Deadline reports that this is the first time a Black person or person of color has filled the role, which is typically played by a white actress. However, Disney continues to further push for inclusivity, particularly after tapping Halle Bailey to play Ariel in The Little Mermaid last year.
Helmed by David Lowery, Shahidi will be joining Jude Law, who will take on the role of Captain Hook, Alexander Molony and Ever Anderson who are playing title characters. Sources tell the outlet that the film is expected to debut in theaters rather than a Disney+ streaming release.
Disney’s 1953 animated Peter Pan film is still the most successful iteration of J.M. Barrie’s novel about the character, the fairy who doesn't age and invites children to Pan's magical Neverland world. Tinkerbell is also Pan’s best friend. Disney specifically pursued Shahidi for the role.
Shahidi is known for playing the character Zoey from ABC’s Black-ish, which later got its own spinoff series, Grown-ish. She’s also signed to ABC Studios for an overall deal. As for films, she recently starred in the adaptation of The Sun is Also a Star with Charles Melton.
Shahidi taking on the Tinkerbell character is a major moment in representation for Black women. In a Teen Vogue interview from 2016, the actress commented on Black women's and girls' lack of representation in popular culture and how she became “representation for myself” since 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.”