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‘West Side Story’ star Rita Moreno on the advice she shared with new star Ariana DeBose

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20th Century Studios/Nico Tavernese

Rita Moreno became the first Latina to win a best supporting actress Oscar in 1961 for her portrayal of Anita in the iconic musical West Side Story. Now, half a century later, the 89-year-old actress is starring in Steven Spielberg‘s version of West Side Story.

“I don’t think of it as a remake….I think of it as Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. It’s a reimagining,” Moreno told ABC News.

The musical, which is inspired by Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet, is set in New York City in the 1950s and tells the story of rival gangs — the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican, and the Jets, who are white. At the story’s heart is the relationship between Tony, a former member of the Jets, who falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks.

Anita, who is Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s friend and confidante, is played by Ariana DeBose in the new film. Moreno and DeBose told ABC News that Moreno gave DeBose advice about something she regrets not doing in a certain scene, but neither actress would say what scene that was.

“[Moreno] was very graceful with me, because, I’ll be very candid — I was awkward AF,” DeBose admitted. “She was, like, ‘I think there’s more power in a different delivery. So if that is helpful to you.’ “And I took the note. It was a good note.”

Moreno said, “I said, ‘I think it’s immensely effective, and I never — it never occurred to me to do the scene that way.’ Well, I’m thrilled that she used it.”

You can see more of the interviews in the primetime ABC News event Something’s Coming: West Side Story – A Special Edition of 20/20, airing on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.

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