Rita Moreno Says She 'Really Resented' West Side Story Darkening Her Skin: It Wasn't 'My Color'
The Oscar-winner revealed her one regret from the 1961 adaptation of West Side Story
Rita Moreno is looking back at her Oscar-winning performance in West Side Story — and the one regret she has about the film.
In an interview with the Associated Press, the 87-year-old actress revealed her skin was darkened for her role as the Puerto Rican spitfire Anita in the 1961 film adaptation that launched her career and won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
“Puerto Rico was colonized by the French, the Dutch and the Spanish and so we are many colors,” Moreno said. “I am one and I really resented it when they put very dark makeup on me because that’s not my color.”
She shared she “thought the Sharks should have all their own natural colors. Some were dark, some were copper skin, some were fair.”
Moreno’s own skin was darkened for the film with makeup.
“I remember one time saying to the makeup man who was making me up, ‘I really hate this color because this isn’t the color I am,'” she recalled. “And he actually said to me, ‘What, are you racist?'”
The interaction left Moreno “so stunned that I didn’t say anything.”
“I didn’t know what to say,” she said. “That’s really also how little people know about Puerto Ricans.”
Moreno, an EGOT winner, isn’t letting go of West Side Story anytime soon. The actress will have a role in Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of the musical and serve as an executive producer.
The actress, who currently stars on Netflix’s One Day at a Time, will be playing Valentina in the adaptation, written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, and based on the award-winning 1957 Broadway musical.
Valentina is a re-conceived and expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store in which Tony (played by Ansel Elgort) works.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work,” Moreno said in a statement. “And to be asked by Steven Spielberg to participate is simply thrilling! Then to work together with the brilliant playwright, Tony Kushner – what a glorious stew! I am tingling!”