“West Side Story” Star Rachel Zegler Covers September Issue of Town & Country

Posted on August 25, 2021

Rachel Zegler is about to play one of the most beloved roles as Maria in ‘West Side Story,’ reimagined and directed by Steven Spielberg. The budding starlet speaks with Town & Country for the cover of the September issue to share how she landed the part, her interpretation of the character, and her tunnel vision for the spotlight: “The endgame was a Tony Award; that was what I wanted. I just wanted Ben Brantley to write me a good review. That was my idea for the rest of my life… Musical theater and that’s it.”







On her first role in the Theater League of Clifton’s production of Fiddler on the Roof when a director pulled her aside and said, ‘You could understudy every role in this show, and you’re 12’: “That’s when I kind of took a step back and was like, ‘I think I could do this for the rest of my life.’ That’s a weird moment to have when you’re 12, but I did. I had that moment. I was like, ‘I’m going to do it, and I won’t rest until I do.’”


On how Spielberg’s West Side Story isn’t a remake but a ‘reimagining’ of the original musical: “We’re not trying to recreate, frame for frame, the 1961 film. That film exists as this incredible piece of pop culture that everyone has seen and been affected by in some way. I don’t think any of us would ever try to recreate that. There are things to improve on and things to address. It’s such a cultural phenomenon, that film and the musical in general. I think the way Steven and Tony framed it to all of us when we were auditioning, when we were rehearsing, when we were shooting, was, ‘We are making a movie of the original Broadway musical. This is our take on a story that every-one has heard, and knows so well, and really loves.’”


On her interpretation of her character Maria and how it has mirrored her own coming of age. “Every Juliet-based character is pure and innocent. She’s the Virgin Mary, and she can do no wrong. But in reality she’s 18. She’s discovering so much about herself and the way she thinks about the world. What does it mean to bean 18-year-old discovering all of these things about herself in 2019—or in 1957, which is when West Side Story takes place? There are layers of being an immigrant: How long has she been here? How long does she plan to stay? She plans to stay forever. Does Bernardo want her here?”


On adjusting to the scale and scope of her new life and stardom: “I haven’t done any other film projects, but I’m constantly pinching myself—there’s no way this is my life. That comes with a lot of gratitude and a lot of anxiety and a lot of impostor syndrome. I do have moments when I’m like, ‘I am worthy, and I got this job for a reason…But then it immediately fades into, ‘Oh god, Helen Mirren!’”



[Photo Credit: Pamela Hanson for Town & Country Magazine]

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