Rachel Zegler Is Ready for Some Lighthearted Roles


(Image credit: Christine Hahn)

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In 2021, Rachel Zegler burst onto the scene as Maria in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story. She had auditioned on Twitter, and in a true Hollywood Cinderella story, she got the role. 

Ever since then, Zegler has captured audiences with her incredible voice, skillful acting, and charm. She's lined up roles that will have something in them for everyone: She's set to play Anthea in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which comes out this month; Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which debuts in November; and, finally, Snow White in Disney's live-action take on the classic, which comes out in 2024. 

We caught up with Zegler to talk about her upcoming roles, her thoughts on social media, and some of her absolute favorite beauty looks of all time. (This is a beauty cover, after all.) Below, read some excerpts from our interview, and tune in to the Who What Wear podcast to hear our conversation in full.

Tell me a little bit about Shazam. Anthea is your character's name, right?

Yeah, many people think it's Athena. But it is Anthea, thank you.

Of course. How is she different from some of the characters you've played before?

I feel like a lot of the characters I've played before have a wonderful arc, but they're a bit straightforward from the word go. You take a character like Maria from West Side Story, and you know that she's got a good heart, a beautiful outlook on the world. She wants to bring two opposing groups together. It's just very straightforward. And she learns a little bit more about the world as the story goes on. With Anthea, it's a bit more complicated because she's lived in the shadow of her sisters for X amount of years. Her sisters, of course, are played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu. Ever heard of them?

Just some little-known actors.

Just some up-and-coming actors who have promising careers. So she thinks she knows everything about the world already because of the way that it's told to her by her older sisters. Throughout the course of the film, you kind of understand that she has thoughts of her own, and she wants to express them not only to the rest of the world but to the Shazamily, who she's come to know through different circumstances. So I've just really loved playing her because she was way more layered than I even expected her to be, and it just made me all the more excited to take on the part.

What intrigued you about doing such an action-heavy project?

It was the fact that I didn't have to do a lot of action. No, you know, it's actually funny because I was begging stunts to, like, let me do something, but I really didn't do any stunts. It wasn't until I went to work on Snow White—which is, believe it or not, incredibly stunt heavy for me—and then Hunger Games, which is a bit more obviously stunt heavy, that I actually got to flex that muscle I didn't even really know I had. When you're doing a movie like West Side Story, my only stunt was standing on a fire escape that was four or five stories up, and I had a stunt double for that day. I was like, "Is this ridiculous?" And it's not. You know, some people don't like heights. Some people are scared and have to wear a bungee cord when they're on the fire escape. But for this born-and-bred New Yorker, it felt a bit much.

But on Shazam, I did not have to do any of my own stunts. I really only had one stunt, which is in the trailer where I get blown back from this bolt of lightning. And that was my stunt double. Her name was Maria, oddly enough. She was super cool. She did it time and again. I just watched her get slammed against concrete a bunch of times, and I would just run out in between each take and be like, "Hang in there, buddy." She was great. She was more than happy to do it. But I didn't really have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to stunt and action work on Shazam.

Do you want to do more projects like Shazam in the future?

We've been talking about this recently because the movie is coming out very soon. DJ Cotrona, who plays superhero Pedro, and I were talking about it. We're like, "I just want to do a third one so bad." Obviously, the future of DC is unclear as of right now. We're the people who were here before the staff shift happened. We don't really know what's going to happen. And that's all good and fine. We obviously trust James and Peter, who are now at the forefront of DC. But DJ and I are just like, "Man, we just really want to do a third one." I feel like they could get into some real high jinks. Whether or not I'd even be in a third one would be in question as well. However, I would love to see more movies like Shazam in the future. And I would also just really love to do some fun, lighthearted… Most of my career has just been me crying over dead bodies and shit. I'm just really ready to have some fun.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Associate Beauty Editor

Katie Berohn is the associate beauty editor at Who What Wear. Previously, she worked as the beauty assistant for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and Prevention magazines, all part of the Hearst Lifestyle Group. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a major in journalism and minor in technology, arts, and media, and earned her master's degree at NYU's graduate program for magazine journalism. In addition, Katie has held editorial internships at Denver Life magazine, Yoga Journal, and Cosmopolitan; a digital editorial internship at New York magazine's The Cut; a social good fellowship at Mashable; and a freelance role at HelloGiggles. When she's not obsessing over the latest skincare launch or continuing her journey to smell every perfume on the planet, Katie can be found taking a hot yoga class, trying everything on the menu at New York's newest restaurant, or hanging out at a trendy wine bar with her friends.