Rachel Zegler says it was “really hurtful” having to face questions about the claims of sexual assault levelled at her West Side Story co-star Ansel Elgort.
The award-winning actress said it was “wildly disappointing” to be “held accountable” by the public for accusations that had nothing to do with her.
In 2020 Elgort, 28, was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2014, when she was 17 and he was 20 – allegations he has denied.
Zegler and Elgort played the lead roles of Maria and Tony in Stephen Spielberg’s 2021 reimagining of the hit West End musical.
‘west side story’ is out in theaters december 10, 2021. pic.twitter.com/n66qCROHTB
— rachel zegler (she/her/hers) (@rachelzegler) September 16, 2021
Speaking to Elle magazine, Zegler recalled being asked questions about the controversy in press junkets for West Side Story ahead of the film’s release, alongside female co-stars Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno.
“It was a real gut-punch, honestly,” she said.
“I reverted back to this brain space I was in [back in] June of 2020, when the accusation surfaced.
“We were in the middle of the first wave of lockdown, and there was nothing to do but doom-scroll. Those days were some of the worst mental health days I’ve ever had.
“I was sitting there having just turned 19, on the precipice of what was promised to be the biggest moment in my life, and was being held accountable [by the public] for accusations that not only had nothing to do with me but were made about a situation that was said to have occurred [five] years prior to when I had met and worked with this person.
“With no thought to the fact that I was also 17 when I met this person, 17 when I worked with them, 17 and 18 when I had to do love scenes.”
Zegler said she had been devastated by the news of the accusations.
“[There is] inherent discomfort that comes with that realisation that there are tons of people who think that you have to answer for the actions of an adult male who can speak for himself,” she told Elle.
“It is so wildly disappointing at every turn, no matter how you slice it.
“No matter how many times I’ve tried to justify people’s concern when it comes to me in my brain, but then realising that it comes from a place of me having to answer for that, and not them actually caring about whether or not I was okay, was really hurtful.”
West Side Story was nominated for seven Academy Awards, with DeBose winning the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Anita.