Anthony Ramos is perhaps best known in the UK as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the stage musical Hamilton.
But now, he has ditched the muskets and 19th-century army uniforms for a flat cap and a vest, as he leads the ensemble cast in the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In The Heights, which has just burst on to big screens in the UK.
It tells the story of Washington Heights in New York – a community which is predominantly made up of Latino people and immigrants, and highlights the highs and lows, of living there.
And while the community and its residents are put centre stage, so is the singing, dancing and rapping in this colourful and loud musical.
Ramos plays Usnavi, the lead character in the film, who ties everyone’s storylines together, telling Sky News he sees the role as the “invisible thread” of the film.
“Usnavi is a guy that… cares about his community, he runs a corner store in a predominantly Latino community.
“He takes care of his cousin, he takes care of, she’s not really his grandmother, but she’s the matriarch of the block, if you will, and of the community. He takes care of her, and both his parents passed away and he inherited a business that he didn’t ask for, but he does it with as much grace as possible.
“And Usnavi, he tells this story about this community and the day-to-day life that not only he goes through, but the people in the community.
“He’s like that guy that knows who’s dating who, what person moved out of that apartment, who just moved into that business, you know?
“And Usnavi kind of walks us through what is happening in this world, he’s like the perfect invisible thread, if you will, for this for this kind of film with this many characters.”
Usnavi’s storyline is bittersweet – he loves his community and works hard for them, but he also dreams of going back to his home country of Dominican Republic and starting a beach bar with his cousin.
Talking about a story that is relatable to people who dream of a more peaceful life, Ramos says: “He wants to build it back up and give not only himself an easier life, but his family, and live in paradise – but times are hard in New York.
“He’s still trucking through and he’s still doing his best every single day. And I think ‘who hasn’t gone through that’, where you have days with some good, some not so good.”
Ramos tells Sky News that the film’s relevance in society is part of the “beauty of art”.
“That’s that’s why I love to do this,” he adds, saying: “Someone spoke from the heart, wrote something, and then in a movie, the actors come together, the whole crew come together, we tell the story and people are going to receive this however they’re going to receive it.
“It’s going to hit someone differently than this part of the world, and it’s going to hit this person in this part of the world.
“That’s the beauty of art and especially art that transcends, that’s timeless, that feels still feels relevant.“
And of course this is not the first time that Ramos has worked with the film’s writer Lin-Manuel Miranda, having previously worked with Hollywood’s most in-demand man on Hamilton – which last year was beamed into millions of living rooms on Disney+.
“Lin’s a genius,” he gushes to Sky News.
“I’m always nervous – any time I’m around him I’m soaking up something, I’m learning something from him.
“He’s just one of the most brilliant people to ever walk the earth. I think Lin is a visionary.
“So any time I can work with him, I’m grateful because I’m always learning from him all the time.”
In The Heights starring Anthony Ramos is out in cinemas across the UK now and you can hear more on the Sky News Backstage podcast, available wherever you get your podcast.
The Crown: The secrets behind multi-million pound Netflix production
The second instalment of the sixth series of The Crown is set for release on 14 December.
Seven years on from its initial release, the programme has been a smash hit for Netflix and has seen some of the UK’s greatest acting talent – including the three queens Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton – take on the challenge of portraying some of the most recognisable people in the world.
Behind the glitzy multimillion-pound production is a vast production team working on the finest of details to capture each decade of the Royal Family precisely.
Martin Childs, a production designer, and Alison Harvey, a set decorator, have worked on all six seasons of the show and produced almost 2,500 sets in that time.
The pair say the “luxury of time and money and people” that the Netflix production affords allows the detailed and spectacular sets we see on our screens.
“We did go through the schedule quite quickly,” Harvey said.
“We did have people devoted to certain things like drapes. [I’m] on a job at the moment – we’ve got no people and no money and no time. So we’re very lucky to have those facilities available to us on such a great well-received project.”
The abundance of resources allows Childs and Harvey to capture not just the familiar castles and regal settings – they were excited to capture the royals’ private interiors as well.
“It’s a kind of a slightly imagined film version,” Harvey said.
“We research and research and research until the research runs out,” Childs said.
“I think it might be Peter Morgan who coined this phrase ‘informed imagination’ – and it’s one I like very much because it helps describe what we finish up having to do,” he added.
The first four episodes of the sixth season were released on 16 November and captured the last eight weeks of Princess Diana’s life.
While many of the scenes from the 1997 crash and its aftermath are seared into the public’s imagination, Childs was averse to recreating many of them.
“My consideration [for] all the scenes that led up to [the crash] was not to have any prior knowledge of it, because the audience does. So I didn’t want to load it with 20-20 hindsight.
“People know what happened. People are familiar with the footage so we didn’t really want to recreate much of that.”
Portraying Diana faithfully was also a major consideration for hair and makeup artists Cate Hall and Emilie Yong. It took around 30 hours to transform Elizabeth Debicki into the late princess.
“It starts with this very archaic wrapping of their head in clingfilm and sellotape and marking the headline with a sharpie. The wig maker we work with is very, very detailed in terms of hairlines, crowns,” Hall said.
“The hair is all knotted hair by hair, we will go through thousands of different colours to find the four or five colours we’re going to use in a wig. Then once the wig is made, we start cutting.
“Then the wig comes off the head and is set and dried, put back on again, cut, highlighted, roots shaded in. And then the makeup fittings start.”
