According to Deadline, 17-year-old New Jersey high school student Rachel Zegler will portray Maria in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of the Best Picture winner.
“I am so thrilled to be playing the iconic role of Maria alongside this amazing cast,” said Zegler in a statement to Deadline. “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.”
The teenager (who lists “wedding singer” as one of her jobs on her YouTube channel) beat out over 30,000 people for the role of Maria. After seeing the casting call for the film on Twitter, she submitted a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”) to producers, who clearly loved her movie musical-ready vocals.
The rest is soon-to-be Hollywood history: Zegler will now make her film debut opposite Ansel Elgort, who plays Tony, in the beloved romantic tragedy.
Though this is Zegler’s big break, she’s already established herself as a voice on the internet. Her YouTube channel boasts over 3 million total views. Her Instagram, where she often posts covers such as a recent one of A Star Is Born’s “I’ll Never Love Again,” has over 44,000 followers. Given the news, it's safe to say these numbers will only climb.
And they should! This girl is really, really good. Check her out:
This isn’t the first time that Zegler scored the role of West Side Story’s leading lady. According to a YouTube video, she’s portrayed the part before — and loved it.
“My favorite role that I’ve ever played is tied between Cosette in Les Miserables and Maria in West Side Story,” said the teen. “My favorite acting performance was as Maria, and my favorite singing performance was as Cosette.”
Zegler isn't the only person to be added to the West Side Story cast sheet. According to Deadline, Broadway stars Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez will play Anita and Bernardo, respectively, while Josh Andrés Rivera has landed the role of Chino. Rita Moreno, the EGOT-winner who earned an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the original film, previously joined the cast in a brand-new role.
Filming for West Side Story is set to begin summer of 2019.