Rachel Zegler still doesn’t understand why the lead female stars of “West Side Story” were asked to speak about fellow actor Ansel Elgort.
After a sexual assault allegation against Elgort surfaced on social media in June 2020, Zegler admitted her breakout role in “West Side Story” became tainted.
“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,” Zegler explained to Elle in a May cover story. “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.”
Elgort was accused of assaulting a woman in 2014, when she was reportedly 17 years old and he was 20. Elgort previously denied the assault allegations on Instagram, while admitting to a “brief, legal and entirely consensual relationship” that resulted in him ghosting his accuser. The “Goldfinch” actor noted that his behavior was “an immature and cruel thing to do to someone,” but that he “has never and would never assault anyone.”
During a roundtable conversation with The Hollywood Reporter while promoting “West Side Story,” Zegler and her co-stars Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno were asked about the controversy surrounding Elgort. At the time, Zegler told the outlet that there has “been a lot of awakening” following the accusations.
“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,” Zegler said in January. Co-star Moreno noted it would be “absolutely horrendous and wrong” to make judgments over what really transpired, while DeBose similarly said only those involved “know what actually went down.”
Now, Zegler is telling Elle that those questions should have been directed elsewhere, especially since “the person in question was present” during junkets.
“It was a real gut punch, honestly,” Zegler said of being asked to answer for Elgort. “I reverted back to this brain space I was in [back in] June of 2020, when the accusation surfaced. 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.”
Zegler continued, “[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. 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.”
The “Snow White” star added, “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.”
And Zegler is keeping Elgort’s accuser in mind: “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,” Zegler said. “If I’m sitting here thinking that those days were traumatizing for me, I don’t pretend to know. I could never know.”
She summed up, “I really don’t have anything to do with this conversation, and I’m looking forward to moving past it.”
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