Tony award winning stage actress and Disney star Lea Salonga talks about Broadway diversity and the idea of a possible appearance in Disney's live action Aladdin.
In an interview with Broadway.com the actress-singer talked about her unique experience of being the only colored person in some ensembles and now being the only Asian in her new role in the revival of the musical Once in this Island. “I have been the only colored person in a basically all white company when I first joined Les Miserables the first time as Eponine. Now, I’m the only full Asian in the company. I’m the full-on, can’t-get-more-Asian-than-me in this company," she says. "My number one concern was this: what will the African American community think about this Asian girl? Is there going to be cultural appropriation? How is this Asian woman getting on this island? Those were my three concerns."
But thankfully for her, an idea was already formed about her character, the goddess of love and patron of beauty, homosexuality, and health, Erzulie, who first appears as an aid worker in white before manifesting her true divine identity. "I went in and saw the costume sketches, and I pointed-one she is all in white, and I looked at it and went 'oh you found a way to get me on this island,' " she laughs referring to how her character is now a Filipino nurse. (The Philippines is known for supplying the world with migrant nurses). This is a characterization that she got excited for, because while she has been cast in plenty of Asian roles in Broadway, she never did get to play her own nationality on stage. However she did get to play a Filipino on American TV in guest stints on ER and most recently My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
“That’s what makes this special for me. I am representing so many Filipino medical practitioners who find themselves flung to the four winds,” she says.
Lea Salonga originally rose to fame with her performance in 1991's staging of Miss Saigon for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical. And while it did prove controversial, the musical did open more roles for Asian actors on Broadway.
It also led Salonga to work for Disney; she would go on to be the original singing voice for Jasmine and Fa Mulan whose animated features Aladdin and Mulan are now being turned into live-action films.
ET in an interview asked her if there is a possibility of a cameo to which she replied, “What I have been able to do and continue to do as part of the film cast has been a magical thing, and I don’t think I need to be part of the new one.”
Too bad, her version of "A Whole New World" and "Reflections" were a big part of the 90's Disney Renaissance. But still, maybe Disney might decide to include her and can convince her to make an appearance?