According to reports from Deadline, this is the first time a Black person or person of color has filled the role, which is typically played by a white actress. Still, Disney continues to push for inclusivity in some major roles throughout beloved classics, like tapping Halle Bailey to play Ariel in The Little Mermaid last year. Disney specifically pursued Shahidi for the role.
David Lowery will direct the project in which Shahidi will be joining Jude Law, who will take on the role of Captain Hook, along with Alexander Molony and Ever Anderson who are playing title characters. Sources tell Deadline that the film is expected to debut in theaters rather than a Disney+ streaming release.
Yara Shahidi is known for playing Zoey on ABC’s Black-ish, later getting her own spinoff series, Grown-ish. This news of her role as Tinkerbell comes after the actress signed to ABC Studios for an overall deal.
In an interview with Teen Vogue back in 2016, Shahidi commented on the lack of representation for Black women and girls in popular culture, saying she became “representation for myself” when she modeled for Mattel and Disney from a young age.
“Some of my childhood modeling jobs were with Mattel and Disney, so I’d go into the Disney store and literally see me,” she told the publication. “My family was cleaning up the garage, and I found these life-size cutouts of 6-year-old me as the black Tinkerbell, black Cinderella, you name it, which is hilarious. But being the black version of so many characters brought up problems. I was happy to be Black, but at the same time there were moments of, ‘Why is this a separate collection?’ There was this realization that being black meant I was the ‘off-brand’ version because Cinderella wasn’t made to look like me.”
After the announcement this weekend, Yara thanked her fans for all of the support by reposting an adorable piece of fan art.
“Thank you for all of the love,” she wrote. “It, truly, means so much to me. I’m excited for this next adventure!”