What is Corey Hawkins' ethnicity? All about Benny from In The Heights

Bruno Cooke June 11, 2021
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images


Corey Hawkins, who plays Benny in the movie adaptation of In The Heights, has previously played the likes of Tybalt (Romeo And Juliet) and Dr Dre (Straight Outta Compton). But In The Heights is primarily about Spanish-speaking Dominicans. So, what is Corey Hawkins’ ethnicity, and what do we know about his parents?

What is Corey Hawkins’ ethnicity?

32-year-old American actor Corey Hawkins hails from Washington DC. 

His mother, Monicamarie Hawkins, raised him and one sibling by herself. It isn’t clear whether that sibling is a brother or sister, although Scanfigus reckons Corey has a sister.

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Married Biography describes him as “All-American”, while he identifies as African-American, according to a 2017 interview with Time magazine.

Who are Hawkins’ parents?

Corey Hawkins was raised by his mother, Monicamarie Hawkins, a single parent raising two kids while also working full-time as a police officer.

She and the director of The Brothers Of The Knight, Debbie Allen, came to loggerheads over Corey’s role in the show, when he was just nine years old.

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Allen praised his vitality, confidence and dancing. But, she told NPR in 2017, “his mother and I had a big fight”.

What did they fight about?

“I remember the mother saying to me, ‘He can’t be in the show, Ms Allen. I’m not sure about his grades.’ I said, ‘You better listen to me: This child is gonna go the distance.’”

As of 2017, Monicamarie Hawkins had been an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department for almost 28 years.

Looking back on his childhood, in a 2015 interview with Front Row Features, Hawkins said he used to call DC the “District of Crimes”.


His biological father was “sometimes in and out of trouble” which, given his mother’s vocation, meant he was “acquainted with both sides of the coin”. 

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Who does Hawkins play in the movie?

In the movie adaptation of In The Heights, Corey Hawkins plays Benny, the only character in the play who doesn’t speak Spanish.

He has dreams of opening his own business, and falls in love with Nina Rosario.

Christopher Jackson played Benny during In The Heights’ Waterford, off-Broadway and Broadway runs in 2005, 2007 and 2008 respectively.

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Following him, Rogelio Douglas Jr took on the role for the show’s first US tour. 

Then, in 2015, when it transferred to London’s West End, Joe Aaron Reid took over the part.

What has Corey Hawkins been in besides In The Heights?

His break-out role was 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, in which he portrayed hip-hop legend Andre Romelle Young, aka Dr Dre.

But he had several roles before that, including a Navy op in Iron Man 3 and Evander in TV series Golden Boy (both in 2013).

Since Straight Outta Compton, Hawkins has appeared in The Walking Dead (Heath), Kong: Skull Island (Houston Brooks), BlacKkKlansman (Kwame Ture) and Chrysalis (Daoket).

Is he a good singer?

Those looking forward to hearing Corey Hawkins singing need look no further. 

In September 2017, Hawkins stunned the crowd when he performed God Bless America at the men’s singles final of the US Open.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.