Once upon a time, cartoon land seemed like a bleak place for Black girl representation. Between stereotypes, an ingrained sense of racism, and a lack of fully-formed characters, it’s no wonder someone like Diamond White didn’t see herself represented in animation until Disney Channel’s “The Proud Family” came along in 2001.
“It started off with [that],” the actress tells BET.com of the first Black cartoon series that spoke to her as a kid. “There wasn’t an actress or anyone that I felt really represented my skin tone or my hair texture.” That is until Disney and Marvel’s animated series “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” arrived. The show, created by Hollywood legend Laurence Fishburne based on the Marvel comics, follows the adventures of White’s voiced character Lunella, aka Moon Girl — a 13-year-old supergenius and superhero who, alongside the 10-ton Tyrannosaurus rex she accidentally summons through a time vortex, fights to protect her New York City neighborhood from all villain danger.
Immediately, White says she felt seen by her character: “With Lunella, I definitely feel like we're seeing representation for the dark-skinned, coily hair girls.” The authentic depiction is what the rising Hollywood starlet says compelled her to board the animated series: that and “knowing that [Moon Girl] is the first Black 13-year-old Marvel/Disney superhero.” “It was something that I never saw coming, honestly,” she adds following the show’s debut in early 2023. “To see the show be accepted by so many audiences and for us to be on our fifth [Children's & Family] Emmy win straight off the first season, it's like, okay, we’re doing something here.”
Originating from Detroit, MI, White embarked on her Hollywood journey in 2012, making a mark by clinching the fifth spot on "The X Factor" upon her move to Los Angeles. Even before that, her foray into voice acting at age 8 paved the way for a role in 2011's "Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension." Nurturing a childhood love for cartoons, she expanded into voice roles in series such as "Phineas and Ferb," "Transformers: Rescue Bots," and "Curious George." Beyond animation, White graced numerous series and movies, such as "Dear White People," "Empire," "The Bold and the Beautiful," and Tyler Perry’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween” franchise. Her extensive résumé culminated in a leading animated Marvel role, an achievement she acknowledges as a gateway to new opportunities.
“Just to see how far I've come, it's been amazing,” she shares. “Like now, I'm at the point where I'm starting to get offers without even having to audition. And that alone, I'm like, Lord, thank you, Jesus. Because I didn't know that I was ever going to get to that point, but now that I'm here, it's like, it's cool. I like it.”
With “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” White has helped make history for the Marvel animated universe. The responsibility that comes with that is not a task she takes lightly, especially with a character that resonates deeply with her. For the first time, White found common ground with a role that reflected her physical features and her emotional well-being. She explains, “When we're talking about the mental health aspect of it, [Moon Girl] is a 13-year-old girl, so she's impulsive, and she makes choices based on raw emotion. I feel like that's something I still do now, and I'm 20-something [years old], so that definitely represents me, and I can connect most with that part of her.”
Unlike past roles, “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” also offered White the chance to add her input when molding Lunella/Moon Girl. It started with a list she brought to production, which detailed the things she grew up with and experienced as a young Black girl. She felt certain instances could add more depth to such a first-of-her-kind character and wanted to ensure authenticity through and through. As a result, viewers got the season one episode, “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow,” featuring Jennifer Hudson, where Lunella gets her first perm. “That's still one of my favorite episodes,” White says.
White hopes her list leads to other genuine inclusions in “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” too, but she’s also looking forward to seeing much more in season two. “I'm excited for Luella to see different kinds of villains, I'm excited that her relationship with the Beyonder is developing in different ways, and I'm excited to see how her relationship with her family unfolds,” she reveals. Viewers can also expect “a bunch of different guest voices” to join the “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” cast, which includes Fishburne (The Beyonder), Fred Tatasciore (Devil Dinosaur), Alfre Woodard (Mimi), Gary Anthony Williams (Pops), Sasheer Zamata (Adria), Jermaine Fowler (James Jr.), and Libe Barer (Casey).
As the show continues to be a trailblazer in the animated sphere, White looks forward to providing more representation for little Black girls looking up to her. And by doing so, she hopes it leads to more seasons of her Marvel series. “We just gotta keep doing what we're doing,” she says. “We've done such a good job at showing not only representation for the Black community, but for almost every community. Everybody on the team, the producers, the directors, the executive producers, Laurence Fishburne, they're passionate about this show and passionate about the comic books. We're not just doing this just to do it; we actually care. So as long as we stick with that, I think we'll be good.”
The first two episodes of “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” season two premiere on Disney Channel and Disney XD on February 2 at 8 p.m. ET. Season one is now streaming on Disney+.
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