EXCLUSIVE: Disney continues to make strides in diversifying its classic characters and is doing it again as sources tell Deadline that Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi is set to play Tinker Bell in David Lowery’s Peter Pan and Wendy. This would mark the first time a person of color has filled the role that traditionally has featured a white actress and follows in the footsteps after Disney set Halle Bailey to play Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
Shahidi joins Jude Law, who will play Captain Hook, as well as Alexander Molony and Ever Anderson, who will play the title characters. Lowery is on board to direct the project and also co-wrote the script with Toby Halbrooks. Jim Whitaker is producing.
Sources say the release is expected to be theatrical and not go the Disney+ streaming route.
Disney’s 1953 animated classic is still the most successful adaptation of the J.M. Barrie novel about Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t age, and the children he whisks away to the magical world of Neverland. Many other studios have made their own versions on the big and small screens including Steven Spielberg’s Hook starring Robin Williams and Joe Wright’s Pan, both of which disappointed at the box office.
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In novel and films, Tinker Bell is a fairy and Pan’s closest friend and was famously played by Julia Roberts in Spielberg’s retelling. In recent years, Disney has been open to any actor playing a role that originally was limited to Caucasian talent, making waves after setting Bailey to play the mermaid Ariel. With Tinker Bell, the studio and Lowery wanted to do the same from the get-go and quickly pursued Shahidi, whose star has been on the rise for some time.
Shahidi had her breakout role on the ABC sitcom Black-ish as Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross’ daughter Zoey. Her character became so much a fan favorite that she was given the spinoff series Grown-ish, which chronicles Zoey’s college years. Following the success of the show, ABC Studios recently signed her to an overall deal.
On the film side, she recently starred in the YA adaptation of The Sun Is Also a Star opposite Charles Melton.
She is repped by CAA, Principal Entertainment LA and attorney Ryan Nord.
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