‘In The Heights’ stars Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace provide Afro-Latinx flavor
Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace in scene from 'In the Heights. (Warner Bros).

Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace are appreciative of the rare opportunity the film In The Heights provides.

The pair star as love interests Benny and Nina Rosario in the film, and told theGrio that the film makes a point to highlight not only Latinx diversity, but also the Afro-Latinx experience, which is a reality rarely presented on the big screen.

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows a scene from “In the Heights.” (Warner Bros. via AP)

“Sometimes we feel as though we need to see ourselves to be something, and we don’t necessarily, but it sure does make it easier,” said Grace, 26, who is Dominican and identifies as Afro-Latina. “It sure does make it feel better to be yourself when you’ve seen somebody else that looks like you, or is where you’re from, do what you want to do.”

“It’s also very encouraging, I think, to all communities that have felt marginalized to see a story told by someone who knows the story, and then feel empowered to do it themselves. If they don’t see themselves through this movie, then they say, ‘Okay, there’s something missing. Let me tell that story.’ That’s the big story around this movie. It’s not just the story about In The Heights, this beautiful musical that we tell on screen, but it’s what it took to make this movie be shared to the world. I hope that people are inspired by that.”

While Hawkins’ character is not Afro-Latino, he brings his own unique perspective as the only African American lead in the movie musical, which also stars Anthony RamosJimmy SmitsMelissa Barrera and Dascha Polanco. Hawkins also agreed wholeheartedly with Grace that the film’s divesity is something movie-going audiences need, whether they know it or not.

Jon M. Chu, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace and Jimmy Smits, from left, arrive at a screening of “In the Heights” during the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival at TCL Chinese Theatre on Friday, June 4, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

“You never know what you’re missing until you actually see it,” explained Hawkins, who starred in Straight Outta Compton. “I remember growing up as a Black man in DC, Black boy in DC, and seeing a lot of white faces on television and a screen. Sometimes you start to think that you need to aspire to something that is other than yourself. I’m so fortunate, and we’re so fortunate, we live in a world and time where this amount of change is happening. This amount of representation is being put out there.

In The Heights is like that times 100. Every little detail [director] Jon Chu captured, every voice is being raised, every flag is being raised for the Latinx community for sure in this movie. And it’s just the beginning.”