Lin-Manuel Miranda has weathered criticism this week over the lack of darker-skinned Afro-Latinx lead performers in the new film version of his blockbluster musical "In the Heights."
"We fell short," he said in a statement Monday and continued to apologize on late-night TV the next day.
Now he has an impassioned defender: EGOT-winning icon Rita Moreno.
Appearing on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" Tuesday, Moreno was answering Colbert's question about the burden of being a pioneer when she suddenly shifted gears: "Can we talk for a second about that criticism about Lin-Manuel? That really upsets me."
Although director Jon M. Chu's film version of Miranda's Tony-winning musical has been widely praised for its depiction of Washington Heights' Latinx community in New York City, a viral video interview on the Root sparked a conversation about the lack of Afro-Latinx lead performers.
"You can never do right, it seems," said Moreno, 89. "This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America. I couldn't do it. I would love to say I did, but I couldn't. Lin-Manuel has done that, really single-handedly, and I'm thrilled to pieces and I'm proud that he produced my documentary ['Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It']."
Colbert asked, "Are you saying that while you may understand where people's concerns come from, that perhaps it's misplaced in criticizing him in this?"
"I'm simply saying, 'Can't you just wait a while and leave it alone?' There's a lot of people who are Puerto Rican who are also from Guatemala who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. This is how it is.
"It would be so nice if they hadn't come up with that and left it alone, just for now. I mean, they're really attacking the wrong person."
The audience applauded.