Aladdin Star Mena Massoud Talks Representation, Working With Will Smith, And “A Whole New World”

Credit: Disney

Aladdin will hit theatres in 2019. This live-action remake of the 1992 animated film promises to be interesting to say the least. While the Internet is losing its mind over Will Smith not being blue, we’re definitely curious to see what will come from the film, especially in its relatively unknown lead.

Mena Massoud talked with Entertainment Weekly about the upcoming film. It’s definitely a make or break moment for the actor, who has also appeared in Amazon TV’s Jack Ryan.

As there aren’t a lot of roles offered to actors of Middle Eastern descent in Hollywood, Massoud, who is Egyptian-Canadian, talked about the importance of it.

“I think Middle Eastern, Asian, Latinx and everyone else that doesn’t really get representation still, that’s something we have to work on as an industry and a community and I’m just really proud of this film for what we were able to achieve. I’m Egyptian-Canadian, Naomi’s English-Indian, Marwan (Kenzari, who plays Jafar) is Tunisian-Dutch, Navid (Negahban, the Sultan) and Nasim are Iranian-American – we’ve covered the whole Middle East with this film, we’ve covered almost every continent of representation with this film, which is rare these days. And the people I just mentioned are playing lead characters, they’re not one-line characters, so from that perspective, I’m really proud to be in a film that represents so many different, ethnically visible cultures and I think it’s great what this film does in that perspective, I think even more so than other films that have come out.”

There are two relationships in particular that the film hinges on: the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and the friendship between Aladdin and Genie.

On working with Will Smith, Massoud had nothing but good things to say about him.

“What he does so brilliantly is that he starts out treating Aladdin like he would the 10,000 masters that he’s treated before, and actually it’s a little worse because he’s like ‘who the hell is this kid that’s in this position now?’ — he’s never really had someone as young. But throughout the movie, you see the evolution of their relationship much like you do with Aladdin and Jasmine, and Aladdin and Abu, and Aladdin and Jafar, you get to see all these relationships, which is what I think makes it really special.”

It definitely sounds like an interesting place for Smith to take Genie. Massoud also liked that they were able to bring a growing friendship off-screen, on-screen.

“That’s kind of the evolution they go through as well, the evolution we went through as human beings was the journey that the characters go on. They start out not knowing each other and then they get to know each other and start loving each other and care for each other, so it was very organic.”

We have to admit that does sound rather nice. Of course, one of the iconic moments from the animated film is the musical number “A Whole New World”, which we will see recreated in the film. It’s clear that Massoud and Scott made sure that the moment was given its due reverence.

“It was magical. We weren’t in it to imitate anything from the past, but I think we stayed true to the original and this time around, again, the biggest thing is you’re seeing actors do this now instead of animated characters. It was amazing. We spent a lot of weeks working on it and we knew the importance of that sequence.”

Aladdin opens in theatres on May 24th, 2019.

Bec Heim

Senior Editor at 4YE
Rebecca "Bec" Heim is the Senior Editor for 4YE. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Scranton. She also has an MA in Film-Radio-Television from Syracuse University and an MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University. She enjoys reading through her ever growing mountain of books, talking way too much about superheroes, and trying to reach transcendental state.
Bec Heim