Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
The first time actor Antony Ramos saw In the heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway production on a Latinx community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, he was floored.
“The pulse of this musical, it touches me,” he said. “I had never felt this when watching a musical. … watching In the heights, it just gave me that hope, like, wow, that’s what a Broadway show can be. ”
Now Ramos stars – and sings, dances and raps – in the film adaptation of In the heights. He plays Usnavi, a young man who runs a local bodega and dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic, which he left at the age of 8.
Ramos says the neighborhood portrayed in the film reminds him of plans in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where he grew up.
“There were times of trauma and stuff like that,” he says. “But at the end of the day there was so much good too.… I’m grateful that we have a film about a neighborhood like Washington Heights where we see… this diverse cast together and celebrating not only the community, but of where they come from, and celebrate life. … There is good in every neighborhood. ”
Ramos had a dual role as abolitionist John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the Broadway production and the film version of Hamilton. Ramos is now in the new season of HBO Processing, like Eladio, who mostly has virtual sessions with a therapist played by Uzo Aduba.
On the sentiment represented by the Broadway production of In the heights
I sat down and watched this show, and I just saw all these characters on stage. … And I felt like I was looking at my cousins and aunts and uncles on stage right now, like friends that I grew up with. And these people speak a vernacular that is familiar to me. …
I grew up in Bushwick with my mom and two siblings, older brother, younger sister, [in a] predominantly Latin neighborhood – Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans. It was called a barrio. It was hard. But, it’s funny, Washington Heights, the pulse of this neighborhood, the music and the food and just the people yelling from their windows at someone downstairs or the kids opening the hydrants – there was all of these similarities between the neighborhood I grew up in and Washington Heights.
How a high school drama teacher helped him land a college scholarship
All of my applications were withdrawn because I missed the deadline for financial aid forms. And she said to me: “Hope is not lost”, because I felt hopeless. I was thinking of joining the navy. She was like … “You have to audition for this school called AMDA [American Musical and Dramatic Academy]. “… [I said] “Alright, I’m going to audition.”
I’m going home, [but] I couldn’t afford it. … She said, [apply to] the Jerry Seinfeld scholarship … I said, “Do they know what my grades look like?” She said, “Yes, it’s okay. They still want to meet you.” …
And I’m sitting with this woman … and I just told my story and I basically said … “I need a shot. I just need someone to go. give me a chance. My grades don’t … reflect who I am. I just need a chance. ” We got emotional and I shared things about my life, how I grew up. And then I left and the school called me for this crazy loan. I couldn’t afford it, and asked the guy to give me one more day. … Two hours later, [she] Called me up and said, “Hey Anthony, we usually don’t get a scholarship for people with those grades, but we want to pay for your school for the four years. ”
On appendicitis just when Hamilton open to broadway
It was between shows. It was a day of two shows. I will never forget him. I was in excruciating pain. I was sitting in my dressing room, and I was like, at least let me try to take a nap or something. I tried to eat lunch, I couldn’t. I was like, okay, let me lay down. The pain was so bad that I had to call. I just said to my manager, “I can’t do this. I’m so sorry.” I could not. I was in so much pain. …[My brother and I] went straight to the hospital. I think it was Mount Sinai. And they’re like, “Yo, you have appendicitis, bro.… You need surgery.” I literally said, “Can we do this next week? “No, we have to do it now. … They take me to this room. They’re removing my appendix. I was crazy. I was on all of these drugs. …
Then the doctors said, “Yeah, you have to be off your show for a month.” I say to myself “Brother, if I am absent from the series for a month, I am not paid! We just got to Broadway, [I’m] broken! Think about it: you’re going through this life and death situation … and the thing I’m thinking about is like, yo, I have to pay my rent, bro. … I was supposed to be off the show for a month and, you know, we cut it down to two weeks. They changed the show a bit for me. … Then we recorded the casting album. We recorded the casting album shortly after I had this appendectomy, and I had to sit on a stool in the studio between takes. I stood up, cut my voice, then sat down on the stool.
Become a Calvin Klein underwear model
I still have to wake up some days and say to myself, yo, man, you’re good enough. You still have those days where you’re like, man, my ears are big. My eyes look like this. I have this lock of hair that won’t fall out. … I was so surprised. I was like, what? Do they have the right person?
Lauren Krenzel and Kayla Lattimore produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper, and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.