Disney as a company had always had a far more menacing reputation than the family entertainment it’s renowned for producing, and now that’s been further cemented, as Aladdin star Mena Massoud has stated that the House of Mouse had to approve his role in crime drama Reprisal.
The plot of the Hulu series sees a woman embark on a violent mission of vengeance after being left for dead by her brother and his gang, with Massoud playing an ally who infiltrates the criminals to gather information for her. After the actor got the part, showrunner Joe Corbin was informed he would have to run the choice by Disney in case they objected to the star of their latest live-action cash cow appearing in a brutal neo-noir thriller. Corbin hadn’t even been aware that a remake of Aladdin was in production, let alone that he’d just cast the man playing its eponymous protagonist, instead simply deciding Massoud was the best one for the role.
The litany of teens Disney employs in its children’s shows are subject to a 24/7 regime of rules and regulations that govern every aspect of their lives and the image they are to project, with several former stars such as Bella Thorne, Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas having been vocally critical of what was expected of them from a young age. It seems that even if Massoud was not specifically subject to such obligations, by appearing in a major production for Disney he became implicitly associated with the image the company cultivates, and it’s more than a little sinister that it wields enough influence to have potentially blocked his casting.
Massoud has also been candid about how little Aladdin’s success benefitted him personally, stating that in the time since its release he’s not had a single audition, which it’s not uncharitable to suggest is largely down to his skin tone, with such actors often being relegated to roles of terrorists regardless of their talent. As such, that Massoud won the part in Reprisal on merit with competition from numerous white men and independent of the fame that Aladdin would afford him is an encouraging change of pace.
Source: The Daily Beast