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Ariana DeBose took home the the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role for West Side Story at the 2022 SAG Awards on Sunday.
The actress was nominated alongside Caitriona Balfe (Belfast), Cate Blanchett (Nightmare Alley), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog) and Ruth Negga (Passing).
The award marked DeBose’s first nomination and win.
“It’s taken a long time for me to feel comfortable calling myself an actor. My roots come from the dance world and the Broadway stage,” she said. Adding of the film, “The Anita that we see on the screen, took every bit of me, but she took ten years to make and I’m extremely proud of her and of our film. And I really do believe that when you recognize one of us you recognize all of us in a way.”
She later thanked director Steven Spielberg for “believing in the possibility of not only my talent but of that of my colleagues” and her cast and crew of the film which represented a “labor of love” and a “beautiful cinematic experience.”
She finished her speech by thanking all those in attendance at the SAG Awards: “I have watched so many of you for a very long time. You have inspired me and you continue to do so and I am just thrilled to be among you.”
DeBose’s win comes amid the actress receiving her first Oscar nom for best supporting actress.
DeBose has also won a Golden Globe for the role.
In West Side Story, DeBose takes on the iconic role of Anita, which Rita Moreno played in the 1961 film. The film reimagines the classic story of forbidden love between star-crossed lovers Maria (Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) and the rivalry between teen gangs, the Jets and Sharks, set in the backdrop of mid-1950s New York.
Backstage, DeBose explained that her heart was “pounding” when hearing her name called for the category. “I remember my heart was pounding … head to toe,” she said. After having a reunion with The Prom co-star Meryl Streep, who was also in the SAG audience, DeBose said, “I was a little caught off guard when they were suddenly at the category, which by the way being in that category with so many women that I find so completely inspiring was already overwhelming, so figuring out what to say when I got up there, let alone figuring how to get up there because I got very confused… it was a thrilling experience.”
She also reflected further on her West Side Story role, “It’s an honor to be seen, it’s an honor to be an Afro-Latina, an openly queer woman of color, a dancer, a singer and an actor. It’s indicative of me that I will not be the last and that’s the important part. Whatever firsts are attached are name are immensely special to me but focused on if I’m the first of anything then I will not be the last.”
She continued, “The legacy of Anita means a great deal to me for many different reasons. I’m still a broadway girl at heart and we speak frequently about Rita Moreno, as we should she’s legendary, but OG Anita on stage is Chita Rivera, and I’ve looked up to Chita for such a long time. She made a way on the Broadway stage for me to be able to do what I do. So to be a part of the legacy of Anita that includes both Chita and Rita and now Ariana, it’s really special to me.”
DeBose also celebrated how Rivera, Moreno and herself are “all very different types of latinas.” “And that’s beautiful and important to me because there’s not one way to be latina or hispanic, there are many beautiful ways and I think each and every one of us is a testament to that,” she said.
In The Hollywood Reporter cover story with DeBose, Rita Moreno and Rachel Zegler, DeBose reflected on first feeling reluctant to audition for the iconic role. “When I thought of Anita, I thought of Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera — Debbie Allen and Valarie Pettiford have played the role, but the most famous incarnations of this character just do not look like me, and they’re beloved portrayals,” she told THR. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if there’s space for [my] interpretation, because I would have to play her as a Black woman.’ Because otherwise, I didn’t think there was anything to be added [to the role]. It had been done, and beautifully so.”
The 28th annual SAG Awards was broadcast live on TNT and TBS from Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. For the first time, the show will be available the following day on HBO Max.
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