“In The Heights” Extras Talk About Bringing Their Neighborhood To Life


In April 2019, Daliz Pérez-Cabezas’s husband noticed that the producers of the movie Within the Heights have been searching for native Latinx extras. He confirmed it to her and stated, “It’s best to do that. You may verify it off your bucket record.”

Pérez-Cabezas isn’t an actor, she’s the director of educational affairs of Hostos Group School within the Bronx. However she is Dominican and Cuban, and she or he lives together with her husband and two daughters in the identical Washington Heights house the place she grew up. And, maybe most crucially, she had seen Within the Peaks on Broadway and was impressed by the way it represented her neighborhood.

“Washington Heights is a lot part of who I’m. My mom labored on the hospital and did group relations, my father labored at the highschool, I went to PS 187. We’re very invested in the neighborhood,” she stated.

Daliz Pérez-Cabezas


Daliz Pérez-Cabezas

Jennifer Vanasco / Gothamist

Pérez-Cabezas hasn’t but seen Within the Heights on display screen but. It premiered Wednesday on the Tribeca Movie Pageant and simply hit theaters and on HBOMax, with the soundtrack dropping right now from Atlantic Data. Opinions say that it has captured this deep love individuals have for the neighborhood in Higher Manhattan.

This doesn’t shock Pérez-Cabezas, who stated, “They have been actually attempting to get the group vibe, which I appreciated.”

When the film filmed in the summertime of 2019, she was a part of two separate shoots. One was at Highbridge Pool, the place the track “$96,000” was shot as a part of a Busby Berkeley-style pool scene. The opposite was at J. Hood Wright Park, a 6.7 acre greenspace off the A prepare that has a playground, canine run, basketball courts, and Instagram-worthy view of the George Washington Bridge.

The park shoots have been sizzling, actually sizzling. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, I’m cooking, I’m dying,’” she stated, laughing on the reminiscence of it. “We have been strolling down this path and these dancers are flipping off the benches.” That’s when Lesley Grace, who performs Nina, walked by. “She was singing—really singing—and she or he has a fantastic voice. After which I used to be positioned overlooking the fellows enjoying dominos.”

Beatriz, Rubin-Vega, Polanco stand on a balcony and look out onto an alleyway



Macall Polay / Warner Bros. Footage

Pérez-Cabezas says the crew and the celebs, like Anthony Ramos, have been beneficiant to the background actors and different locals who swarmed them. However she was most impressed by the variety of the extras and dancers (the manufacturing employed over 500 of them).

“There was a lady who was simply in her sixties or seventies, who was one of many principal dancers. I used to be so glad to see an older lady dancing, as a result of that’s very a lot a part of our group. That they had little children, youngsters who have been background actors, middle-aged of us like me. And it was good to see that, as a result of it does replicate the group.”

She stated it actually felt like everybody on set grew to become part of a tribe; maybe as a result of the manufacturing was attempting to focus on constructive components of the neighborhood, as a substitute of the grittier points that made information twenty and thirty years in the past.

Hawks sits on the counter while Diaz and Ramos are behind the counter of a bodega



Warner Bros. Footage

She appreciated that when the background actors have been caught inside on the United Palace Theater ready for thunder to go, director Lin-Manuel Miranda got here to the stage and invited them to line up and shake fingers, so he may thank all of them for coming. “I used to be like, wow, he didn’t have to try this,” Pérez-Cabezas stated. He additionally jumped into the freezing water at Highbridge Pool to point out assist.

Pérez-Cabezas declined to dive in proper behind him. “You don’t pay me sufficient to get in that pool,” she instructed the manufacturing assistants.

She says being a part of a movie shoot for the primary time was an fascinating expertise. And a humbling one. “I’m at a sure level in my profession so to be on the backside of the barrel—you don’t know something and also you don’t know anybody, you don’t know the way this works, nobody cares about you as a result of they’ve by no means heard of you. It’s actually hilarious. I used to be like, ‘I don’t suppose I may do that.’”

Francis Mateo


Francis Mateo

Jennifer Vanasco / Gothamist

Francis Mateo, one other additional for Within the Heights, is knowledgeable actor. He moved from the Dominican Republic when he was 16, dwelling first in Chelsea and now in Washington Heights. He discovered his approach to the movie via a casting company. On one morning of capturing, he was directed to face exterior the 191st St subway station, the place he performed the position of a pop-up vendor promoting hats, gloves, and different gadgets.

To his shock, a few of the locals tried to purchase his wares. His first response was to say, “You need this? $5.” However then he’d shake his head. “I used to be like, ‘Nah, I’m sorry, this can be a film, it’s important to preserve strolling.’”

He needed to be a part of the shoot as a result of he additionally noticed the play and since, as he put it, “Illustration issues. It issues rather a lot.” He pointed to the primary eight minutes of the film:

“If you see your self and whenever you see your tales, it’s completely totally different. We develop up watching different individuals’s tales,” Mateo stated. “I received teary-eyed watching these eight minutes. As a result of it’s individuals going to work, blue collar, white collar, everybody going to work doing their factor. And I see that on daily basis. And I’m a part of that.”

Pérez-Cabezas agrees. That’s why she desires her younger daughters to see the movie, though she is aware of her scenes might have been lower. She stated they may not see their mom on display screen, however that doesn’t matter—they’ll see their neighbors, their group, and individuals who look similar to them.