Next Time You Watch In The Heights, Pay Attention To These Cool Details

Anthony Ramos and Gregory Diaz in In The Heights bodega
(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

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For some time now, we’ve been looking closely at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work, mostly through the lens of Hamilton, where the playwright and star tucked away a number of details to look for, such as The Bullet and through the costuming. With the release of the In The Heights movie, there’s a number of sneaky winks and nods to look out for between Anthony Ramos and the stellar cast’s adaptation of the Broadway musical.

In The Heights is not one of those movies you only watch once. Musicals are meant for repeated viewing as the songs get stuck in our heads and there’s a bunch of cool details to look out for next time you watch it. The movie is currently playing in theaters and In The Heights is streaming on HBO Max, which you can sign up for using this link. Before we get into it, be warned, this article does contain some spoilers for In The Heights.

Doreen Maltalvo original Nina in Breathe song in In the Heights

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Many Of The Original Broadway Stars Have Cameos Throughout The Film

The In The Heights movie adaptation comes 13 years after the musical won Best Musical at the Tonys. Although the original cast is no longer the right age to play their roles in the movie version, many of the actors make cameos throughout the film. When Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke to CinemaBlend, he told us about some of these cameos, sharing that the musical’s original Graffiti Pete was the bartender in “The Club” sequence and many of them provided background vocals. Most notably, original cast member, Doreen Montalvo, who has since passed, makes a cameo during the character’s song “Breathe” and is the bolero singer who sings during the record skips.

Jimmy Smits as Mr. Rosario on hold to "You'll Be Back"

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

‘You’ll Be Back’ Is Stanford’s On Hold Music

A major plotline in the movie is the relationship between Nina and her father following her early return from Stanford. In the scene where Mr. Rosario is calling Stanford to pay for her college tuition following her telling him they missed the deadline, the Hamilton song “You’ll Be Back” plays in the background briefly. It’s a fun easter egg, one because it’s a great song, and two because it actually foreshadows Nina deciding to go back to school at the end of the film.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Chris Jackson in Piragua scene in In The Heights

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Lin-Manuel Miranda And Christopher Jackson As Street Vendors

In The Heights also reunited two key Hamilton cast members with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson playing street vendors throughout the film. Miranda was initially going to play Usnavi in the film when Hollywood obtained the rights years ago, but as the years passed he decided to step aside for Hamilton star Anthony Ramos to play the bodega owner. Miranda does play the piraguero in the movie, alongside another Hamilton alum Christopher Jackson playing the rivaling ice cream man. Jackson has been part of all of Miranda’s projects, between playing the original Benny in the production, voicing the role of Moana’s father in Moana and playing George Washington in Hamilton.

In The Heights doodle in the mid-credit sequence, easter egg

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

An Early In The Heights Doodle Is On The Piragua Cart

Now here’s a real deep cut to keep your eyes peeled for. On Miranda’s piragua cart that he rolls around throughout the movie, there is a doodle etched on the right side of the cart. It can be seen briefly in the movie and more closely during the mid-credits scene. It is an early doodle that Miranda drew in his astronomy notebook during his sophomore year of college before he wrote the musical. According to the playwright’s words to THR, the In The Heights production designer Nelson Coates added it to the prop as a cool homage to him.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's parents cameo in In The Heights

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Parents Make A Cameo

In the “Breathe” sequence, there’s also another cameo in the form of a brief moment where Lin-Manuel Miranda’s parents walk out of a car and sing “welcome home.” Miranda confirmed the cameo with CinemaBlend during our interview as well, sharing that the moment causes some “unintentional laughter” in his household. It’s a cute moment, and undoubtedly there because the movie is an ode to the neighborhood and the family / community where he grew up in Washington Heights.

In The Heights easter egg, Jon M. Chu daughter name on rental application, Willow Amelia

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Jon M. Chu Added His Own Nods To His Family

Along with Lin-Manuel Miranda adding his own nods to his family, director Jon M. Chu also added a number of easter eggs regarding his own family throughout the film. For one, the company on Vanessa’s rental application is called “Willow Amelia” which is a reference to his daughter Willow Amelia Chu. Also, the winning lottery numbers that are revealed during the “96,000” pool sequence are all references to his family’s birthdays, per Vulture. Here’s what Chu said:

Five is the month of my wife’s birth; 7-16 is my daughter’s birthday; 7-26 is my anniversary and also the day my son was due. Thirty-three is my favorite number. Then when I showed my wife, she was like, ‘You know our anniversary is the 27th, right? And the baby is due on the 27th.’ However, just a few weeks later, my baby was born on the 26th, so he had my back.

His son, Jonathan Heights Chu, was named after the film. The winning numbers were 5-7-16-26-33, and turned out to give Usnavi an unexpected connection to his late grandmother when she had the winning ticket, which he passed down to his bodega pal, Sonny.

96,000 pool sequence in In The Heights

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

The Significance Of ‘96’ Referenced In The Musical

Numbers are also important to In The Heights in regards to “96.” Obviously the song “96,000” is major to the film as it references the amount of money up for the lottery, but it’s not the only time the number is in the musical. In the opening number “In The Heights,” a woman says she’s “never been north of 96th street,” as well, which Lin-Manuel Miranda believes is an economic dividing line between him and the richer part of NYC, per NYC Go.

Nina rainbow shirt detail / easter egg in In The Heights

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

The Rainbow On Nina’s Top As A Kid And Adult

There’s also an awesome nod for Nina in the movie in terms of her costuming. In “Breathe” Nina tells her story about how she came to be a college student and why she no longer wants to be there. In a flashback of herself as a kid, when she gets into school she is seen wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it. There is then a callback to this when Nina wears a different rainbow shirt during the protest with Sonny and decides that she does want to go to college to help other DREAMers like him. She wears it when she tells Mr. Rosario about her decision. The rainbow seems to be a symbol of revived hope, alongside a little girl following Nina throughout the film as well.

Following In The Heights, there are a few upcoming Lin-Manuel Miranda projects on the way to get excited for between rewatches of the critically-acclaimed movie musical.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.