Who is Rachel Zegler? Steven Spielberg casts unknown actress in West Side Story

The 17-year-old Colombian-American actress will play Maria in the director's remake

The 17-year-old Colombian-American actress is cast as Maria in Steven Spielberg's remake of 'West Side Story'. Instagram / Rachel Zegler
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Rachel Zegler has the internet abuzz, as Steven Spielberg has cast the unknown 17-year-old from New Jersey in his new remake of West Side Story.

The Colombian-American actress and singer-songwriter will make her big-screen debut as Maria, a Puerto Rican leading female character in the musical, which was originally a 1957 Broadway sensation inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

The legendary director reportedly picked Zegler after auditioning more than 30,000 hopefuls.

'A role that means so much to the Hispanic community'

"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," the teen wrote on Instagram.

"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 theatre enthusiast already has a huge online following, too, with nearly 98,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, and more than 70,000 followers on Instagram. She often posts videos of her singing cover songs that are well liked.

In fact, her cover of Shallow from A Star Is Born went viral.

Warm reception

The internet was impressed with the casting choice, with West Side Story fans offering nods of approval on Twitter. Chris Tilly posted a video of Zegler in action, saying "guess the singing won't be an issue. Wow."

Perez Hilton also congratulated Zegler. "Talk about life-changing!"

Ansel Elgort, the actor, singer and DJ best known for his part in the 2014's The Fault in Our Stars, has been cast as Zegler's love interest in the adaptation.

Filming is set for this summer.


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