West Side Story: who is Ariana DeBose (Anita), the real reveal of the film?

Currently in theaters, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the famous Broadway musical features talented young actors. Focus on the interpreter of Anita, actress and dancer revealed in “Hamilton” in 2019.

For its adaptation of West Side Story, a successful musical created by Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard bernstein, Steven Spielberg wanted to compose its cast of professional singers and dancers, honed in the exercise and having for many of them made their weapons on Broadway.

This is the case of Ariana DeBose, the actress who plays the role of Anita in this new version. The character was previously played by Rita Moreno in the previous film adaptation directed by Robert Wise, and the role won the Puerto Rican actress the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Present in this new version, both as an actress in a new character imagined especially for her and as an executive producer, Rita Moreno was decisive in the choice of the actress who was to play the new Anita.

When Rita first came to rehearsals, she looked around the studio and asked, “Where’s the girl playing Anita?” I got up and awkwardly greeted her, and she said, “You and I have things to say to each other.”Ariana DeBose remembers.At the time, I felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed, but later we had a very pleasant lunch together and had a female chat.

Rita Moreno fell under the spell of the actress, whom she describes as “exceptional dancer” and “absolutely perfect for the role. “For Ariana DeBose, who was fascinated by the character of Anita while watching the original film when she was little, this dedication of the actress is a source of pride.

She was one of the first women on screen whose skin color was close to mine – in the movies of that time there weren’t many women of color. It had a big influence on me during my childhood.


Born to a father of Puerto Rican descent and a white mother who raised her on her own, the actress attended a dance studio for a long time as a teenager where many Puerto Ricans met. Not speaking Spanish fluently, she did not feel included in the community.

One of the gifts this film gave me was allowing me to accept myself as I am. I also feel that I am accepted by the Latino community, the Hispanic community and even the Puerto Rican community. I really didn’t expect to experience this one day.

Revealed in a tele-hook show in the United States in 2009, she then went on to musicals on Broadway, before being revealed in 2019 in Hamilton on Disney + alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda, then in The Prom by Ryan Murphy on Netflix.

During her audition to play Anita, she impresses Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner with her assertive point of view on the character, whom she defines as a strong and fiery woman but also a “born peacemaker“, for whom the fact of leaving Puerto Rico for New York was very painful.

When Ariana auditioned, we asked her to sing a bit of “America”. When she got to the “And the babies crying; And the bullets flying ” (“And the babies cry; and the balls rain”), she had tears in her eyes“, remembers the screenwriter.”She took in all the horror of what she was singing and made us feel it. ” She really lights up the screen“, adds Spielberg.”And when the story becomes tragic, it breaks our hearts.

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