Disney’s ‘Snow White’ Star Rachel Zegler Issues Statement After Horrific On-Set Death

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Rachel Zegler in West Side Story and Snow White together

Credit: Inside the Magic

Rachel Zegler has been in the spotlight over the recent years after debuting her Hollywood career and booking the elusive role of Snow White in Disney’s live action, Snow White. Now, the actress is using her platform to speak out and demand justice after a death occurred on set.

Rachel Zegler at a microphone in Hunger Games
Credit: Lionsgate Films

This all began after news was shared of a crew member death on the set of 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 production team is mourning the loss of crew member Rico Priem, who died in a freeway accident early Saturday morning. Priem, a grip and member of IATSE Local 80, reportedly passed away while driving home following a 14-hour shift on the ABC drama.

An IATSE Local 80 leadership memo confirmed Priem wrapped production around 4:00 am on Saturday. The accident occurred on the 57 Freeway near San Dimas, California, as Priem was driving home to Woodland Hills from the Pomona shoot location.

According to a report by TVLine, California Highway Patrol provided further details. Authorities stated the single-vehicle accident occurred around 4:27 am. Priem’s vehicle, reportedly traveling northbound on the 57 Freeway at Via Verde Drive, “left the roadway for unknown reasons, went up an embankment and flipped onto its roof.” Sadly, Priem was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Both IATSE Local 80 and 20th Television, the studio behind 9-1-1, confirmed Priem’s passing and expressed their condolences. This tragic event highlights the potential risks faced by production crews working long hours.

“We are fully committed to the safety and the well-being of all our members and express our heartfelt condolences to the member’s family,” IATSE said in a statement. “Workers have a reasonable expectation that they can get to work and come home safely. No one should be put in unsafe circumstances while trying to earn a living.”

IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb added:

“Everyone in the IA family is shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic loss. We are working to support our member’s family, their fellow members and colleagues. Safety in all aspects of the work our members do is our highest priority and we will assist in any investigation in any way that we can.”

The tragic death of crew member Rico Priem has reignited concerns about long working hours in film and television production. Crew members have long advocated for stricter regulations on work hours, citing the dangers of drowsy driving after extended shifts. This isn’t an isolated incident; in 2017, actor KJ Apa was involved in an accident following a long filming session for Riverdale.

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, looking up
Credit: Lionsgate

Recognizing these risks, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) made crew rest periods a key issue during 2021 contract negotiations. This focus on ensuring adequate rest appears to be continuing in the current round of talks.

“On behalf of everyone at 9-1-1, the studio offers its deepest condolences to Rico Priem’s family and friends,” said a spokesperson for 20th Television. While condolences are heartfelt, the industry must strive to prevent similar tragedies. The death of Rico Priem underscores the urgent need for stricter regulations on working hours and a renewed commitment to prioritizing crew safety.

Zegler referenced a Deadline article that shared the news, and posted to X, “protect our crews. this is horrible.”

Rachel replied to her own post, stating, “the most tireless people. there before we arrive to set, there after we leave to set up for the next day. and sometimes it can be a very thankless job. things like this SHOULD. NOT. HAPPEN. fair work hours and fair wages for our crews NOW.”

Other people in the entertainment industry who have also worked long hours on crews have also chimed in on the post, stating the level of exhaustion they have felt driving home after long set days, “I worked BG for a bit and did a few overnight shoots. I was exhausted. I almost went off the road. It was terrifying. I have crew friends who have done that as well. They definitely deserve better. This doesn’t need to happen.”

The most devastating aspect of this loss is that it was entirely preventable, which is why Zegler has chosen to draw more attention to it in efforts to make a change.

Everything We Know About Disney’s Live-Action Snow White

Ziegler already has an amazing career at her young age, starring in West Side Story before getting roles in both Shazam: Fury of the Gods and the smash hit The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, playing a lead role with Disney is the cherry on top of this delicious sundae.

Disney’s live-action adaptation of Snow White joins a growing trend of reimagining classic animated films. Following the release of The Little Mermaid and announcements for Moana and Hunchback of Notre Dame, Snow White arrives in theaters on March 21, 2025, after a delay due to the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Rachel Zegler next to a poison apple
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

The classic tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs gets a modern makeover in Disney’s upcoming live-action film. This reimagining follows the core story of Snow White, a young woman targeted by her jealous stepmother, the Evil Queen. Obsessed with beauty, the Queen fears Snow White’s surpassing loveliness and schemes to eliminate her.

When a magic mirror confirms Snow White’s superior beauty, the Queen dispatches a huntsman to kill her in the forest. Unable to bring himself to harm Snow White, the huntsman lets her go. Seeking refuge, Snow White stumbles upon the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, who offer her shelter. However, the Queen’s pursuit continues, and she attempts to take Snow White’s life with a poisoned apple. Only a kiss of true love can break the curse, and in the original story, it’s a prince who awakens Snow White with a kiss.

Disney's Snow White looking terrified against a background of green eyes
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Suspends Snow White’s Presence in Theme Parks Indefinitely Amid Ongoing Investigation

The live-action version boasts a stellar cast. Rachel Zegler takes on the role of Snow White, while Gal Gadot portrays the formidable Evil Queen. A significant departure from the animated film comes with the introduction of Jonathan, played by Andrew Burnap, who replaces the traditional Prince Charming. The film also features Ansu Kabia as the huntsman and Martin Klebba as Grumpy, the iconic dwarf known for his sour disposition.

Adding another layer of intrigue are rumors of surprise appearances by undisclosed A-list actors, with Ryan Reynolds being a popular guess for a secret role.

The decision to omit “Seven Dwarfs” from the film’s title reflects Disney’s response to early criticism. Actor Peter Dinklage publicly questioned the portrayal of the dwarfs in the original film, calling it a “backward story.” In response, Disney has announced a new approach to these characters, promising to avoid reinforcing stereotypes. While details remain scarce, leaked set photos suggest a more diverse group of companions for Snow White, encompassing a wider range of genders, ethnicities, and heights.

Evil Queen as an Old Crone giving Snow White the poisoned apple
Credit: Disney

The casting of Rachel Zegler, a Latina actress, as Snow White has also been a point of contention for some fans who felt the character should remain Caucasian.

Almost two years ago, during a discussion about the upcoming film with Gal Gadot, Rachel Zegler emphasized that the adaptation “was not 1937 anymore” and that it would deviate from a traditional love story. Notably, the absence of a prince character in this version was highlighted, with Andrew Burnap portraying the lead male character, renamed Jonathan.

Following the initial backlash, Zegler has adopted a more cautious approach to discussing the film. In a recent interview, she expressed reverence for the Disney princess archetype, acknowledging its significance to numerous fans. Zegler reflected on the beloved status of the original cartoon, recognizing its pioneering role in Disney’s legacy and the immense pressure associated with portraying such an iconic character.

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