At just 19 years old, Maddie Ziegler has already achieved remarkable success, and her 2021 role in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story marks a significant milestone in her budding film career. Playing the role of Velma in this acclaimed remake of an Academy Award-winning classic, Ziegler has entered the world of Hollywood on a grand scale, and the film itself is already garnering recognition during this awards season.
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During her appearance on Collider Ladies Night, where she discussed her recent outstanding performance in The Fallout on HBO Max, Ziegler shared insights into her journey in the entertainment industry. She talked about her early passion for acting, the valuable lessons she’s gained from her work in music videos, her experience working alongside Jenna Ortega in The Fallout, and, of course, the intriguing story behind how she secured her role in West Side Story.
Maddie Ziegler recounted her audition journey for West Side Story, offering a glimpse into the nerve-wracking yet exhilarating process:
“I began by auditioning on the West Coast. They were holding auditions all over the place – New York, LA, Puerto Rico – and I went for the LA audition. I was there with Justin Peck, Patty Lucia Delgado, and Craig Salstein, who were all part of the choreography team. We learned the dance, performed it, and taped it. Everything went really well. After that, I had a session with Cindy Tolan, the casting director, whom I absolutely adore. I read a few lines with her, and then I was on my way.”
“But that was just step one. The next phase involved a callback, which required me to audition in New York for someone quite important on the production,” she continued. “I went in, and there was Steven Spielberg in the room. I thought, ‘Cool, this is it. This is really happening.’ Later that day, they asked me to come in again the next day. I read some lines with Steven, and let me tell you, I was shaking. Plus, I had to do a New York accent, which was pretty nerve-wracking. I left, and it was an incredible experience, but I thought, ‘That was cool, but I don’t think I’ll get it.’ So, that’s fun. But then, a few months later, I got the call. It was the craziest thing ever.”
Ziegler also touched on her experience working on one of the film’s most intense scenes – the assault on Ariana DeBose’s character, Anita, by the Jets:
“First of all, Ariana’s performance as Anita was incredibly moving. It was breathtaking. I think it was really important to have the perspective of other women in the room during that scene. It’s a topic that’s very relevant and needs to be discussed. Female support is crucial, and incorporating that aspect into the movie was pretty powerful. I’m really glad they did that.”