Since then, Ramos has gone on to star in the stage production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster “Hamilton,” and now can be seen leading the cast in the movie version of Miranda’s “In the Heights,” which so inspired him years earlier.
“‘In the Heights’ was like the show that kept me believing, because I was like, ‘Yo, I don’t know where I fit in, in this musical theater world,” Ramos told Sanneh.
Indeed, Ramos recalls being told by a teacher to change the way he spoke so people wouldn’t know where he was from. He believed, he said, he needed to do that to make it.
But then, he saw “In the Heights”: “I’m sitting there watching this show about people singing, and dancing, and speaking about things that I grew up knowing. And they sound like me.”
The film version of “In the Heights,” just as it was on stage, is set in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, and revolves around a bodega owner who dreams – and sings – of a better life. Ramos plays the bodega owner (who was played by Miranda on Broadway).
“He’s the narrator of our story … like so many bodega owners are, right?” Ramos said. “These guys see everything, and they hear everything.”
Ramos talked with Sanneh about growing up in a tough neighborhood where he worried about his safety.
“Kids were getting jumped, stabbed. There was all types of crazy. It was wild … You’re just trying to walk home and I’m getting followed,” he said. “So that was, like, my motivation, too, growing up. I was, like, ‘Yo, I gotta, like, I gotta work.'”
As for his career, he told Sanneh how he reacted when he got the call to audition for “Hamilton.” And now, he said, he feels the pressure to succeed after leaving the old neighborhood for the big screen. “For sure. Because any minute, you feel like you could lose it. Especially when you grow up feeling like one good thing happens and two bad things happen. You know, it’s wild. Sometimes I feel like, you know, I’m the one who made it out. I’m part of group of people who can tell the stories.”
To watch a preview of Kelefa Sanneh’s interview with Anthony Ramos click on the video player below:
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