Ahead of ABC Studios’ first ever Cinderella: The Reunion Special, fans of the groundbreaking film are getting a first look at the intentionality that went behind casting the phenomenal talent in the 1997 film.
In an exclusive clip provided to The Root, executive producer Debra Martin Chase and several members of the original cast, including Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Paolo Montalban, Victor Garber, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander and Veanne Cox, reflect on the deliberate choice of choosing actors who were reflective of the world we live in and how special it was to be doing so at the time.
“I thought I was ugly, I turned out to be the first Black princess. That’s pretty mind-blowing,” Brandy recalls. (Um. Time out, woe to whoever convinced THEE BRANDY NORWOOD that she wasn’t beautiful. I would say I’m shocked at this admission, but as a fellow brown skin girl who grew up thinking the same thing for a time, I can definitely empathize.)
“The casting of this was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. We made the decision we were going to do, not color-blind casting, but diverse casting,” Executive producer Debra Martin-Chase explained.
“So the idea of Cinderella being a young, Black girl, at the time, was an extraordinary idea,” said Alexander. “But then suddenly you have a Black woman as the Queen, a white man as the King, an Asian man as the prince. And at first glance, you go: ‘What?’” (My initial sentiments EXACTLY Jason, but everything was so good, I honestly put it out of my head after the first five minutes.)
“You know periodically, you’re sitting and watching things happen and you whisper to the person next to you: ‘Can you believe this?’” Goldberg added.
As incredulous as it may have felt back then, I’m glad everyone involved continued to push forward with making the magic that we now see today. I’m also glad that there was a conscious decision to select a diverse cast BECAUSE they represented different communities as opposed to a color-blind one, which ofttimes is done in complete disregard to the actor’s or character’s race, ethnicity, sex, and/or gender. Especially when it’s done right, like it was in the case of this iteration of Cinderella, it gives other people a chance to see themselves and believe in their own magic.
Cinderella: The Reunion premieres Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 8p.m.ET followed by the broadcast presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at 9p.m.