Is Vanessa Hudgens in ‘In the Heights,’ Based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Musical?

Lin-Manuel Miranda is already a beloved creator on Broadway. Thanks to the Disney+ release of Hamilton, Miranda enjoyed a very successful 2020. And with the release of In the Heights, fans could be on the verge of seeing a lot more of Miranda’s work at the movies. But one question some have about In the Heights is whether Vanessa Hudgens — a multi-talented star of stage and screen herself — appears in the new film.

Vanessa Hudgens wears black and smiles at the Broadway opening night of 'West Side Story'
Vanessa Hudgens wears black and smiles at the Broadway opening night of ‘West Side Story’ | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

‘In the Heights’ features past stars of the stage musical

It’s a fair question, in part because Miranda has a tendency to collaborate with many of the same performers time and again. In fact, Anthony Ramos — who plays In the Heights lead Usnavi — shared the stage with Miranda in Hamilton. And before that, Ramos played a smaller role in some productions of In the Heights.

The movie version even incorporates cameos for both Miranda — who played Usnavi on Broadway — and Christopher Jackson. In particular, Olga Merediz reprises her role as Abuela Claudia in the In the Heights film. And she’s already earning Oscar buzz for the same role that landed her a Tony nomination in 2008.

As for Hudgens, she didn’t participate in any Broadway productions of In the Heights. But she did play the key role of Vanessa onstage in the show’s Kennedy Center production in 2018. Hudgens has appeared in a ton of movies over the years. So it’s not unthinkable she too might have returned as part of the In the Heights cast.

Is Vanessa Hudgens in the ‘In the Heights’ movie?

Unfortunately for fans of Hudgens, the actor does not appear in In the Heights. The role of Vanessa — played on Broadway by Karen Olivo — is this time filled by Melissa Barrera. Earlier in her career, Barrera was best known for her roles on telenovelas. She gained more notoriety in 2018 as Lyn Hernandez on the Starz show Vida.

After In the Heights, Barrera will appear in the 2022 film Scream, the fifth installment in the long-running horror movie series. She’s also in line to play the title role in the movie musical Carmen opposite Paul Mescal. But Hudgens is far from done putting her ability as a singer on display on the big screen.


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Vanessa Hudgens is working with Lin-Manuel Miranda

In fact, Hudgens will co-star with Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, and others in Tick, Tick… Boom! The film — which is expected to hit Netflix in late 2021 — is based on the musical of the same name from Rent creator Jonathan Larson. It will also serve as Miranda’s first film as a director.

The story follows an aspiring composer (Garfield) determined to make his dream come true. Hudgens will play Karessa Johnson, an actor in one of the lead character’s plays. On the stage version of Tick, Tick… Boom!, performers play multiple roles. So the film marks the first time Karessa has been played by a separate actor.