ABC's Live-Action Beauty And The Beast Musical Has Cast An A+ Talent As Belle

H.E.R. on Apple Music
(Image credit: Apple Music)

ABC is slowly but surely starting a trend of adapting classic animated Disney films into live-action musical specials. Just a few years ago, the network recreated The Little Mermaid for a live TV special starring notable names like Auliʻi Cravalho and Queen Latifah. Now, the alphabet network is circling a live adaptation of Beauty and the Beast and is casting the production as we speak. And it would seem that the show has found its Belle in the form of an A+ talent.

ABC’s Beauty and the Beast has tapped award-winning singer and songwriter H.E.R. to play the role of Belle, according to TVLine. This move makes the songstress the first Afro-Latina performer to ever portray a Disney princess. The musician, whose actual name is Gabriella Wilson, seems pumped to be stepping into the shoes of one of the House of Mouse’s most beloved characters. In a statement, she expressed her gratitude for the opportunity:

I can’t believe I get to be a part of the Beauty and the Beast legacy. The world will see a Black and Filipino Belle! I have always wanted to be a Disney princess, and I get to work with two wonderful directors Hamish Hamilton and my favorite, Jon M. Chu. It is very surreal and I couldn’t be more grateful.

As the star mentioned, the production is being helmed by Hammish Hamilton, known for his extensive work with music videos. John M. Chu, who’s currently adapting Wicked for the big screen, serves as executive producer. Chu released a statement of his own on H.E.R.’s casting, in which he praised the star and explained just what made her the right fit for the book-smart Disney princess: 

With her obvious extraordinary talent and stage presence, H.E.R. is the perfect embodiment of our Belle and we are thrilled for audiences to see her in this celebration of creativity. We were both influenced as storytellers by the original animated movie, so it’s very exciting to collaborate together to honor the artistry of that timeless classic while also inspiring a whole new generation of creators.

It goes without saying that the 25-year-old singer definitely has the chops to take on the movie’s lovable tunes. To date, she’s won four Grammy Awards, including one for Best R&B Album in 2019. In 2021, she also won the Best Original Song Oscar for Judas and the Black Messiah's “Fight for You.” 

Like The Little Mermaid Live! before it, Beauty and the Beast will feature live-action segments that are blended with scenes from the Oscar-winning 1991 animated film. Said approach should help to create a production that remains dynamic for live audience members and the folks watching at home. It’s also likely that not all of the songs from the film will be included in the production, so one has to wonder which ones will make the cut, aside from the namesake tune.

It makes sense that Disney and ABC would want to continue this trend of bringing beloved classics to the stage. The Little Mermaid Live! dominated in the ratings when it premiered in 2019. One of the things that can probably be attributed to its success, aside from brand recognition, is the star power. Casting Moana’s Auliʻi Cravalho as Ariel was a solid decision, and things were surely bolstered by Queen Latifah’s Ursala casting. Plus, Chef Louis was played by John Stamos, who had a Prince Eric mix-up on air.

We’ll have to wait and see how joins H.E.R. on this latest musical venture, though it’s likely the producers are eyeing some major names to join the star. And it’ll be most exciting to see who plays the Beast to her Beauty.

Beauty and the Beast will premiere on ABC on December 15th. Those who want a taste of what they can expect from the musical can stream The Little Mermaid Live! with a Disney+ subscription.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.