By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) –  From Broadway to the big screen, ‘In the Heights’ merges Lin Manuel Miranda’s energetic music and lyrics with director John Chu’s (Crazy Rich Asians) eye for storytelling and visuals.

Anthony Ramos plays the lead role Miranda brought to life on stage, the bodega owner looking for a better life.

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There’s an ensemble cast that features ‘Abuela Claudia,’ the matriarch of the family, played by Olga Merediz, who played the same role on Broadway. There’s ‘Nina’ played by newcomer singer Leslie Grace and veteran actor Jimmy Smits who plays Nina’s father.

“First of all, Jimmy, you had me since 1990’s television, I’m excited to be here I’m going say,” said CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo.

“Thanks very much,” said Smits.

Petrillo asked Smits if Miranda himself asked him to be in the movie.

“Well, it wasn’t like that,” Smits said. “It was more like ‘Hey guys, this is me calling I might have something to offer here.’”

“It was a surreal experience and I think we all felt like please give me this role. I know if we get to be a part of this, it’s going to be life-changing and it was for me personally,” said Leslie Grace. “It’s my first time in a movie.”

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The shooting took place literally in Washington Heights, in Manuel’s New York neighborhood with huge dance numbers.

“We had intense rehearsals. We would be shooting a scene here and there was another room with dancers and singers. There would be others in a recording studio recording. It was intense and fast, and we had a bond very fast because we shot in a very short amount of time,” said Merediz.

“The shooting part was fantastic because we were as you say ‘in the Heights’ shooting in that particular neighborhood where Lin-Manuel Miranda grew up,” said Smits.

“So, the community is very aware of Lin’s success and what he really represents to the community and their positivity boosted us.

Ultimately, ‘In the Heights’ is an epic love letter to the neighborhood and a tribute to an immigrant community made with and by a diverse cast and crew.

“How important is it for you as Hispanic actors to show that message?” asked Petrillo.

“This is a movie that I hoped for when I was a kid, so I could say, ‘oh my gosh that person looks like me and I can do that. I know that person. She looks like my mom, she was like my grandma.’ My story is important. My path is important too,” said Leslie Grace.

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‘In the Heights’ is in theaters on June 11th.

Lisa Petrillo