Story at a glance
- “This is Us” actor Niles Fitch will play the role of Prince Tuma in an upcoming live-action Disney+ film, debuting sometime this summer.
- Disney has been criticized in the past for their lack of diversity in live-action casting.
- The upcoming film, which centers on the training of second-born royals, will also feature young actress Peyton Elizabeth Lee as a new kind of princess.
Disney has officially cast its first black, live-action prince in the upcoming Disney+ movie “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals.” A science fiction film about second-born royals who are gifted with special powers that help them protect the world, “Secret Society” centers on a plot about how the young royals have to learn how to harness their powers and use them for good.
While Disney has made significant strides in the past 20 years when it comes to diverse representation in animated features such as “Princess and the Frog” and “Moana,” they’ve come under fire for a lack of racial diversity in live action casting.
Late last year, actor Christian Navarro called out the company for casting a Caucasian Prince Eric in the upcoming live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” and in 2017, Zendaya revealed that she went back to Disney Channel because she saw a lack of diversity and wanted to ensure representation for viewers of all races.
“The only reason I wanted to come back to the Disney Channel is because there was a lack of diversity at that time,” she told The New York Times. “There weren’t any leads or families of color, and I felt like that was something that needed to happen.”
Fans were disappointed to see that the role of Ursula was given to actress Melissa McCarthy instead of body positive singer/songwriter Lizzo, who had been publicly self-advocating to play the villainous sea witch in the upcoming live-action flick.
Disney has made a visible effort to update their gender-based roles, straying away from former portrayals of princesses as being meek or helpless. Recent Disney films like the animated film “Frozen” centers more on a bond of sisterhood than its two female leads finding love, and the upcoming “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” will introduce a character named Sam, a rebellious teen living in the kingdom of Illyria. The princess, played by Peyton Elizabeth Lee, lives in the shadow of her older sister Princess Eleanor until she is drafted into a top secret group of other gifted young recruits who are charged with keeping the world safe.
"Sam is going to be a unique addition to the Disney princess family because she doesn’t want to be a princess, she doesn’t want to be royalty," Lee tells Entertainment Weekly. "Because of that, it takes her on this journey of figuring out how to make it work for herself that’s going to break that delicate princess mold. When she finds this secret society that feels the same way, they figure out how to create their own legacy and have an impact on their country and the world."