Yara Shahidi explains why deciding to play Tinker Bell “was just a no-brainer”

Yara Shahidi has portrayed quite a few characters throughout her acting career, but when Peter Pan & Wendy hits Disney+, fans will see her as Tinker Bell, a role she said “was just a no-brainer” to accept.

“It’s such an iconic part. The character has a long lineage of really incredible actresses playing her,” she tells People, specifically noting Julia Roberts‘ portrayal in the 1991 hit Hook. “I think she is one of the first Tinker Bells that kind of strays from what we imagine as the animated version. It was fun to look back and watch the OG movie and her performance.”

Disney’s goal “to depict a more diverse imaginary world” also played into her decision to play the iconic fairy. In the film, Peter Pan is played by Alexander Molony, who People describes as “mixed-race,” and the Lost Boys have some Lost Girls in the crew.

“I think what really spoke to me is the fact that the entire Disney team was committed to doing more than just swapping out ethnicities,” she says. “It’s about telling a story that feels reflective of the times that we’re in. I think every change was extremely intentional.”

The role turned out to be a great and fun experience for Yara. 

“I think as Black and Brown actors, our work worlds can be so serious,” she tells People. “There’s a pressure to always make a statement. While I can argue that there’s something really powerful about having a Black Tinker Bell, I think this job reminded me how much I enjoy the creativity of what I do, the playfulness and that feeling of growing up.”

Peter Pan & Wendy, which also stars Ever Anderson and Jude Law, releases on April 28.

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