Q&A: Leslie Grace lives full-circle second ‘Within the Heights’

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NEW YORK (AP) — Like her Nina character in “In The Heights,” Leslie Grace says she’s struggled to slot in as an Afro-Latino girl and artist.

“On a regular basis,” the 26-year-old singer stated in an interview with The Related Press. “In so many components of my life I’ve felt that — not being Latina sufficient, not being American sufficient, being first-generation the identical means that Nina is. So plenty of the themes in Nina’s character I actually associated to.”

The just-released “Within the Heights” is an adaptation of the Tony-award profitable musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes concerning the desires and struggles of the Latino neighborhood in New York Metropolis’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

Grace, a Latin Grammy-nominated singer who began her skilled profession at 16, was born within the Bronx borough of New York Metropolis to Dominican mother and father however grew up in Davie, Florida. Final yr, she left the household dwelling to maneuver to Los Angeles — the identical means that Nina left her dad of their beloved Washington Heights to attend Stanford College, the place she would not really feel that she belongs.

Grace talked about making her appearing debut within the largest Latino film in current historical past, her expertise working alongside Jimmy Smits (her onscreen dad) and the full-circle second the movie represents to her household.

Solutions have been edited for brevity and readability.

AP: You are not simply making your appearing debut in any film, however within the largest potential Latino launch. How are you feeling now that it’s lastly opening?

Grace: I simply really feel so blessed. I really feel fulfilled to be part of one thing that not solely is so stunning and so large and was so extremely difficult and enjoyable to make, however that additionally offers again and pays homage to the tales of my mom and my grandmother and my household, my dad, you realize, the people who I actually know which have introduced me up and which have supported me in so some ways. It’s a full-circle expertise for all of us for therefore many causes, however for me it’s actually near dwelling due to the story.

AP: How did you get the function of Nina?

Grace: I had been auditioning for perhaps three years — I stored this little dream to myself, like just a little secret, that I actually wished to behave. And I assumed that my first function can be a visitor function as a music artist on some present, since I used to be simply getting began. Then the chance for “Within the Heights” got here alongside and I used to be like, “I must audition for this! I should be part of this!” It was my first in-person audition.

AP: We have seen you singing, dancing and appearing in music movies. What was the most important problem of doing that now in such an enormous movement image?

Grace: I feel that all of us felt like Nina: She doesn’t wish to let anyone down. We knew this was the most important job that we’ve ever heard of for a Latino main solid to inform the story and inform it in all of its brilliance and splendor, and likewise do good on the neighborhood that Lin loves a lot. The challenges for me have been to really feel like I had one thing of worth to carry once I’d by no means ever been on a transfer set, and doing it with such good individuals. So that you’re overcoming your individual insecurities to see what you’ll be able to carry to your character. After which, the dancing. Man! As a music artist, I’ve executed choreography, however by no means like this earlier than.

AP: You share the display screen with veteran actor Jimmy Smits as your father. How was working with him?

Grace: Jimmy was the very best, like I used to be seeking to my dad. However he’s (a father determine, like) el papá de los pollitos (the daddy of the little chickens). He’s Jimmy Smits! So on a regular basis I’m strolling to set, I’m like, “I get to play Jimmy Smits’ daughter. What do I’ve to carry to this desk?” Like, “I’m attempting to study from you whereas I’m appearing.” What an unimaginable individual to study from. It was intimidating, however all that intimidation that I had internally was met with a lot love and a lot generosity and emotional availability. He actually simply cradled me. All people did. It was stunning.

AP: I learn that your mom owns a magnificence salon.

Grace: Yeah! She doesn’t run a salon anymore, however she has been a real-life salon woman all her life.

AP: What did she consider the salon girls and your salon scene within the film?

GRACE: It was one other full-circle second. My mother and father had come to go to me on the set for the primary time and one thing had modified within the schedule, we weren’t speculated to be within the salon, however she arrived simply as we have been going to rehearse “No Me Diga.” So she walks in and she or he sees the entrance desk and the hair dryers and she or he’s like, “¡Este es como mi salón!” (“That is like my salon!”) The loopy factor is, that is the place the place my mother and father’ tales are lived. My mother’s first salon enterprise was a pair blocks away from the place we have been taking pictures… I get to be part of a narrative that’s cherishing my mother’s story and my mother will get to witness it by coming to go to her little lady on set whereas she’s dwelling her personal wildest desires.

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Observe Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.

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