It's a career-spanning perspective on the life of a groundbreaking performer.


October brings the PBS premiere of American Masters – Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, a new documentary exploring Rita Moreno's life and career, which spans more than 70 years of groundbreaking work in Hollywood and on Broadway.

Moreno was the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award, which she earned for her role as Anita in West Side Story. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and is one of the lauded few to have the quadruple honor of collecting an E.G.O.T.—Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards—which she completed in 1977.

Rita Moreno
Credit: 1961 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.; Courtesy of MGM Media Licensing

The new film explores Moreno's career with archival footage and reenactments, and it also features interviews with the actor as well as those who know her and are influenced by her work, including Gloria Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Mitzi Gaynor, Karen Olivo, Terrence McNally, Norman Lear, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

You can watch an exclusive outtake from the documentary below. It features Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also executive produces the film, talking about seeing West Side Story for the first time. (You can also tune into the documentary trailer on YouTube.)

According to a press release, "The documentary also revisits [Moreno's] notable roles, including The Electric Company (PBS), the Broadway and feature film version of "The Ritz," Oz, and, most recently, One Day at a Time. The documentary demonstrates Moreno's talent and resilience as she broke barriers, paved the way for new generations of artists by refusing to be pigeonholed and fought for Latinx representation in a variety of genres."

The new film will premiere on PBS in October in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and as part of the American Masters series. It's directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, who explains in a press release, "As a filmmaker, woman, and Puerto Rican, I am proud to have the opportunity to tell Rita's story. Her many victories in the face of prejudice are an inspiration to me. Hopefully, this film will give strength to the women all over the world who today face a similar fight towards equality."

Rita Moreno
Credit: Courtesy of THIRTEEN

Moreno's performances are as vital as ever, and she can be seen in the upcoming Steven Spielberg-directed remake of West Side Story, which will be released in December of this year. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It will premiere on PBS on October 5, 2021, at 9 p.m., and it will also be available to stream on PBS platforms. Check local listings to confirm, and find more information, clips, and extras at  

Which history-making creators and performers would you like to see featured next on American Masters? Are you planning to tune into PBS in October to learn more about Rita Moreno's life and work?