Ariana DeBose believes viewers are going to be "pleasantly surprised" by Steven Spielberg's upcoming adaptation of "West Side Story."
Following the premiere of the film in New York City on Monday night, the Tony-nominated actress, singer and dancer appeared on "Good Morning America" to discuss taking on the iconic role of Anita in the film, which was famously played by Rita Moreno in the 1961 film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical.
DeBose, who has starred in projects including "Hamilton" and "The Prom," says she can still remember the first time she saw "West Side Story."
"I was sitting in my grandmother's living room ... I think I was seven or eight, watching the woman in the purple dress dance, and I was like, 'I want to do that' ... it was very visceral for me," she shared during her "GMA" appearance on Tuesday.
The actress described how she was completely overwhelmed when she met Moreno for the first time. "I had a full out panic attack," she said. "If you ask her, she'll tell you I was really awkward -- and then we started over and got on the right foot."
"But it is anxiety ridden when you're meeting one of your heroes," she continued. "But she was so gracious with me, and she said, 'I will tell you anything you want to know.' And I said, 'I want to know anything you want to tell me.' And we just sort of had an open dialogue, and I'm grateful for her support."
The actress teased that Moreno gave her a note about a sequence in the upcoming film but wouldn't share what Moreno said. She's curious what fans will think it is when they see the film.
"I want to start a game, we're gonna start on this show," she said. "I want people to go in and see if they can guess what they think the note was."
"Because we are inherently different Anitas -- they are different women -- but there are certain characteristics that are very much the same, and I'm just very curious," she continued. "I'm like, 'What do y'all think it is?' So tag me, DM me, let me know what y'all think it is."
DeBose says Moreno, who in the new film plays Valentina, the widow of the owner of the candy store where the gangs visit, is "fabulous" in the role.
"She is so good," the actress raved. "I think it's some of her best work. I'm an ardent admirer. She's incredible."
During her "GMA" appearance, DeBose also discussed auditioning for Spielberg, and why she chose not to read for the director during her audition. She said at the time she was called to audition for the role, she was starring in "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical."
"I got a phone call from our casting director Cindy Tolan at like 10 p.m. and I was very tired," she began. "And she was like, 'Please come in.'"
"And I was like, 'Great, what's the material?'" she continued. "And I took one look at those sides from Tony Kushner, who has adapted this screenplay beautifully. But I said, this is a lot of material, and I'm going to embarrass myself if I do this. And I asked her, I was like, 'Would you please support me in this decision, I would like to not read -- but I'll sing and dance and do anything else you want.'"
She said Spielberg was impressed with her singing and dancing at the audition, but she decided to commit to her decision not to read for him when asked.
Despite making that daring decision, which ultimately paid off for her, she said she was "calm" when she said "no" when Spielberg asked her to read.
"I knew it was the right thing to do," she said. "Because it's really important, you know, women of color in the industry, we need to go in and we need to show up and show out, and I was not going to deliver any less."
"West Side Story" arrives in theaters on Dec. 10.