Steven Spielberg wasn’t kidding around when he voiced his commitment to dig deep into the Puerto Rican and Latinx community to round out the cast of his WEST SIDE STORY adaptation written by Tony Kushner. Deadline reports that 17-year-old New Jersey high school student Rachel Zegler will make her film debut in the musical as Maria across from Ansel Elgort‘s Tony.
Joining Zegler in the project are young Broadway stars Ariana DeBose (‘Hamilton’) as Anita and David Alvarez (‘Billy Elliot the Musical’) as Bernardo, along with Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino.
“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. I’m so happy that we’ve assembled a cast that reflects the astonishing depth of talent in America’s multifaceted Hispanic community,” Spielberg said. “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.”
Added Zegler: “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. As a Colombian-American, I am humbled by the opportunity to play a role that means so much to the Hispanic community.”
The fresh-faced cast will join Rita Moreno, playing a new character named Valentina 57 years after the actress took home an Oscar for the role of Anita in the 1961 WEST SIDE STORY film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.