Rachel Zegler Responds to Disney's Snow White Casting Backlash

With a smile and a song, Disney's Snow White star Rachel Zegler says someday her detractors will come (around). Zegler, who won a Golden Globe for her feature film debut as Maria in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, is speaking out against online commenters critical of her casting as a live-action version of the original Disney princess. In a new interview opposite Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield on Variety's Actors on Actors series, the 20-year-old actress of Latin descent spoke out for the first time about the reaction to her casting in the titular role of Disney's live-action re-imagining of 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

"Never in a million years did I imagine that this would be a possibility for me," Zegler said. "You don't normally see Snow Whites that are of Latin descent. Even though Snow White is really a big deal in Spanish-speaking countries. Blanca Nieves is a huge icon whether you're talking about the Disney cartoon or just different iterations and the Grimm fairy tale and all the stories that come with it. But you don't particularly see people who look like me or are me playing roles like that." 

Reacting to backlash from some Twitter users when her casting was announced last summer, Zegler wrote in a since-deleted tweet: "yes i am snow white no i am not bleaching my skin for the role." 

"When it was announced, it was a huge thing that was trending on Twitter for days, because all of the people were angry," Zegler told Garfield. When Garfield responded those are "the people that we need to educate, the people that we need to love into awareness," Zegler added, "We need to love them in the right direction. At the end of the day, I have a job to do that I'm really excited to do. I get to be a Latina princess." 

"Rachel's extraordinary vocal abilities are just the beginning of her gifts," director Marc Webb said when announcing Disney had found its Snow White in Zegler. "Her strength, intelligence and optimism will become an integral part of rediscovering the joy in this classic Disney fairytale." 

Actress and singer Halle Bailey, who is Black, encountered similar toxic backlash when the princess-to-be was cast in the starring role of Ariel in Disney's forthcoming remake of The Little Mermaid. Bailey's casting also trended on Twitter, with upset users tweeting the hashtag "Not My Ariel." 

Disney's Snow White remake made its own headlines this week when Game of Thrones and Avengers: Infinity War actor Peter Dinklage criticized the "f*cking backwards" fairytale for its depiction of the dwarf characters. In response, Disney said it was "taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community," and Disney's Snow White reportedly features a group of "'magical creatures'" instead

Zegler leads Disney's Snow White opposite Wonder Woman and Red Notice star Gal Gadot, who will play the Evil Queen. Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man) directs from a script by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women) and Erin Cressida Wilson (Chloe, The Girl on the Train). Disney has not announced a release date.