What renders Anita of “West Side Story” so iconic? “She’s a beacon of self-respect and firm. She speaks her mind. Those kinds of characters were commonly explained as ‘tough women,’” states Ariana DeBose. You get the feeling that playing the component came rather quickly for her. “It wasn’t a stretch,” says the actress, flashing the smile that dazzled Keegan-Michael Key’s character in “Schmigadoon!,” and also Jo Ellen Pellman’s Emma in “The Prom.”

Today I’ve caught her on Zoom, wrapped in a charcoal-colored linen bathrobe, her brief hair tousled, blue-blocking glasses on. This is the calm prior to the storm of premieres kicks up.

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Rita Moreno virtually quit ‘West Side Story’ in 1961: ‘It felt horrible’


Steven Spielberg’s a lot anticipated take on the classical, 1950s-collection musical, with a new screenplay by Tony Kushner, is finally here. Shooting wrapped in 2019, however you understand exactly how these things go in the pandemic era. The 30-year-old DeBose measures right into the duty Rita Moreno played in the 1961 movie, as the girlfrifinish of the Sharks’ leader, Bernarexecute, and also friend to his sister, the lovelorn Maria. Moreno won an Osvehicle — the first Latina ever before to perform so. DeBose has actually big shoes to fill, and also you don’t doubt that she will. As the queer actress composed in a Pride-themed essay, numerous years prior to she’d obtain the role: “My brvery own, singin’, dancin’, lady-lovin’ ass is AMERICA and I am so proud of that I am, what I stand also for, and all I’ve completed so much.” Could there be a much better performer to literally belt out “America”?

Still, the journey wasn’t without its bumps: DeBose swarm the film while nursing a sprained ankle, injured while just “being huguy,” she claims. “I remained in pre-production, and I jumped up to hug someone, and twisted my ankle. Man, it was so random.” But the consummate Broadmethod experienced soldiered on. She looks earlier especially fondly on shooting the “Dance at the Gym” number: “One of the only times you really check out all the Sharks and also the Jets together in one scene,” she says. “It was five or six days of sweaty, dancing bliss.” She remembers kicking earlier through her foot up on a break, surveying the suractual landscape of a enormous Spielberg set: “You’ve gained Steve in the corner in Video Village, sneaking a Pop-Tart, and then you’ve got the Shark girls having a conversation over tright here, and also the Shark boys and the Jet boys had actually this sphere they would kick approximately. It was like this really cool, extremely expensive, awesome summer camp vibe.”

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She’s proud of what this variation achieves, specifically its new curiosity for the realities surrounding the Sharks. “It provides the audience an chance to fall in love with this Puerto Rican community and also shows what was actually going on for these world at the time, which is something I think productions in the previous type of skimmed over,” she claims. “I think the film does a really beautiful project of enabling that conversation to be had.”

When she obtained to collection, “I had such a clear vision of the character,” DeBose claims. “I really wanted to attempt and also check out just how the audience can witness Anita’s joy, and also at the same time get an excellent look at exactly how hideous and hurtful her lived endure could have actually been, and also more than likely was, for darker-skinned Latinas of the time.” This is one of numerous ways in which her Anita will certainly be unique: “I’m a babsence womale. That’s the biggest distinction in between Rita Moreno and me.”

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Moreno’s additionally in the brand-new movie, playing a sage older character named Valentina. How might she not be? The film legfinish raved to us around DeBose: “Boy oh boy, I think she’s just good. She’s a fabulous dancer. I think Stalso Spielberg’s many inspired principle wregarding discover this marvelous, talented Afro-Latina. That’s one thing I couldn’t sell as Anita — the shade of my skin.”

