Controversial Aladdin spin-off announced days after Mena Massoud’s casting debacle

Last week, Aladdin star Mena Massoud revealed in an interview with The Daily Beast that, despite his breakout lead role in the Disney live-action remake, he hasn’t booked a single audition since.

“I’m sitting here being like, OK, Aladdin just hit $1 billion. Can I at least get an audition? Like I’m not expecting you to be like, here’s Batman. But can I just get in the room? Like, can you just give me a chance?”

The comment quickly sparked fierce debate about ongoing veiled racism within Hollywood casting – how could the lead actor of such a successful film not immediately be offered more work? Or, at the very least, the chance to audition for other roles? Despite acting opposite Will Smith, Massoud confessed that he “hasn’t really seen anything big” from his experience in the Disney film – not the magic carpet ride an up and coming actor would expect to receive.

Disney’s decision to announce a feature length spin-off starring the film’s only white character? Not a good look.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story this weekend, confirming that screenwriters and producers are developing a movie around Billy Magnussen’s Prince Anders character, an oafish suitor of Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine. The character did not appear in the original 1992 animated film, being created expressly as comic relief for the recent remake. But THR believes that Magnussen was enough of a “scene stealer” to warrant an entire spin-off.

The announcement raised a mighty ‘WHO??’ across the lands, with Magnussen’s character only appearing for roughly three minutes of screentime. While Prince Anders was a fun momentary diversion from the film’s main narrative, Magnussen’s role is nothing compared to Massoud’s all-singing, all-dancing, vest-wearing work as the live action version of an animated character who is beloved by a generation of millenials.

Disney has kind of put their foot in it this time, with the awkward timing of the Prince Anders film only serving to support Massoud’s subtle acknowledgement of the biases at work in casting and development. Here’s hoping that this telling incident only leads to more opportunities for Massoud in the future.