There has been a lot of talk about the upcoming Disney remake of Aladdin over the few weeks. On August 4th it was announced that Marwan Kenzari—who recently featured in The Mummy—was cast as Jafar, the main antagonist of the film. Well, now there is a further update on the castings, as Iranian-American actress Nasim Pedrad, a former cast member on Saturday Night Live, will now be joining the cast as well. Pedrad will be playing a brand-new character called Mara who is the “handmaiden and friend to Jasmine.”
Pedrad was born on November 18th, 1981 in Tehran, Iran and lived there with her family until 1984, when they decided to immigrate to the United States and start a new life for themselves. Her parents ended up moving the family to Irvine, California, gave birth to another daughter, and later enrolled the sisters in their local schools.
While her sister Nina was attending University High School, Nasim decided to continue with her own education by attending UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, graduating in 2003. Pedrad was very active in UCLA’s extracurricular programs, taking part in the UCLA Spring Sing Company and performing in improv comedy sketch acts; the Spring Sing itself is an annual music competition which includes acts ranging from acapella all the way to stand-up comedy.
After graduating from UCLA in 2003, she went on to perform a one-woman show entitled Me, Myself & Iran at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and the Los Angeles division of iO (formerly known as the ImprovOlympic). This one-woman show would be where Pedrad would begin to get recognition for her comedic work, with “Me, Myself & Iran” getting chosen to be a part of the 2007 HBO Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.
With all the awards and recognition for improv comedy under her belt, Pedrad soon made moves into the world of television. She made her small-screen debut on the teen drama Gilmore Girls and then earned herself another cameo on the sitcom The Winner.
Pedrad wouldn’t get a recurring role until 2007, when she joined the cast of medical drama ER as character Nurse Suri. Then, in 2009, Pedrad became a cast member on the 35th season of Saturday Night Live, where she would make history on the show as the first Middle-Eastern woman to become a main cast member. Pedrad later left SNL in 2014 to focus on other television projects, such as Mulaney and Scream Queens.
Before Pedrad and Kenzari were announced to be in the cast of Disney’s upcoming Aladdin, the Jasmine and Genie characters had already been filled. The titular character of Aladdin will be played by a relative newcomer to Hollywood: Mena Massou. Princess Jasmine, who is the main character’s love interest in the film, will be played by the British actress Naomi Scott who recently starred in Power Rangers. However, the biggest star in all of the cast has to be A-list actor Will Smith, who will be playing the role of the wish-granting Genie.
The movie itself will be a live-action retelling of the original 1992 Disney animated film. For fans of the original, it was announced at the 2017 D23 Expo that Alan Menken—songwriter from the original Aladdin—would be co-writing songs for the new film. He will be working along with the American song writing duo Pasek and Paul who previously wrote songs for La La Land and composed the award-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, among other works. It was also announced at D23 that Vanessa Taylor, who previously wrote three episodes of Game of Thrones,would be rewriting the script and giving it a complete overhaul.
As the film is in its early stages of pre-production, there is currently no release date for the live action adaptation of the 1992 original. However, as the cast is shaping up quite nicely, fans are hoping for a release as early as 2018 or 2019.