Spoiler ahead for Onward.
Disney and Pixar have had a strong collaboration for years, putting out countless animated blockbusters that both delight and usually make us cry by its runtime. The latest release looks like it'll be no exception, as Onward will focus on a pair of brother going on an adventure to reunite with their dead father. Sounds like a tear jerker, right? Onward is also notable for having an LGBT character, and the director recently explained why he wished the character had even more screen time.
Onward was directed by Dan Scanlon, who previously directed Monsters University and also did concept art for other classics. The movie follows Tom Holland and Chris Pratt's brothers Ian and Barley as they adventure into their mystical world in an attempt to bring their father back from the dead (well, the rest of him.) They eventually meet a trio of police officers, one of which is Lena Waithe's Specter. Specter is an LGBT character, and Scanlon explained that Waithe's performance made him wish the character had a bigger presence in the movie. As he put it,
After we recorded her, we wished we had expanded [the role]. Lena Waithe is not only a great actress but a great writer and she improvises and was just such a joy to work with.
That's a lesson to be learned: when you cast Lena Waithe, give her as much material as possible. Because as a writer and actress, she's got the talent needed to elevate her roles. Even if its just her voice, like in Onward.
Dan Scanlon's comments to Yahoo! should make a great deal of sense for those following Lena Waithe's rise to success over the past few years. She rose to fame from her work as a writer/actress in Aziz Anzari's Netflix series Master of None. The episode "Thanksgiving" earned Waithe an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, and helped to elevate her status more.
Since then, Lena Waithe has gone on to work on TV series Dear White People and The Chi, and will have a role in the third season of Westworld. She also created her own TV series Twenties, which is coming to BET.
Onward director Dan Scalon was clearly impressed with Lena Waithe, as well as the other members of the cast. He went on to praise Waithe's ability to make something special out of a smaller character. In his words,
I think it's a wonderful embarrassment of riches that we have a cast of people who, even in doing small parts, bring them to life and elevate them and keep you wanting more.
Lena Waithe's character might not have a ton of screen time on Onward, but Specter is notable for being an openly LGBT character in the animated blockbuster. She briefly mentions her girlfriend in the movie, which is a small but significant step toward inclusion and representation.