Like the production designers, the pair said they “live and die by” getting the details right.
“Otherwise what you get is something that feels sort of generally in the region of [the decade] but not necessarily robust.
“The whole point when you’re recreating period television is trying to create this world that the viewer can watch and really immerse themselves in. The last thing you want to do is bring them out of that.
“So for me, if I’m watching a TV show and the textures are really modern and chemically sophisticated and illuminated, things like that immediately take me out of the show. So it’s those kinds of details.
“One way of saying we’re in the 1960s [is] about the textures and what was available to the people at the time. Glitter was not. We have every foundation colour under the sun now. But in 1960 you were probably dealing with four different shades if you’re lucky. It’s about sophistication that helps you tell the story,” Hall said.
So the actors have undergone their transformations into their characters and the stage is set but something’s missing.
Alongside a historical research team, the actors spend a significant amount of time preparing with movement coach Polly Bennett to prepare for filming.
“When you meet new actors playing the characters, it becomes about actually trying to throw all of that information [from past seasons] away and starting again.
“The best thing about working with the team this time around was that we’d already done season five, so they kind of lived in their bodies,” she said.
“I think the biggest thing physically that I had to consider was that they had been around being famous. Being famous was a new idea.
“The sort of thing that Diana was experiencing is a very particular physical change in her body. So that was the major preoccupation I had.”
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A huge body of research, like the production designers and hair and make-up artists, informs Bennetts’s work.
She describes working with 21-year-old Meg Bellamy who is playing a young Kate Middleton as she attends university with Prince William.
“A lot of our first sessions were just providing the space to go – who is this person? What has she been around? What has she grown up around? What clothes is she regularly wearing? What food does she eat? What are her relationships? Who has she seen growing up?
“We look at footage that we have, we look at photographs, and put it together in the kind of private investigator type way,” Bennett said.
“And suddenly when you start looking at different pictures, you notice little things that Kate does in her life, like she wears a handbag always on the same side of her body and she clutches it. Now, that’s something that then became an inpoint for Meg.
“The idea that they’ve got something very practical, but they’re keeping it close to them and then you can take that feeling into their whole life. Whether or not that’s actually what Kate Middleton is doing, that becomes gold dust as a practical idea for an actor to play.”
Grand Theft Auto 6 trailer will drop next week, makers announce
The wait is almost over for fans of one of the biggest game franchises of all time – the trailer for the next instalment of Grand Theft Auto will finally be released next week.
In a post on social media, Rockstar, the makers of the games, simply said: “Trailer 1, Tuesday, December 5, 9am ET” – 9am eastern time is 2pm GMT.
Since being posted on X on Friday afternoon, the announcement has been viewed more than 50 million times.
While it does not mention the game it will be showing, it is widely assumed to be the sixth instalment of Grand Theft Auto.
Rockstar previously teased the trailer in November, saying it would be available this month, but it never said when.
There is still no word on when the game itself might release.
It has likely been in development for several years, but it wasn’t until last year when Rockstar confirmed it was working on the latest instalment of GTA, saying active development was “well under way”.
GTA V launched in 2013, and saw Michael, Trevor and Franklin’s exploits in Los Santos (modelled around Los Angeles), with players taking part in activities such as driving and shopping, all the way up to heists and assassinations.
Previous settings in the series included the Miami-inspired Vice City and New York-inspired Liberty City.
GTA V is the fastest entertainment product in history to make $1bn (£792m), and the most profitable ever made, and has since sold an astonishing 185 million copies – earning publisher Take-Two a reported $8bn (£6.4bn) in revenue.
Last year, early development gameplay was leaked online after a hacker gained access to Rockstar’s Slack channel.
They released 90 minutes of footage after threatening the developer, which showed some of the locations the new game will feature and the two protagonists.
Rockstar Games said on social media at the time: “We recently suffered a network intrusion in which an unauthorised third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto.
“At this time, we do not anticipate any disruption to our live game services nor any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects.
“We are extremely disappointed to have any details of our next game shared with you all in this way.”
Brigit Forysth: Actress who starred in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? dies
Actress Brigit Forsyth – who starred in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? – has died at the age of 83, her agent has said.
Forsyth played Thelma Ferris, the long-suffering wife of Rodney Bewes’s character Bob, in the cult 1970s BBC sitcom.
Her agent Mark Pemberton confirmed she died “peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her family” in the early hours of Friday morning.
He said in a statement: “Brigit had a varied and notable career in stage, screen and radio. Best known for her roles in television as Thelma in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, Francine Pratt in Playing The Field and Madge in Still Open All Hours.”
Following the final episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? in 1974, Forsyth appeared in shows such as Poirot and Casualty.
She also appeared in Coronation Street – playing one of Ken Barlow’s escort clients.
In 2000, she returned to screens as the social climbing snob Francine Pratt, who was married to businessman Jim Pratt played by Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson, in the BBC’s footballing drama Playing The Field.
Forsyth also won plaudits for her stage roles which included playing an American in The Glass Menagerie and a Polish doctor in a production at the National Theatre.
She also appeared in radio plays on the BBC over the years and featured in the Radio 4 sitcom Ed Reardon’s Week.
Forsyth founded her own cross-disciplinary theatre company, Word Mills Productions, in 2016.
Her agent described her as a talented musician who played the cello, sang and composed.
Her husband was Coronation Street director Brian Mills.
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