Rachel Zegler Says She’s “Thankful” For Backlash Against Her ‘Snow White’ Casting: “Nothing Can Hurt Anymore Because They’ve Said The Worst That They’ve Said”
According to Snow White star Rachel Zegler, rather than despair at the widespread backlash to her casting as a race-swapped version of Disney’s first canonical animated princess, the actress has learned to be “thankful” for the discussion as it’s allowed her to supposedly grow thicker skin.
The controversial The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes actress weighed in on the discourse surrounding her upcoming role while speaking to fellow Disney actress Halle Bailey, who earlier this year portrayed Ariel in the live-action The Little Mermaid, for Variety’s Actors on Actors interview series.
First broaching the topic following a discussion of Bailey’s performance in the aforementioned remake, Zegler began the conversation by giving praise to her colleague for how “there are always people who have something to say [about our castings but] you proved them wrong, with grace.”
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“I was so inspired by the way you handled anybody who had anything bad to say about it, and I give you, really, so much credit,” said the Shazam! Fury of the Gods actress. “You and I have always been kind defenders of each other online. I would be willing to fight a little, because that’s who I am as a person.”
To this end, Zegler then asked, “And yeah, there’s always such chatter around it. Did you ever let it effect you at all? You definitely didn’t publicly,” to which Bailey replied, “I mean, we’re sensitive. We’re human beings. We’re actors, like hello.”
“I get my feelings hurt if my cat doesn’t want to sit next to me!,” laughed Bailey. “So, of course. And I think that’s what people don’t realize when they’re put in fortunate situations like us where you’re granted great opportunities and able to be seen on massive screens, like, it’s amazing, but I think there’s a sort of dissociation – people think that, they start taking you away from being a real human being that has feelings and react to things.”
“So yeah, that was definitely something that I had to navigate,” she continued. “But it turned out to be a beautiful lesson to me just to block any naysayers or negativity out and, for me, I found that it helped me, I used it to my advantage. Like, when it came to doing the long press days, or even taking it into my own personal music that I was writing, like I was using it as fuel to help me with my artistry. And you know, I think that’s the only way I could get over it, as well as surrounding myself with people that love me.”
Turning the question to Zegler, Bailey then asserted, “The same to you! The way you are so graceful and respond and don’t – it’s just the most beautiful thing to see, because it’s hard being women under the spotlight. People are so critical and just say anything that they would never say to your face. So yeah, how has that been for you to navigate it?”
In reply, Zegler admitted, “Choosing thankfulness and gratefulness is choosing peace, and as much as you’d like to remind people verbally that being in the spotlight doesn’t absolve you of your humanity, that you’re allowed to have human moments, it doesn’t necessarily do what you want it to do and it fuels them more.”
“So, it’s just as you said,” the actress added. “It’s choosing to be present and know that they’re just probably having a really hard day and I am putting out a movie. And I feel so thankful for those moments, because it started to make me feel like teflon, that nothing can hurt anymore because they’ve said the worst that they’ve said, and you just kind of say ‘Thank you so much for this'”
“I have a lot of love in my life and I’m very thankful, and we get to do our work and have that speak for itself,” concluded Zegler. “We’re making things that make people connect with one another and there are people out there who say things that make people want to fight and not come together.”
Drawing their discussion to an end, Bailey then playfully ‘dusted her shoulders off’ and exclaimed, “So, we just stay graceful and ignore the hate.”
“Exactly,” Zegler ultimately confirmed.
However, while Zegler may now feel as if simply ‘ignoring her haters’ is the most prescient strategy for navigating her career, it seems as if this indifference was a rather recent development.
For example, while speaking to TheWrap in October, the actress cared so much about the public criticisms being leveled against her – particularly her blatant disregard for Disney’s original Snow White animated film – that she felt the need to change the narrative by painting her critics’ issues as being based in misogyny rather than demand for source material respect.
“To young Latino performers coming up in the industry, I would tell them to know their worth, and to make sure they’re loud about having seats at the tables they deserve to be at,” said Zegler. “I have learned the hard way that we have to be fearless and loud in order to be heard, and to prepare for the backlash that occasionally comes with that outspokenness.”
Zegler’s Snow White is currently set to whistle its way into theaters on March 21st, 2025.