include NBC’s 2016 series Shades of Blue and Brooklyn Nine-Nine,  and Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.

Find her on Instagram @officialolgamerediz

Instagram @officialolgamerediz

Daphne Rubin-Vega —  Daniela

Daniela owns the hair salon that Vanessa works at and, in the film version, is in a relationship with Carla.

The role is played by Daphne Rubin-Vega, a Panamanian-American actress who played Mimi Martinez in the original production of Rent — for which she earned a Tony nomination.

She also appeared in 90s cult classic Wild Things as well as Broadway productions The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Les Misérables.

Find her on Instagram @daphnerubinvega

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Stephanie Beatriz — Carla

Carla runs the neighbourhood hairdressing salon with Daniela, who is also her life partner.

Stephanie Beatriz plays Carla in the film version of In The Heights, with fans most likely recognising her as Detective Rosa Diaz from the hilarious sitcom Brooklyn 99. Beatriz has also lent her voice talents to Netflix’s adult animated series Bojack Horseman.

Find her on Instagram @stephaniebeatriz

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Dascha Polanco — Cuca

Cuca is a new character who did not appear in the Broadway show. She works at the salon alongside Vanessa, Carla and Daniela and is described  as “the life of the party and a pillar in her community who loves the women she surrounds herself with.”

Cuca will be played by Dascha Polanco who you will no doubt recognise from her breakout role as Dayonara Diaz on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and her performances in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Russian Doll and When They See Us.

Find her on Instagram @sheisdash

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Jimmy Smits — Kevin Rosario

Kevin is Nina’s father who owns the car dispatch service Benny works for. He is hard-working wants to be able to provide for his family.

Legendary actor Jimmy Smits will take on the role of Kevin in the film. Smits has a resume that spans decades and includes LA Law, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, Dexter, 24: Legacy, How to Get Away With Murder and Sons of Anarchy. 

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Marc Anthony — Mr de la Vega

Mr de la Vega is Usnavi’s uncle and also the father of Sonny who works with Usnavi at the bodega.

Marc Anthony is, of course, best known for being a multiple Grammy Award-winning singer who has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide.

Find him on Instagram @marcanthony 

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Gregory Diaz IV — Sonny de la Vega

Sonny is Usnavi’s cousin who works with him at the bodega and worries about being an undocumented immigrant. He is a fierce advocate for immigration rights and encourages Nina to attend protests with him.

Gregory Diaz IV has previously acted in Matilda the Musical.

Find him on Instagram @gregdiaz4


Lin-Manuel Miranda — Mr Piragüero, the Piragua Guy

Mr Piragüero sells piraguas (shaved iced treats) in Washington Heights and competes with the more “commercial” Mr Softee.

In the Heights‘ creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the part of Mr Piragüero in the film version of the show, having decided he was too old to play Usnavi as he did in the original stage show.

Miranda doesn’t have Instagram but you can follow him on Twitter @Lin_Manuel

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