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WATCH: Leslie Grace on how ‘In the Heights’ brings crucial Latinx stories to the screen

PBS, 12 Jun 2021
In the new musical film “In the Heights,” Leslie Grace’s character Nina Rosario arrives home to her Washington Heights neighborhood after her first semester at Stanford. Nina is the first of her family to go to college, aware of the neighborhood’s expectations weighing on her shoulders, as someone who “made it out” of the Heights.

Grace, a Dominican American who was born in the Bronx, told the PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown that she connected to Nina’s story because while her dreams were supported, “you feel responsible to achieve your dreams, not only for yourself, but so that others in your family, in your community and the generations to come feel like they can do it, too.”

In the song “Breathe,” Nina sings about failing her community and her family, after dropping out of college, where she had struggled to fit in and where there weren’t many other Latino students on campus.

Grace said she longed to see stories like Nina’s, which reflect the lives of children of Latino immigrants, on the silver screen while growing up. She added that Nina’s story could be felt by Latinx people or anyone who feels different.

“A lot of us didn't [see ourselves on the screen]. A lot of us didn't have the fortune. That's why I think we all felt like Nina at a certain point, feeling responsible for this story and for telling the story.”

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