Rachel Zegler Says It Was 'Hurtful' to Be Asked About Ansel Elgort: He 'Can Speak for Himself'

"I really don't have anything to do with this conversation," says Rachel Zegler of being asked about a sexual assault allegation made against West Side Story costar Ansel Elgort

Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Rachel Zegler is explaining how being asked about costar Ansel Elgort's sexual assault allegations was a "real gut punch" for her while promoting her debut role in West Side Story.

Zegler, 20, and Elgort, 28, played the romantic leads in the reimagining of the movie musical, which finally hit theaters in December after filming wrapped in fall 2019 and the theatrical release was postponed due to the pandemic.

Speaking with ELLE for the magazine's May 2022 issue, Zegler recalled having to answer questions posed to her about accusations made against Elgort.

In June 2020, Elgort was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 2014 when he was 20. The woman (a Twitter user named Gabby who shared the claims on social media) also alleged that he tried to solicit nude photos from her at the time and asked to have a threesome.

Elgort responded in a statement at the time, saying he has "never and would never assault anyone," and that they had a "brief, legal and entirely consensual relationship."

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, in which Elgort plays the lead Tony, was filmed prior to the allegations being made public. The musical hit theaters in December after being postponed due to the pandemic. Elgort participated in group interviews to promote the project, and he attended the red carpet with longtime girlfriend Violetta Komyshan.

"I reverted back to this brain space I was in [back in] June of 2020, when the accusation surfaced," said Zegler of facing questions about her scene partner Elgort. "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," she added.

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Zegler, who will play Snow White in Disney's upcoming live-action movie, clarified, "I really don't have anything to do with this conversation, and I'm looking forward to moving past it."

"[There is] inherent discomfort that comes with that realization 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. It is so wildly disappointing at every turn, no matter how you slice it," she explained. "No matter how many times I've tried to justify people's concern when it comes to me in my brain, but then realizing 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."

"And also paying no mind when it came to the conversation between myself and these other incredible women in my cast, without any thought process to our experiences as women in the industry who constantly find ourselves in close encounters with men in power, and a very iconic woman in Hollywood who has spoken about her experience with sexual assault," she said, seemingly referencing costar Rita Moreno.

Zegler added of the woman who accused Elgort: "In the grand scheme of things with this woman who has come forward with these allegations, I cannot imagine what she had to go through. If I'm sitting here thinking that those days were traumatizing for me, I don't pretend to know. I could never know."

Reps for Elgort did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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In his June 2020 statement, Elgort — who currently stars in the HBO Max series Tokyo Vice, said, "I was distressed to see the social media posts about me that have been circulating in the past 24 hours. I cannot claim to understand Gabby's feelings but her description of events is simply not what happened. I have never and would never assault anyone."

"What is true is that in New York in 2014, when I was 20, Gabby and I had a brief, legal and entirely consensual relationship. Unfortunately, I did not handle the breakup well. I stopped responding to her, which is an immature and cruel thing to do to someone. I know this belated apology does not absolve me of my unacceptable behavior when I disappeared," he continued. "As I look back at my attitude, I am disgusted and deeply ashamed of the way I acted. I am truly sorry. I know I must continue to reflect, learn, and work to grow in empathy."

The woman said she initially chose not to come forward with her allegations but she decided to speak out so she could "finally heal." She wrote, "Years later I have ptsd, I have panic attacks I go to therapy. Finally I'm ready to talk about it and finally heal." She also alleged that she "didn't tell anyone because [Elgort] said it could 'ruin his career.' "

In a Hollywood Reporter cover story, published in January, Zegler addressed the allegations against her costar.

"We made a movie two and a half years ago, and a lot has gone on in the world since then. A lot has changed very publicly, and privately as well. There's been a lot of awakening," she told the outlet. "You just hope that the people involved are okay, that they are asked in a respectful manner and that they are given the opportunity to answer for themselves."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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