Rita Moreno Says It 'Was So Bizarre' to Watch Ariana DeBose Play Anita in West Side Story
In a PEOPLE exclusive clip of tonight's NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Moreno and DeBose both sat down with Lester Holt ahead of the film's debut in theaters this Friday.
"She is a beautiful Anita in the movie," says Moreno in the clip, above. "It was so bizarre because suddenly I was playing another role and she was playing Anita."
When Holt asked DeBose, 30, if she was in "awe" of Moreno, 89, she said, "Oh, absolutely."
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"She means a lot to me. She means a lot to the Puerto Rican community, to the Latino community at large, and to the entertainment industry at large," DeBose continued.
The actress, who has also starred in The Prom and Hamilton, said she didn't try to play Moreno's version of Anita in the new Steven Spielberg reimagining of the iconic musical.
"I was very adamant that whatever interpretation I delivered for this performance was massively different," she said. "But by virtue of being a black woman that makes it a different portrayal."
Earlier this month, Moreno praised DeBose's take on the character, saying the actress is "marvelous. She's a ferocious dancer, way better than I was." And her dancing is what initially caught director Spielberg's eye as well, though her "tremendous personal charisma" is what sold him on her for the part, he said. And their raves are being echoed by reviewers and audiences alike.
In November, DeBose revealed that Moreno had offered her a tip for portraying Anita, saying, "She told me, 'Niña, I'll tell you anything you want to know.'"
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"She empowered me, encouraged me to do my own thing," DeBose said. "She did tell me one note, but I won't tell you what it was."
DeBose did say, "She said, 'I think there's more power in a different delivery,'" adding, "I took the note, it was a good note."
More of Moreno and DeBose's interview will air tonight on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt at 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT.
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