rticle repost via Theater Mania: link
Montalbán stars in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderellaalongside Brandy and Whitney Houston, coming to Disney Plus on Friday.
It was the news that united theater fans across the world: Disney Plus would begin streaming the 1997 Wonderful World of Disney production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Friday, February 12. The movie was a cultural touchstone, with an equitable and diverse cast led by Brandy in the title role, Whitney Houston as her Fairy Godmother, Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen, Bernadette Peters as the Evil Stepmother, and a young Broadway vet named Paolo Montalbán as Prince Christopher.
Montalbán was in The King and I with Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips at the time he auditioned for the project, which was so secretive that they didn’t even tell him what it was at first. When it first aired, he would regularly get noticed by his fellow New Yorkers on the street, but he never imagined that the impact Cinderella would continue to have over the next 24 years. For many youngsters, his portrayal of Prince Christopher was the first time that they had ever seen a fellow Filipino person who looks like them onscreen. And now, he’s ready to help inspire a whole new generation.
When did you realize that this production had gone from popular TV movie to something in the cultural zeitgeist?
It happened as the kids who watched it live — the ones who were 7 to 10 at the time — started growing up. They would come up to me and tell me how much the movie had an effect on their lives. The most touching moments for me were when BIPOC…And not just people of color, but when Caucasian people would come up to me and say it changed their lives. How a Caucasian girl said, “My first boyfriend was Asian because of you.” Or hearing some of my colleagues who are huge Broadway and TV stars now tell me that it was because of that production that they felt the license and courage to pursue this career, because it gave them hope that they were represented on TV.
I don’t think I realized, as a kid when I was watching it, just how important and ahead of its time Cinderella is in terms of equity, diversity, and representation.
The way I look at it, it wasn’t ahead of its time for America, because that’s what America looked like then, and at that time, that’s mostly how Americans treated each other. There were always underlying or overt currents of racism or white supremacy, but we also didn’t have a vocabulary for that back then. Television and films and Hollywood have a greater impact on our cultural awareness of what can be accepted than they think. So for Neil Meron and Craig Zadan and Whitney Houston and Debra Martin Chase to take this huge chance, and for ABC and Disney to put their weight of their network behind it, was a huge thing. It was great training wheels for the industry in terms of representation.
Read the full interview here: link