A year after graduating from college, most people are working a nine-to-five job or simply trying to recover from four years of ongoing stress. Yara Shahidi, on the other hand, went from the role of Harvard student to that of Tinker Bell in the upcoming film Peter Pan & Wendy. “It was really fun because it was just so different from anything I’ve ever filmed before,” Shahidi tells Allure. (She was a multi-tasking co-ed, also starring in the TV series Black-ish and Grown-ish.) To harness the power of visual effects, the actor filmed most of her scenes as Tinker Bell in a studio by herself listening to audio recordings from the other actors.
This isn’t the only way the film breaks new ground. It also marks the first time Tinker Bell is being played by a woman of color. “When the offer came through and we started filming, I understood that it was a big deal,” says Shahidi. “Especially as somebody who grew up on fairy tales, where they didn’t really include many people who looked like me.”
In fact, Shahidi was once a print model for Disney, dressing up as different characters for store campaigns. “I would dress up as Cinderella, Kim Possible, and Princess Jasmine for them to put in their stores, but I was always the Black version of a character,” Shahidi tells Allure. “So it feels very full circle to now be playing Tinker Bell, and to not be necessarily the Black version of, but just Tinker Bell.”
Ahead of the film’s premiere, Allure spoke with Shahidi about the cultural importance of her role and the beauty and wellness practices that got her through filming.
Allure: What was the most difficult part of playing Tinker Bell?
Yara Shahidi: It required a whole other level of creativity, belief, and fantasy because I had to come to set knowing that I was shooting in just this empty stage, and immerse myself in Neverland.
As an actor, it was quite honestly pretty enjoyable to try and figure out how I was going to accomplish that. The director, David Lowry, and I went back and forth about performance ideas and inspiration. We pulled from a lot of silent movies, just because you do have to be so expressive and emotive when you say certain words since you’re speaking in a fairy language.