The classic musical West Side Story is set in the 1950s and follows two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, who are constantly battling for turf in New York City. When a member of the Jets, Tony, falls in love with a member of the Sharks, Maria, a war ensues.
Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated film adaptation released the first trailer of the 2021 film, which teased some iconic moments such as Maria and Tony's balcony scene.
So, just who is playing the role of Puerto Rican immigrant, Maria, in the 2021 remake? Keep reading to find out more about newcomer Rachel Zegler, including her parents, background, and more.
Who is Rachel Zegler from 'West Side Story'? Here's what to know about her parents, background, and more.
According to Deadline, the then 17-year-old high school student was cast from a pool of more than 30,000 applicants. Though the New Jersey teen is relatively new to Hollywood, Rachel acted in several school productions and in her community theater.
"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," she posted on Instagram in 2019.
Rachel continued, "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."
According to several outlets, Rachel's mother Gina is Colombian and her father Craig is of Polish descent.
After the film was pushed back a year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (also known as COVID-19), audiences will finally get to watch Rachel shine as Maria when the film comes out in December 2021.
"My heart doesn’t have the words just yet. Forever thanks to my favorite person, Steven Spielberg, and to [16-year-old] Rachel who just decided to send in a poorly lit self-tape. Thank you," she posted alongside the trailer.
Is Rachel Zegler really singing in 'West Side Story'?
Well, it seems part of the lengthy casting process for West Side Story was to make sure the actors who played the pivotal roles in the movie-musical could actually dance and sing.
Rachel, who has starred in several school productions, had not only the acting chops but the pipes to solidify her role as Maria in West Side Story.
Before being cast in the musical production, Rachel went viral on social media for her performance of "Shallow." Rivaling the extremely talented Lady Gaga, the teen's video has garnered nearly 12 million views.
If you follow Rachel on YouTube, the young actress has shared several videos of herself performing renditions of popular songs such as "Chandelier" by Sia and "I'll Never Love Again" by Lady Gaga.
Overall, it's easy to see why Spielberg called Rachel the "greatest Maria he has ever seen," as the budding young star is super talented.
West Side Story is scheduled to be released on Dec. 10, 2021, in theaters.