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    "In The Heights" Star Olga Merediz On Reprising Her Role As Abuela Claudia And How She Pulled Off "Pacencia Y Fe"

    "[Abuela Claudia] has taught me to have more pride in myself and more dignity in myself."

    As you know, In the Heights premiered last Thursday, and it's the much-needed summer musical we all deserve after a rough year.

    A scene featuring several people dancing
    Macall Polay / Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    And with a cast as talented as this one, it's fair to say each actor brought every bit of themselves to the film.

    The cast of In The Heights during the 2021 Tribeca Festival
    Noam Galai / Getty Images

    But there's one star in particular who gave In the Heights its heart and is getting much-deserved Oscar buzz because of it, and that's Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia.

    Abuela Claudia with her arms raised as she looks to the sky
    Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    Olga originated the Tony-nominated role on Broadway in 2008, and as most people do, has since grown as an artist and as a person. She told BuzzFeed that because of this growth, she gave Claudia "just a little bit more depth, a little bit more maturity, and a little bit more of all those realizations that [she's] had as a human being."

    Jemal Countess / Getty Images

    She went on to say, "I tried to just bring all those matriarchal figures from my past — friends' mothers, my aunts, what they've gone through — and I've tried to just piece her together into this quintessential matriarch that we we all want to be or have. And you know, I think Jon Chu's visuals kind of propped me up a little bit more, so that I could relax and just do my job." 

    When the trailer first premiered back in 2019, fans immediately connected with Claudia's now-famous line, which director Jon M. Chu previously told BuzzFeed set the bar for the film.

    The line is "We have to assert our dignity in small ways, little details that tell the world we are not invisible"
    Warner Bros.

    Jon said, "When Abuela Claudia says that, I mean, it set the bar for all of us. We literally heard it, and we're like, oh, that's what we're doing — then we better do it. And Quiara [Alegría Hudes] is so good at that; she's our secret weapon across the board. I wish she was here with me right now sitting next to me, because all her details are the things that I hung everything on."

    People, like director Ava DuVernay, immediately quoted it when it was first heard.

    “Little details that tell the world we are not invisible.” I’d say that’s a beautiful definition of art itself. Can’t wait to see yours, @Lin_Manuel and @JonMChu. #InTheHeights

    Twitter: @ava

    It painted a beautiful overarching theme for the film.

    Hard to hold back tears as I watch this. I’m a kid of immigrants from the bridge apartments on 178th St. and St. Nick. I cried, I laughed, I became me on these streets. This movie "asserts our dignity in small ways. Little details that tell the world we are not invisible."

    Twitter: @mrmedina

    And it was the cause of many tears.

    “We had to assert our dignity in small ways. Little details that tell the world we are not invisible.” -Abuela Claudia ( @TheOlgaMerediz ) This brought my mom back to Cuba, tears flowed from her eyes in that theatre. Olga, if you don’t get that damn Oscar!! @intheheights

    Twitter: @JessMarieGarcia

    Olga said the powerful line wasn't in the original play, but was added for the film by the screenwriter, Quiara — and she tried to give it justice in her portrayal. She said, "One thing that Abuela Claudia has — and that I tried to portray too — is her dignity."

    Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    "You know, we all have that. I don't care if you're a janitor. I don't care if you are cleaning New York City streets or you're a window washer — you're a human being and you have your dignity. I always like to play those kinds of people that maybe we never shine a light on, and I'm just so proud to bring her front and center — this woman that has been through so much like so many immigrants...but she still has her dignity."

    Every scene with Abuela Claudia greatly benefited from her presence, but no musical number was as heart-wrenching and compelling as "Pacencia y Fe." And filming a number this powerful didn't come easy. Olga said, "It was challenging. It was a three-day shoot. It was shot in the New York City subways, we were below three levels, and it was 100 degrees. The oxygen level was thin under my wig and under my prosthetics."

    Warner Bros.

    And despite belting the song during a night shoot that went from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. the next morning, Olga is grateful to have taken the journey with this character. "It was thrilling to know that I was doing this number after this journey that I've had with this character. It's a miracle that I finally was able to do it in the movies, because it's so rare for theater actors to do their parts in film."

    Olga performing the role on Broadway
    Gerry Elessar / Via

    And yes, you heard that right, she actually sang while she filmed it. "My voice was really tired," Olga said. "I don't think I spoke for eight hours the next day."

    Jon told BuzzFeed, "If that number were in a room and her [Olga] singing it, you would feel the same way, and she deserves an Oscar for that. She is that good, and we just had to support her in whatever way we could. I just think she's the best."

    @AwardsCircuit @Haydude @USCCinema @alicebrooks @TheOlgaMerediz is MAGNIFICENT. 99% of the shoot I knew her only as #AbuelaClaudia I only met Olga a couple times even to this day. Saying good bye to Abuela on the last pick up shots of our production was very emotional for all of us. I took one last pic with her … this is it.

    "Pacencia y Fe" are also more than just words in a song to Olga, they're also a valuable lesson in how to live. "I don't have any patience at all...but I am working on it. I am working on it every day. And I always think to myself 'pacencia y fe Olga, come on.' Fe, I have. I have faith. I'm working on that too. But I think about this number, and 'Pacencia y Fe,' and those words almost every week, because, you know, in New York City, and in this business, and just in life, you have to have a lot of patience."

    Olga Merediz performs at the Concert For America: Stand Up, Sing Out! at The Great Hall at Cooper Union
    Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

    Patience is what the rest of us need given that the 2022 Oscars are a ways away, but there's no denying that Olga Merediz deserves the recognition from audiences now and from awards season later down the line.

    Macall Polay / Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    The buzz is already brewing among fans:

    The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress In a Motion Picture 2021 goes to Olga Merediz. What a performance. Wow. #IntheHeights

    Twitter: @sebbyskywalker

    Olga Merediz gave one of the best interpretations of a song (and best vocal performance) I've ever seen on film and I'm still shaking from her presence. Thank you @jonmchu for preserving her performance forever. Keep casting broadway character actresses please!

    Twitter: @KevinJZak

    With one single musical number, Olga Merediz becomes the beating heart that nourishes IN THE HEIGHTS' entire emotional being. Merediz deserves all the awards hardware that comes her way. Show stopping. Oscar worthy.

    Twitter: @jblikesmovies

    With a cast as large as the one in this film, standing out is no easy feat, but it came naturually to Olga, who has carried Abuela Claudia with her for over a decade now. Olga said, "She has taught me to have more pride in myself and more dignity in myself."

     Leslie Grace, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Olga Merediz attend the "In The Heights" Opening Night Premiere
    Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images for Tribeca Festival

    Olga gave her all to the film, but as for what she hopes other people get from it, she said:

    I hope that they see themselves represented in a positive light. I hope they get to sing and dance, and feel joyful after this horrible year that we've had. I hope that they have an understanding and start conversations about racism, about the dreamers, and immigration. I hope they see that Latinos — that these are universal themes in this movie — and that we're just like everyone else. We're hardworking, we're joyful, we're passionate. And that we're — you know — this is a celebration of our culture, but we are just as American as everyone else. And I hope they really just enjoy the magic that is In the Heights.

    Thanks for chatting with us, Olga! Make sure to check out In the Heights in theaters and on HBO Max now.

    Warner Bros.

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