In ‘Y2K,’ Rachel Zegler Parties Like It’s 1999

Rachel Zegler wasn’t yet born on Dec. 31, 1999, when the world watched and waited to see if the world would screech to a halt at midnight. Instead, the actress is getting to experience the Y2K mass hysteria retrospectively as the star of Kyle Mooney’s directorial debut “Y2K,” which recently debuted during SXSW.

“The only comparison I can make is 2012, because everybody was freaking out about the Mayan calendar ending and that we were all gonna die,” says Zegler, shortly before heading out for the film’s premiere in Austin.

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“The only thing I really knew about it was this YouTube video I came across a couple years ago, about a VHS tape that was a survival guide for Y2K,” she adds. “And it included Bill Clinton’s presidential briefings about what was gonna happen, and that everything was gonna be OK.”

Zegler stars in the film alongside Jaeden Martell and Julian Dennison, as teens attending a New Year’s Eve party; Zegler is the love interest. The story doesn’t unfold how you expect.

“What I love about Kyle as a writer and a director is that he takes those tropes and spins them on their head,” she says. “Because it seems like it’s just a coming of age movie — everything’s leading up to this perfect New Year’s night, and who’s gonna kiss at midnight? And then all of a sudden it’s like, oh — it’s a disaster comedy.”

A still from “Y2K.”
A still from “Y2K.”

Zegler got her first call about the film while she was in Death Valley on another project.

“I read the script while walking around the desert, refreshing my email and trying to get it to download,” says Zegler. “I just thought it was so different than anything I had gotten to do before — and I love Kyle. I’m a really big fan of his YouTube channel and of his work on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ so it was kind of a surefire ‘yes’ for me,” she adds. “It’s so different than anything I’ve ever gotten to do before.”

Another perk: experiencing Y2K fashion. “I got to wear really fun butterfly clips and this sheer black top over purple shiny pants, and the thick Doc Martens,” says Zegler, who’s also currently an ambassador for Dior. “A quintessential ’90s New Year’s outfit.”

Filming took Zegler back to her hometown of Clifton, N.J. The cast bonded with a mini golfing outing — Zegler’s “childhood mini golf course” — and her first scene was filmed on the same street that she learned how to ride a bike. It marked a full-circle moment for the actress, who’s experienced a quick rise in the industry since making her debut in “West Side Story” in 2021.

After the premiere in Austin, Zegler was looking forward to taking a vacation. She’s had a busy few years: in addition to the release of “Hunger Games” last fall, she also recently wrapped production for the “Snow White” live adaptation, which she leads, set to premiere next year.

Mid-interview, a young fan approaches the actress in her hotel lobby with a fashion compliment: “I just wanted to say I love your outfit. You look so pretty.”

Zegler is wearing a couture look by Viktor & Rolf, selected by her stylist Sarah Slutsky, which features strips of torn and cut fabric.

“I’m a really big fan of the brand and how they subvert expectations with their fashion. And I feel like our movie kind of subverts expectations,” says Zegler of her premiere look. “Considering this is a disaster comedy, we wanted to go with the ‘final girl’ look. One of my favorite lines in ‘Heathers’ is: ‘Veronica, you look like hell.’ And she goes, ‘yeah — I just got back.’”

Rachel Zegler
Rachel Zegler

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