We had left her in her little room in Clifton, New Jersey, just before the Big Bang, or the worldwide release of West Side Story Of Steven Spielberg. Then, an intoxicating whirlwind: Oscars, Grammys, haute couture, jewels, Dior, Tiffany, Jimmy Choo, Paris, fashion shows, Met Gala, magazine covers… Everything has changed for Rachel Zegler, the girl of Colombian origin chosen from 30,000 candidates for the role of Maria but, in order not to change, she repeats it to herself every day that she used to leaf through those magazines dreaming and that on the subway cars, where her face is now, she danced favorite musicals imagining Broadway. In her future are a live action Snow White with Gal Gadot and the prequel to Hunger Games. In a very short time, on March 16, yours will be released at the cinema new movie, Shazam! Fury of the Godsdirected by David F. Sandberg, where she plays the goddess Anthea, third daughter of Atlas, who together with her older sisters, Hespera/Helen Mirren and Kalypso/Lucy Liu, challenges Billy Batson/Shazam, the DC Comics superhero.
It’s been a year…
What superpowers would you like? What makes her angry?
The petty people who need to communicate their petty thoughts to the world, the ones who get lost in nonsense because they’re probably too afraid to face the important things. I would love to scream Shazam! in those moments, maybe it worked.
Who are his heroes?
My mom who chose to raise my sister and me, my dad who worked in the same construction company every day of his life, since he was 18, so we didn’t miss anything and helped build the New York skyline, ne I am so proud when I walk around the city. Finally my boyfriend (Josh Andres Rivera): we met on the set of West Side Story (it was Chino) and we starred together again in Hunger Games. He keeps me grounded and I love him madly.
How did it go with the green screen and the action scenes?
I learned so much about modern filmmaking. Spielberg is a master, adorable and wonderful, but he has a very traditional way of working, it was nice and useful, after that experience, to switch to a film full of special effects and cgi (computer-generated imagery), stunts and action. My Anthea is a good one, she always looks for the best in people but she is also the youngest of three sisters and she believes in loyalty to family, she would do anything for them with an eye to the greater good. She laughs a lot, it was fun.
Who are his sisters, in life?
Meanwhile, I have a real one, Jacqueline, who is two years older than me and I would literally do anything for her. I also feel like a sister in the friendships and new relationships I make along the way, like with Ilsa Mason I met on the set of West Side Story, we made each other so much strength and we won the insecurities together. Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu have also become “sisters” in life. It’s not often you get to be with a group of women like this for twelve hours a day, it’s been a blessing. I am very selective in friendships precisely because it is vital to surround myself with women I trust, who support me and know how to lift my spirits.
What advice did Helen Mirren give you?
We had a nice conversation about the media being unkind to her in the past. She told me not to listen to what they write, that the most important thing is to know yourself, that no one can tell you who you are, only you can do it, with your actions more than with your words. She was kind and full of grace, she has a surprising humility, for us she is an icon but she simply feels like an ordinary woman who enters a shop to buy a pair of jeans. And not everyone knows how hilarious she is.
How does it feel to be a star?
A few years ago, I naively wondered what celebs thought when they opened their eyes in the morning and imagined things like, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m Jennifer Lawrence.” None of that. I still hate the morning but I feel a constant, immense gratitude for all the good things that are happening, even for the clothes and jewels I find myself wearing, for the new relationships this job gives me, people I can’t wait to meet again hairstylists such as Clayton Hawkins and David von Cannon, make-up artists such as Vincent Oquendo, Allan Avendano and Nina Park. If we can’t fit the commitments it’s a huge disappointment, “Yes, you have to make up Zoe Kravitz too, I understand”… (laughs). One of the happiest moments was seeing my face on the cover of Elle America, which I have always read. I couldn’t believe that this was actually my life. I love fashion, as a child I was torn between being a stylist and an astronaut.
What did he buy with his first earnings?
A pair of Dior sunglasses and a Tiffany bracelet for my sister. I took my mum with me to Paris Fashion Week, my dad to the Us Open, I try to spoil them as much as possible.
What is his superpower?
Believing in the goodness of human beings, in the best intentions, sometimes it’s not like that but it helps me to believe it. And then, resilience. It’s no cakewalk being a young woman in this environment, but the cocktail of confidence and resilience has been a winner so far.
What helps you not to get lost?
Surround myself with good people but above all psychotherapy. We can’t expect others to always be understanding, the analyst gives me the tools to navigate as calmly as possible and accept the fact that there may not always be a reason to feel a certain way. And then I’m good at finding new goals to pursue, small goals that make me wish the next day would come. I’m not one to stand there and agonize.
Do you have a ritual to start the day?
Yes, I choose a playlist from the thousands I have. That music affects the mood of my days. A song that gives me energy is Hunger by Florence + the Machine. I used to always put her in the make up room on the set of Shazam! and it gave good vibes not only to me, but also to Helen and Lucy.
A surreal moment from senior year?
When I performed at the Grammys to honor the memory of Stephen Sondheim and meeting one of my idols, Lady Gaga. She threatened me “If you go out like this and tomorrow I see you on the Daily Mail I get pissed with my boobs out”: my dress was torn and she helped me fix it with a bobby pin. A moment of total sisterhood. Holding her hands, looking into her eyes and telling her how much she meant to me as a young girl really got me emotional, the classic pinch moment. She is a goddess, an Aphrodite in the flesh.