Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ Introduces Multiple Black Characters

Curtiss Cook, Photo: Jonathon Ziegler/PMC

East Hampton director Steven Spielberg, along with writer Tony Kushner, have written in several Black characters for the upcoming film adaptation of West Side Story.

The musical, which takes place in 1957 Manhattan, is a tale of racial tension between two gangs, the white Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks. The original Broadway production and first film adaptation did not include Black characters. The recent Broadway revival featured colorblind casting, but the film will be the first time Black people play a part in the story.

Speaking to ET Canada, actor Curtiss Cook said, “West Side Story was one of those musicals the I never really could be a part of, unless there weren’t enough Latin folks, they would probably cast me as a smaller role.” When Cook was originally approached with a role in West Side Story, he assumed it would be as one of the minor characters, such as Officer Krupke, but was impressed and moved to find that he would be playing new character Abe. “How they incorporate Abe into the storyline, it makes so much sense. I’m really dumbfounded sometimes when I think about it. Like, I can’t believe I’m talking about being in West Side Story.”

West Side Story is set for wide release December 18, but could be delayed (like many other films this year) due to COVID.

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