It’s her best part yet, however DeBose has had actually a busy last few years. “Schmigadoon!,” the Apple TV+ love letter to drama geeks, showcased her theatrical chops alongside fellow phase actors such as Aaron Tveit and Kristin Chenoweth. “The Prom” put her firmly on the YA map. She’s been on the climb considering that 2009, once she showed up on “So You Think You Can Dance” and made it right into the height 20. A trained dancer, she branched right into theater acting and also made her deyet in 2011’s “Bring It On: The Musical,” going on to garner a Tony nomination for the title role in 2018’s “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.”

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But DeBose may still be ideal well-known for her role in “Hamilton” as the Bullet, the curl-topped character that augurs death for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton. DeBose remained in the off-Broadmeans manufacturing, and ongoing on with the show to Broadmeans.

Mystifyingly, the Tony-nominated actress was never invited to audition for the 2020 Broadmeans renewal of … you guessed it, “West Side Story.” But given the way points functioned out, DeBose — that was cast in Spielberg’s movie shortly afterward — is pretty sanguine about the slight. “I think everything happens for a reason,” she claims. “That was not my blessing. That was somebody else’s blessing. And you understand, I was really happy to see the two productions exist in the very same time duration. That’s a testament to the power of the piece.”

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DeBose is a New Yorker now, but she thrived up in North Carolina, the daughter of a white mommy and an Afro-Latino dad. “I prospered up in a very white community,” she claims. “Doesn’t make me any kind of less Latina, doesn’t make me any type of much less babsence.” She’s proud to be from the South, although she’s additionally quick to call it out. “I choose to identify as a Southerner. I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t love that we have plantations, and also that slavery was rampant.”

She came out to her supportive mommy once she was 13, and has actually been open about her sexuality throughout her years in the spotlight, also offering an intersee to Playbill in 2015 with her then-girlfriend, Broadmeans props master Jill Johnchild. (The two have actually given that split.)Her house state is not always friendly to the LGBTQ community. “Tbelow are parts of North Carolina I would not walk dvery own the street holding my girlfriend’s hand also,” DeBose states. “But then, there are parts of New York wright here I wouldn’t carry out that. They have that anywhere.

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From left, Ilda Mason as Luz, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and Ana Isabelle as Rosalia in “West Side Story.” AP

“Can I acquire a vaccine for prejudice and also oppression and racism?” she yells right into the ether. “That would be awesome!”

She thinks back to the movies and mirrors she thrived up via, and also just how “leading personalities have actually been identified through whiteness for a long time. That was simply a truth.” One of her favorites is “The First Wives Club” and she loves “The Golden Girls.” “I watched ‘Frasier’ as a son. A weird kid … Tbelow was no one I observed who looks prefer me. I’m exceptionally grateful that my mother instilled a powerful occupational ethic in me. And my grandmommy was additionally incredibly prominent in my life. They both taught me to follow my desires and that I could be successful if I worked really difficult.”

She provides props to the A-list woguys of shade working to change the ratio in the industry. “Thank God for world prefer Regina King and Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay and also Kerry Washington. Womales beginning their own production carriers, informing their very own stories. It’s really essential.”

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DeBose hints at her very own plans alengthy those lines: “I’m excited to share them as soon as the time is ideal.” Meanwhile, she’s obtained designs on playing all manner of personalities, queer and also cis. Will Hollylumber be onboard with this? “I don’t feel favor I’m in Queer Purgatory, by any type of stretch of the mind, but I would certainly be lying to you if I didn’t say I think people are waiting to check out what happens with ‘West Side Story.’”

For an actress that wants all the alternatives, Alexa provided a wardrobe to complement. “For the shoot,” she states, “it wasn’t just one form of dress. There were so many points. Which I thought was a fun concept, provided that I am: I’m a big ol’ trail mix.”

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She still wonders what, specifically, queer and also BIPOC actors need to execute to gain Hollylumber to offer them leading duties. And she’s going to keep bringing it up through the world that deserve to make it occur. “I think if you were to ask Stalso Spielberg about me, he’d say, ‘She’ll tell you what she thinks!’” she says. “I’ll say it with respect, however I’ll tell you what I think.”

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