'In the Heights' Actress Olga Merediz Details 'Groundbreaking' Character Alongside Jimmy Smits (Exclusive)

As Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical adaptation of the Quiara Alegría Hudes book, In the Heights, jumps into theaters this week, fans anxiously await the highly-anticipated summer blockbuster from director Jon M. Chu. Starring Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins and Leslie Grace, the 2005 stage musical of the same name tells the story of a bodega owner at odds with which direction he wants to take his future backdropped to stories of friendship and family turning in unexpected directions. In an exclusive with PopCulture.com, cast members, including Hawkins, Barrera, Grace, Jimmy Smits, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Gregory Diaz IV, opened up about why they chose to join the musical project while expressing their excitement over the world finally seeing their hard work.

While each character in the musical brings a special something to the table, Merediz brings life into the hearts of many through the portrayal of Abuela. "This character was a groundbreaking character on Broadway," she gushed. "To have this older woman in a housecoat singing center stage, singing this aria, I don't think it had ever been seen before. To bring her, this invisible woman that sometimes, you know we take older people for granted, and to give her space the platform she deserves [...]," she said before noting "wise" Abuela is among the older "matriarchs" with "so much to give," which is certainly a storyline that bleeds through on screen.

The vibrant colors and representation in this film will bring nothing but smiles to audiences thanks to its relatable characters. When Smits was asked why he took on the role of Kevin, he felt as if it was a duty he understands most as a father of two. "I wanted to feel like I could contribute something because I think I understand both sides," Smits said. Many parents will relate to Kevin since he's a father who wants to give his daughter, Nina (Leslie Grace), the world as she battles which direction she wants to take her life. "And as a dad, every generation wants the generation that's coming up to do better. Right? It's part of the American dream," he added.

Grace, who plays Smits on-screen daughter, noted that fans would find a way to relate to Nina as well because what she's going through is something we've all battled at least once in life. "Nina goes through a lot of things that we all have to face in our lives," the actress noted. "We've all in some way, shape or form, no matter where you're from at some point are feeling like you're not enough [...] or don't fit in enough." The emotional connection between the father and daughter is another angle that brings their stories to life that will resonate with many's hearts.


The Hudes adapted, Chu-directed, Miranda musical will undoubtedly bring a Broadway production to life in theaters. In the Heights will release in theaters on June 11. Certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a 99% freshness score, the film will have fans wanting to see it more than once.