In the Heights was the musical that Lin-Manuel Miranda made before Hamilton. And while it was well received, it didn't make the man or the cast of performers in to household names in quite the same way. The In the Heights movie was supposed to be released in theaters last summer before the filmed version of Hamilton, but plans changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that film will arrive in theaters and on HBO Max after millions more people have seen what Hamilton was all about. In the end that might be good news, as we just learned that even more talent from Hamilton will appear in In the Heights.
Anthony Ramos, who played both John Laurens and Philip Hamilton, will star in the film adaptation of the play, and Lin-Manuel Miranda will appear as well in the role of the Piragua Guy. However, the newest trailer dropped another Hamilton alum into the mix as George Washington himself, Christopher Jackson, will also appear in the film as the Mr. Softee driver.
On the one hand, adding Christopher Jackson into the mix isn't that big a surprise. Jackson originated the role of Benny for In the Heights' original productions, including on Broadway. So adding him to the cast is a nice tip of the hat to that fact. Originally Lin-Manuel Miranda played the lead role himself, so he's essentially doing the same thing here by casting himself in a smaller role and letting up and coming stars like Anthony Ramos and Corey Hawkins (who is playing Benny in the film) get the spotlight.
It's also an interesting choice because the Mr. Softee driver isn't really a role in the original play. The Mr. Softee driver and the Piragua Guy have an ongoing rivalry throughout the play in a minor subplot, but the Mr. Softee driver himself is never actually seen. The cameo we see in the trailer here could literally be the entire appearance by Christopher Jackson, since the character isn't really part of the story. Of course, it's also possible that the movie version of In the Heights has added more to this part of the story and we're going to see even more from Jackson.
Either way, it's cool to see even more of the Hamilton cast appear in Lin-Manuel Miranda's other movie musical. Miranda clearly thinks a great deal of these people and is probably more than happy to give them work whenever he is able to do so. It also makes one wonder if there are even more Hamilton cameos in our future that have not been revealed quite yet.
Either way, In the Heights is looking like a great movie musical, and it will be something different if only because it's a true film adaptation rather than simply the filming of the staged performance. In the Heights will open in theaters and on HBO Max on June 18.