Raya and the Last Dragon: Kelly Marie Tran replaces Cassie Steele to become first South East Asian actor to lead Disney animation

Awkwafina also lends her voice in ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’

Isobel Lewis
Friday 28 August 2020 11:08
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Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Exclusive Interview With Oscar Isaac & Kelly Marie Tran

Kelly Marie Tran has made history as the first south-east Asian actor to lead an animated Disney movie.

The Star Wars actor, who played Rose Tico in The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, will replace Cassie Steele as the voice of a warrior princess in Raya and the Last Dragon.

Steele’s casting was initially announced at Disney’s D23 Expo in 2019, along with the casting of Awkwafina as Sisu, a water dragon who can transform into a human being.

However, on Thursday (27 August), Variety reported that Tran was now stepping into the role of Raya, making her the first South East Asian actor to star in an animated film from Disney. No reason has been given for Steele’s departure.

Set in the fictional kingdom of Kumandra, Raya and the Last Dragon tells the story of Raya, the daughter of a chief who must find the last remaining dragon, harking back to a time when dragons and humans lived in harmony.

Tran starred in the recent ‘Star Wars’ trilogy

While Raya’s lineage means that the character is a Disney princess, Tran told Entertainment Weekly that the character was more like her predecessor Moana in her ability to “flip the narrative on what it means to be a princess”.

“Raya is totally a warrior,” the 31-year-old actor said. “When she was a kid, she was excited to get her sword. And she grows up to be a really badass, gritty warrior and can really take care of herself.”

Raya and the Last Dragon was due to debut in cinemas this November, but has now been pushed back to 12 March 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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