West Side Story actor says new movie was made with people of color in mind

HUNSTVILLE, Ala. (TENNESSEE VALLEY WEEKEND) - Set in the streets of New York City in the 1950s, “West Side Story” is back on the big screen after 60 years. This time, it was reimagined by Oscar-winning director, Steven Spielberg.

The beloved musical originally hit movie theatres in 1961, just 4 years after its Broadway debut in 1957. Following the rivalry between two streets gangs, the white Sharks and the Puerto Rican Jets, not many Puerto Ricans were actually represented in the film, let alone any other people of color.

That’s why, in 2021, Steven Spielberg and his brave cast and crew worked to bring the reality of what the streets were actually like then. When you buy your ticket to the new movie starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler as the star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, you will see a blend of Puerto Ricans, Colombian-Americans, Afro-Latin Americans and many Black people who were not represented in earlier versions of the story.

Curtiss Cook is one of many actors representing people of color in this production as he brings the new character, Abe, to life.

“It’s been so inclusive, bringing a real look at what that time period looked like by adding a black character, a black speaking character, to the piece. I mean, we know that black people were walking around in 1957 in New York City, and the fact that someone said this needs to be represented is a big factor,” said Cook.

As far as adding in new characters and remaking it in the 21st century, Cook says the writers created a modern adaptation with some new twists, without getting in the way of the classic story fans love.

You can see Cook as Abe in “West Side Story,” in theatres now.

Anna Mahan

Anna Mahan

Anna Mahan joined the WAFF 48 News team in August of 2020.