British actress Talisa Garcia (Baptiste) has been cast in anticipated Disney+ series Willow, marking the first known occasion an openly trans actor has been cast in a production from Disney-owned Lucasfilm, home to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. In the TV spinoff of the 1980s fantasy classic, which is now in post-production, a princess assembles a party to join her on a quest to rescue her twin brother. We understand Garcia will play a Queen and the mother to Tony Revolori’s character who takes part in the quest. Garcia’s role is a small speaking part and the actress may ultimately only appear in one episode. The casting also marks the first known time a trans actor has portrayed a cis character in a Disney+ film or series. During the shoot, we hear there was pride and support among many of Garcia’s colleagues about her casting.
Garcia was cast in the project long before the storm developed surrounding Disney’s response to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and new wave of concerns emerged about on-screen representation in Disney productions. The studio has been under fire in recent weeks for its response to the controversial Florida legislation which bans teachers from giving lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity to children under the age of nine. The studio’s initial silence on the bill led to anger and frustration among many staff who took it as a slight to the LGBTQ+ community and saw it as an example of the House Of Mouse not doing enough to support diversity, something critics also believe the studio could do more of on screen. Marvel Studios exec Victoria Alonso was among those to voice criticism at the recent GLAAD Media awards. Last year, Raya And The Last Dragon actress Patti Harrison became the first known trans actor to voice a character in a Disney animated movie. In 2019, Spider–Man’s Zach Barack became Marvel Studios’ first transgender actor. More recently, non-binary trans actor iris menas portrayed Anybodys in 20th Century Studios’ West Side Story reboot. Meanwhile, there have been reports online in recent days that Disney+ series Ironheart is looking to recruit a trans actress. In 2021, Chloe Zhao’s film Eternals featured the first ever gay superhero in a MCU movie – with Brian Tyree Henry taking on the role of Eternal and inventor Phastos. Lauren Ridloff also starred in the feature film – making history as the first deaf actor ever to play a superhero in a studio feature film.