ABC11 catches up with Wake County native and 'West Side Story' star Ariana DeBose

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It has been a great week for Ariana DeBose.

The singer, dancer and actress from Wake County is starring in the new "West Side Story" movie, and she's been nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award.

It all started here in Raleigh when she was a child at the CC and Company Dance Complex and North Carolina Theatre.

ABC11 caught up with DeBose to talk about her big-screen debut.

We first met DeBose in 2017 after she made a name for herself playing "The Bullet" in "Hamilton," and while she was starring in the hit Broadway show "A Bronx Tale."

Now, from the stages of Broadway and the world of streaming roles, the Triangle native and Wake Forest Rolesville High alum is turning the entertainment world upside down as she makes her big-screen debut as Anita in Steven Spielberg's reimagination of the 1961 hit "West Side Story."

"Can't believe that was five years ago actually," DeBose said. "We made this movie back in 2019, so it's been such a long road to get to the moment of sharing "West Side Story" with everyone"

Not only did DeBose get to work with Spielberg, but she also had the daunting task of bringing Anita back to life in front of the actress who portrayed the character originally, Hollywood legend Rita Moreno.

"She took me out to lunch and she said, 'I'll tell you anything you want to know,' and I said, 'I want to know anything you want to tell me.' She said, 'lean into everything that makes you unique and you don't need my help, you got this,'" DeBose recalled.

Though the film addresses the racial unrest in New York City in the 1960s, DeBose said she feels the message is just as meaningful today as it was then.

"You get to see two groups of people who inherently have more commonalities than they do differences, but they can't see that, they're angry at each other which really means they're angry at the wrong people," DeBose said. "They're not angry at the system, which is actually marginalizing their community. That's the tragedy of the story, if they had just spoke to each other, learn to listen, and talk, have a conversation, perhaps the ending of the story would be different."

"West Side Story" is from 20th Century Studios, which is owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC11.
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