Naomi Scott on playing a whole new Jasmine for Disney's live-action Aladdin
Rarely does someone grow up loving a Disney princess and then get the chance to play their idol in a film, but that’s just what happened for British actress Naomi Scott, who landed the coveted role of Princess Jasmine in Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of Disney’s 1992 classic Aladdin.
Scott, whose mother is of Indian descent and whose father is British, had found herself instantly drawn to the dark-eyed, dark-haired, olive-skinned Jasmine as a child. “Having a Disney princess that looked something like me, I think was really powerful,” says Scott.
It’s a huge moment for the 25-year-old actress, known for 2017’s Power Rangers and the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot. Stepping into the iconic role of Jasmine, she said she was excited to put her own twist on a Disney princess who has been revamped to reflect present-day ideals. Scott’s Jasmine builds on the DNA of the animated version, who has long been celebrated for having a feminist point of view as she fought against being married off to just any prince, per the rules of Agrabah.
For EW’s exclusive first look at 2019’s Aladdin, Scott pulled back the curtain on how her Jasmine will be a little different and, with a new handmaiden by her side and a kingdom she’d like to rule, how Jasmine reflects a modern woman.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I imagine you were one of the people who grew up with Princess Jasmine. What was it like when you found out you got the role, and what responsibility did you feel portraying such an iconic Disney character?
NAOMI SCOTT: Princess Jasmine is genuinely one of my favorite princesses growing up, although I feel like anyone would say that. But genuinely, she was it for me. It was her and Pocahontas; she was definitely top two, for sure. She’s someone who is so beloved, and having an animated character and bringing it to life in the way that it’ll be authentic and natural is the best part of the job for me. Taking that and running with it and having the opportunity to create something with the team around me was the most fun, and just having the chance to show a young woman who is not just one thing, but many things.
I love that in this movie, Jasmine’s main objective at the beginning of the movie is really to protect her people, to do right by them, and she’s a bad-arse, but it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t get upset when she thinks Aladdin screws up. She definitely isn’t a finished article at the beginning of the movie, but she has this beautiful arc and progression, and she goes from asking for what she wants to really just taking it, and displaying that she is a leader, and that’s what I loved the most: Taking something and actually creating something with so much more depth was the most fun and the biggest honor for me, but I’m surrounded by amazing women that I can take inspiration from.
What does the newly created role of Dalia [played by Nasim Pedrad], a handmaiden and best friend for Jasmine in this film, add to Jasmine’s story?
Nasim is now one of my closest friends — she’s incredible, she’s hilarious and so smart, and we had a lot of fun. To me, it would be doing Jasmine a disservice if she didn’t have a relationship that felt like two girls really connecting. If there was a moment in this movie where girls were watching and being like, “Oh my gosh, when I’m in that situation, I’d need my best friend and squeeze her and trying not to laugh” — all of those little moments, it was so important to have that, and Guy was all about it, he loved that, so we worked together to make those moments really feel Dalia’s love for Jasmine, because we all need our girls. Aladdin has the Genie and Jasmine has Dalia, and there’s this older-sister kind of relationship that they have, where Dalia cares so much for Jasmine. She’s very different, she sees the world differently, but she absolutely loves her and adores her, and I feel like that’s the sort of relationship that all of us women have, those girls that we can point to and say, “That’s someone I have that relationship with,” in our lives. So that was really important, and it’s just a bonus that she’s one of the most talented people that I know, and we are so, so blessed and lucky to have her in this movie. So you can’t just have a tiger, as much as you love Rajah.
Tell me about Jasmine’s new solo song in this film.
The song that Jasmine sings connects to everything about her arc, about her finding her voice. That’s what that song is about, it’s about not being shut down but being able to speak out, which I would say resonates. The other song is a lovely lullaby song, which comes more at the beginning of the movie.
What kind of spin will we see on the iconic outfits that she wears?
We are in this gateway into the Eastern world; we want it to be a feast for the eyes, and [costume designer Michael Wilkinson] just ran with it. We have inspirations from so many different places, and really specific things as well, and so of course with me, they absolutely went to town. I think I had about nine costumes in this movie, and each is a different world of itself. The iconic blue, I can’t even remember how many Swarovski crystals are on it, but there’s a lot. They were quite itchy, to be honest, but I felt amazing in every outfit. There was one outfit that I loved because it kind of reminded me of a salwar kameez, which was fun for me.
The results you see are, in my opinion, really beautiful, really elegant, and Princess Jasmine slays, she’s not messing around. At the beginning of the movie, there are a couple of outfits that are quite restrictive, and I think we liked the idea of there being certain outfits that she feels are more freeing, and she feels like she can move, and then there are the outfits that represent her duty as a princess and feeling a little bit trapped sometimes, which I thought was really interesting and cool. And there’s trousers, which is like a dream for me.
What did you feel Guy Ritchie was able to bring so uniquely to this adaptation?
Snatch is one of my favorite movies, and I already love his directing. For me, I love how collaboration makes for something new and exciting, and I feel like putting Aladdin with Guy, you may not have thought of it before, but it’s the perfect combination where when it comes to tone and feel and when it comes to energy in a movie, and that being the through-line, he is just fantastic at that. And he brings a lot of life and energy, camera angles and editing, really putting that stamp on it, just created something new.… I’ll never forget the time that for one of the new songs, Jasmine’s solo song, he loves that song and he just really wanted to perform it almost as Jasmine, and I’ll never forget him milling around in the courtyard and me just thinking, “How did I get here?” Guy was literally singing the song and spinning around and basically just playing Princess Jasmine…. Also his team loves him so much, I think it’s so important to have a good energy on set, because he’s such a bright light and brings that energy. It was truly magical.