A high school student has been cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake. Rachel Zegler, 17, was chosen from 30,000 applicants after responding to a casting call for Latino and Latina actors in January 2018. Some past performances of the musical, including the 1961 film, have been accused of whitewashing its Puerto Rican characters.
Zegler will star alongside a cast of Broadway veterans. Writing on Instagram, Zegler said she was “honoured” to have been cast in the role, having only ever played Maria in a high school musical.
“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.
“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.”
The young actor describes herself as a “singer/songwriter who works as a wedding singer” on her YouTube channel, where she has uploaded videos of herself singing hits from Queen, Ariana Grande and Sia.