The post-credits scene for In The Heights is more than a fun coda, it also pays off on an earlier cameo and the movie’s Hamilton connection.
The In The Heights post-credits scene is more than a fun coda to the film, it also pays off on an earlier cameo and the movie’s Hamilton connection. Now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, In The Heights is a film adaptation, directed by Jon Chu, of the Broadway musical of the same name with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The show was Miranda’s first musical and a rousing success, earning 13 Tony Award nominations and winning four, including Best Musical. Plans for a film adaptation began soon thereafter, but it wasn’t until the worldwide phenomenon sparked by Miranda’s second show, Hamilton, that work on an In The Heights movie began in earnest.
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Set in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights, the show and movie follow the lives of its residents as they work hard at achieving their dreams. In The Heights is narrated by Usnavi, a immigrant from the Dominican Republic who dreams of returning there and runs a bodega to earn his living. In the show’s original Broadway run, Miranda played Usnavi but for the film, he’s handed the role to his Hamilton co-star, Anthony Ramos. Miranda still appears in the movie, though, this time taking on the role of the Piragua Guy – a relatively minor role but one that allows In The Heights to have some metatextual fun with Miranda’s other work.
A piragua is a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert not too unlike a snow cone, and as his name implies, this is what Lin-Manuel Miranda’s character is selling during the scorching hot days in which In The Heights takes place. The Piragua Guy is also an immigrant and he’s running a small operation that’s being encroached on by the corporate purveyor of ice cream and frozen novelties, Mister Softee. The Piragua Guy’s story is a minor plot for In The Heights, but its representative of a larger struggle against gentrification that the movie and show touch on repeatedly. In the post-credits scene, the Piragua Guy is ultimately victorious when the Mister Softee truck breaks down, leaving the neighborhood kids to flock to the Piragua’s Guy cart. As the driver of the Mister Softee truck, In The Heights casts Christopher Jackson, the actor who originated the role of Benny (played by Corey Hawkins in the film) and is best known for playing George Washington in Hamilton. It’s a fun cameo for another of the original In The Heights Broadway cast, but it’s the Hamilton connection that gives the post-credits scene a deeper meaning.
At the very end of In The Heights‘ post credits scene, the Piragua Guy offers a cone of shaved ice to the frustrated Mister Softee truck driver as a peace-offering. This making of amends is a sweet ending to their bitter rivalry, and it allows Miranda and Jackson to share in one more heartwarming scene. But with the added context of their Hamilton roles, their scenes together are even more interesting. In the role of the Piragua Guy, Miranda is again playing an immigrant trying to get ahead in his new home, like Alexander Hamilton. Meanwhile, with Jackson as the face of Mister Softee, the American corporation, he’s again in a role where he represents something larger than himself, similar to Washington.
Thankfully, Hamilton and Washington’s relationship isn’t at all antagonistic like that of the Piragua Guy and the Mister Softee truck driver. In fact, their success in the American Revolutionary War comes in part because of the trust Washington places in Hamilton, an unpopular decision given that Hamilton is an immigrant. For the Mister Softee truck driver, when he accepts the piragua from the Piragua Guy, he’s also finally accepting what this vibrant immigrant community has to offer and acknowledging that America is made up of many cultures. No longer is he selling his homogenized product to the neighborhood, and is instead enjoying what’s created by the people who call it home. In Hamilton, Jackson’s Washington already knows immigrants are just as American as anyone else, but it’s a lesson In The Heights has Jackson’s Mister Softee learn through his interactions with Miranda’s Piragua Guy.
There’s also a neat connection made in the historical sense by having a post-Hamilton Jackson make a cameo because the neighborhood of Washington Heights is actually named after George Washington. It resides on the site of Fort Washington, one of two American forts built to defend New York from the British in 1776. Hamilton would have also taken part in this campaign as part of the New York militia, later becoming Washington’s aide-de-camp in 1777. This is just another link between In The Heights and Hamilton that comes about thanks Jackson’s cameo, helping to create a metanarrative around two of Miranda’s most famous works.
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