Rachel Zegler is a 17-year-old singer/songwriter, theater enthusiast, and soon-to be-actress from New Jersey who has been cast alongside "The Fault In Our Stars" star Ansel Elgort as the leads for Steven Spielberg's remake of "West Side Story." It is set to begin filming this summer of 2019. Previously undiscovered, she often uploaded covers on YouTube with a dedicated, growing audience to support her. Many have called her voice "work of art."
On December 14th, 2018, the Latina 17-year-old posted a tweet of her covering Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow," and it went viral. Her name or voice probably rings a bell, and that's because it has been everywhere on social media feeds this year. Since then, her brief cover of "Shallow" has gained 9.5 million views, and she has been cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" remake.
Her previous high school roles include Cosette from "Les Miserables," Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," Ariel from the Little Mermaid, Millie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie," Fiona from "Shrek: the Musical," and Mimi from "Rent." She first played the role of Maria in "West Side Story," in her hometown of Englewood, New Jersey, in a BergenPAC Performing Arts School presentation at Bergen Performing Arts Center. Zegler will finish her studies online and plans to take part in the June graduation ceremony as the class salutatorian of Immaculate Conception High School. In an interview with North Jersey, she candidly opens up about the positive but drastic turn her life has taken due to fame.
"It's crazy to go from this environment to whatever that one holds for me," Zegler said, standing in a corner of a cramped basement costume room beneath the stage, before a recent "Shrek: the Musical"; dress rehearsal. "It's a drastic difference."
You don't have to scroll down far in her Twitter or Instagram feeds to see that she's humble and genuine. She's full of positivity but lets her fans know that she needs encouraging words sometimes.
Below is a clip of Zegler belting "Gimme Gimme," from "Thoroughly Modern Millie."
She has also posted a full cover of "Shallow" on her YouTube channel and uploads other covers and vlogs.
shallow - a star is born || rachel zegler youtu.be
How was she cast for the coveted lead role?
Spielberg began casting for the role in January 2019 with an open casting call for Latinx actors to keep the movie ethically realistic and accurate to its original 1961 film. Around 30,000 Latina girls with and without previous acting/singing experience auditioned for the role of Maria in New York City.
What's the film about?
Here's the synopsis, according to IMDb:
"'West Side Story' is a musical in which a modern day Romeo and Juliet are involved in New York street gangs. On the harsh streets of the upper west side, two gangs battle for control of the turf. The situation becomes complicated when a gang member falls in love with a rival's sister."
How does she feel about being cast as one of the leads in "West Side Story"?
She told The Hollywood Reporter," 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."
Her mother is of Colombian origin. Her father is of half Polish and half Irish-German-Italian descent. Zegler feels humbled to play such a coveted role and hopes to inspire other Latinx actors to follow their dreams.
The movie has grabbed the attention of millions for its talented, star-studded cast, with the main roles played by Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rahcel Zegler as Maria, alongside Ariana DeBose as Anita, Mike Faist as Riff, David Alvarez as Bernardo, Josh Andrés Rivera as Chino, Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank, Brian d'Arcy James as Sergeant Krupke, Ana Isabelle as Rosalia, and Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance as Anita, in the role of Valentina.
The Walt Disney Studios has set a December 18, 2020, release date for Steven Spielberg's West Side Story remake. This can be seen in the 2nd photo of the official Instagram reveal. We can't wait until then!