Steven Spielberg has finally found his Maria! It’s been a month since auditions took place in Puerto Rico to see who would play the famous role of Maria in the new remake of West Side Story, and it looks like Spielberg has found his leading lady.
Ladies and gentlemen, please meet 17-year-old Rachel Zegler from New Jersey. Oh, were you expecting a star, like say Camila Cabello? Zegler is definitely a star, you just don’t know it yet. Yesterday, it was revealed that Spielberg had cast the high school singer in his remake alongside Broadway actors Ariana DeBose as Anita and David Alvarez as Bernardo, while theater performer Josh Andrés Rivera will play Chino, Deadline reports. But it’s the role of Maria that we were all anticipating. We’re beyond thrilled to see (and hear) how Zegler will bring life to the role of Maria once again.
“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,” Zegler wrote on Instagram. “I send a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this incredible dream a reality — I never could’ve done it alone. I am so honored to join the legendary Rita Moreno, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Josh Andrés Rivera. 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.”
More than 30,000 Maria hopefuls from all over the world auditioned for that coveted role, and lucky Zegler landed it. So how did she do it? With her voice, of course. On Dec. 14, Zegler went viral after she posted a video of herself singing a stunning rendition of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, in an empty theater. Though it wasn’t just that video that caught people’s attention. Zegler, just like all actors, auditioned. She submitted a video of herself singing two songs from West Side Story, “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).
One of the biggest reasons Spielberg wanted to remake West Side Story was to cast Latino actors in the roles that portrayed Latino characters.
“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,” Spielberg said, according to Variety. “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.”