It's official! Steven Spielberg's highly-anticipated remake of West Side Story has found its Maria! Meet Rachel Zegler, a 17-year-old high school student from New Jersey, YouTube star and a proud Latinx. This will be the Colombian-American's first ever role on screen and will feature her alongside a star-studded cast that includes Ansel Elgort, who will play her love interest and take on the role of Tony.
Rachel Zegler, 17, will take on the role of Maria in Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story Photo: Instagram/rachelzegler
As Deadline reports, Rachel submitted an audition tape of herself singing I Feel Pretty after seeing a notice on Twitter looking for Latinx actors. “I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” the fresh faced actress shared. “West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”
Her YouTube channel and Instagram show Rachel is a theater enthusiast who works as a part time wedding singer and has already performed in countless theater productions, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables, and—wait for it—West Side Story. She also covers artists like Ariana Grande and Queen on her channels, and even went viral last year after posting her rendition of Lady Gaga's hit song Shallow.
And although this is the brunette beauty's first acting gig on the big screen, this isn't the first time she's played Maria. "When I played Maria on stage a few summers ago, I never could have imagined that I’d be taking on the role again in Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story,'" she wrote on Instagram. "As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important. To be able to bring that role to life—a role that means so much to the Hispanic community—is so humbling. I hope you’re all as excited as I am."
The newcomer will also be joined by other notable Latinx actors, including Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, and Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino. Also joining the cast is Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film. This time around, she'll portray Valentina, a written-in part of an expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony works.
The newcomer will star opposite Ansel Elgort, who will be playing the role of Tony Photo: Instagram/rachelzegler
It was extremely important for Steven Spielberg to cast Latinx actors in his new flick, the director revealed. “When we began this process a year ago, we announced that we would cast the roles of Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Chino and the Sharks with Latina and Latino actors," he told Deadline. "I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community. I am in awe of the sheer force of the talent of these young performers, and I believe they’ll bring a new and electrifying energy to a magnificent musical that’s more relevant than ever.”