'West Side Story' Remake Cast High Schooler Rachel Zegler As Maria & She is Insanely Talented

Rachel Zegler may only be 17-years-old, but she is taking the theater world by storm as the West Side Story remake casts her as the iconic Maria. And based on her immense amount of talent, Zegler was absolutely born for this role.

According to Bustle, director Steven Spielberg and his team were dedicated to finding new Latinx talent and put out a casting call last January to find Latinx actors to play the roles of Maria, Anita and Bernardo. The Colombian-American teen, who played the role of Maria in a 2017 production, impressed the crew with her rendition of Tonight and Me Siento Hermosa (I Feel Pretty), securing her the role out of the 30,000 submissions received.

Following the announcement of Zegler receiving the role, the teenage actress took to social media to express how much it meant to her to take on such an important Latinx role.

“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 her Instagram account. “As a Colombian-American woman growing up in this day and age, strong roles like Maria are so important.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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’. 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 @TheRitaMoreno, @ansel, @arianadebose, @davidalvarezofficial, @joshandresrivera and more in telling this impeccably poignant story. 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. ♥️✨

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In a statement to Variety, Zegler said she was honored to take on the role: “I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast. West Side Story was the first musical I encountered with a Latina lead character... I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”

But Zegler already has quite the following, with over 80,000 subscribers on her Youtube channel alone. And the actress gained a lot of admirers after a video of her singing the Lady Gaga’s hit Shallow from A Star Is Born went viral, CNN reports.

“Your voice is insane. Now sing all the songs,” actor Zach Braff tweeted in response to Zegler’s video. “Congrats on being chosen by Mr. Spielberg.”

In a statement, Spielberg told Variety why Zegler was the right person for the role of Maria.

“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. “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.”

Spielberg’s remake of the original 1957 Broadway musical — a Romeo and Juliet-inspired love story between Tony, a former member of the Jets gang, and Maria, the younger sister of the leader of its rival gang, the Sharks — will be filled with lots of other talent as well.

Joining Zegler is Broadway veterans Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo and Hamilton national touring cast member Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino, according to CNN. Opposite Zegler, Ansel Elgort will play Tony.

Rita Moreno, who won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work as Anita in the original 1961 film, will play Valentina, “a reconceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store.”

We wish the best of luck to Zegler in this incredible role, and we just know that there will be many more amazing roles coming her way.