Disney may have had problems finding its cast for the live-action remake of Aladdin (1992), but it appears as though they’ve found their solution. According to Variety, the studio announced their three lead actors at the D23 Expo on Saturday, July 14th: Mena Massoud will play the title role, Will Smith will be taking on the Genie, and actress Naomi Scott will play the role of Princess Jasmine.
While Smith has been one of the biggest movie stars of the past twenty years, Massoud and Scott are relative newcomers to the Disney limelight. To learn more about the latter, a multi-talented performer hailing from England, here are five fast facts you need to know about Naomi Scott.
1. She Began Singing As a Teenager & Has Released 2 EP’s
Scott began her singing career at a young age, performing with the Bridge Church Youth Band, as well as musicals and dramas at the Davenant Foundation School in England. Her first taste of the limelight came soon after, when she was discovered by pop singer Kelle Bryan of the band Eternal. Bryan signed Scott to a record deal, where she worked with the songwriting and production team Xenomania. She later released her debut single “Motions” in 2014, followed by the EP Invisible Division.
“I’m independent, so I basically do everything myself,” Scott said in an interview with Metro, “I get to be in completely creative control. Music is my first love; it’s something I want to give the time to grow organically. I want to do it right and do it properly.” She released her second EP, Promises, in 2016.
In an interview with HypeBae in 2017, Scott elaborated on the importance of music in her life: “There has always been a connection between my faith, and realizing that music can have a soul and purpose, which has ultimately affected the way I approach the art. Listening to soulful vocalists like Mary Mary and Kim Burrell; playing the piano, and leading worship has directly shaping (sic) my artistry.”
2. She Made Her Acting Debut in the Disney Channel Series ‘Life Bites’
Scott broke into acting in 2011 when she was cast as the lead role in the Disney Channel UK series Life Bites. The series followed the adventures of Chloe and Harvey, two siblings who encounter the usual mix of comedy hijinx and lesson-learning alongside their family. Life Bites ran for two seasons in total, including a Halloween special and a Christmas special.
The exposure earned Scott a supporting role on the science-fictions series Terra Nova, which premiered on Fox in 2014 and was executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Unlike Life Bites, however, Terra Nova was cancelled after its first season.
Scott has continued to act on television in recent years, appearing on an episode of By Any Means (2013) and the BBC mystery series Lewis (2008-15), while also translating her talents to film. She made her big screen debut in the drama The 33 (2015) opposite Antonio Banderas and Rodrigo Santoro. She also filmed scenes for the science fiction thriller The Martian in 2015, but they were removed from the final cut.
Scott has cited Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Rachel Weisz as her primary acting influences.
3. She Married English Footballer Jordan Spence in 2014
Scott and footballer Jordan Spence got married in 2014 after four years of dating. Spence, a former West Ham United player and England youth international, currently plays for Ipswich Town. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Scott spoke about her playful relationship with her husband.
He plays for a football team called Ipswich Town, and I feel I was kind of representing him the other day because we had to throw the first pitch, but it was like the three Power Rangers who weren’t American: it was the Aussie, the Chinese and the English. I walked out and some guy who was trying to be sweet was saying ‘you’ll be fine, it’s really cute’. I said ‘what’s cute?’ And he said ‘you know, when girls throw, they throw underarm’, and I was like ‘listen up, I’m going to throw it overarm, and get it to the (catcher).
This past May, the couple celebrated each other’s birthdays on social media. Spence tweeted out a photo of him and Scott on May 6th with the caption : “@NaomiScott, love you more than you know, so blessed to be able to do life with you. Happy Birthday beautiful!” The actress returned the sentiment on May 24th, posting a photo on Facebook and writing “Happy Birthday Jordan Spence my BFF. You’re also really hot, really clever and smell nice….basically all the things I look for in a husband.” Check out the original post below.
4. She Played Kimberly/Pink Ranger in the ‘Power Rangers’ Reboot
Scott’s biggest role to date was when she was cast as Kimberly Hart/Pink Ranger in the 2017 reboot of the Power Rangers. In an interview with Teen Vogue, the actress spoke on what drew her to the role of Kimberly, and how she stood out from other superheroes: “It’s an origin story, and it’s character driven. And it has to be about these characters, because everyone has to care about these characters,” she said. “That was something that I really wanted to be a part of. Kimberly is not just a stereotypical cheerleader; she’s really smart, and she’s mature and imperfect and I like that.”
Scott also spoke on the importance that the role had on young girls. “When I was growing, probably part of the reasion I was played Power Rangers was the fact there was a girl in it. Hopefully for girls now, it won’t have to be a conversation. It’s just like, ‘Yeah, cool. I can be a superhero.’ It’s about all of us, and it’s not gender, so hopefully that’s what [sic] the message the movie portrays.”
5. Her Ethnicity Has Sparked Debate About Her Casting As Jasmine
Scott’s casting as Princess Jasmine has provoked divisive reactions from fans online. There are those who think she is a perfect choice to bring the character to life and put a modern spin on her, as evidenced by her Power Rangers co-star RJ Cyler, who tweeted out “Congratulations Big Sis!!”
But a sore point for many is the fact that Scott is British and Indian, and not Middle Eastern like the character. “i love naomi scott but i don’t love the “brown ppl are interchangeable” idea that hollywood believes in so it’s a no from me lmao,” wrote one user, while another tweeted “All these Arab actresses on the planet and they cast half-white, half-Indian Naomi Scott as Jasmine. Indian isn’t middle-eastern, Hollywood.” Check out some of the most notable reactions below.