- In “Strange World,” Jaboukie Young-White plays the first gay lead in an animated Disney movie.
- His character Ethan Clade has a crush that is explored on screen.
- Young-White says the character’s identity and storyline are a “normal reflection of our reality.”
At first, Jaboukie Young-White did not consider how his role as an openly gay animated character in Disney’s “Strange World” could have a social impact.
“I don’t think it really hits you until it’s out in the world and you see how much it means to people,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the movie’s premiere.
Young-White, 28, voices Ethan Clade, a biracial, gay teenager who gets flustered in the presence of his crush Diazo. The character has made history as the first openly gay lead in a Disney animated film. Jake Gyllenhaal, Lucy Liu, Dennis Quaid, and Gabrielle Union also star in the action-packed project about a legendary family of explorers.
Unlike other films featuring young, queer protagonists, “Strange World” does not feature a high-stakes coming-out scene. “It never got broken down like that. It was more organic,” director Don Hall said about the character in an interview with Variety.
Young-White, who is also openly gay, expressed his appreciation for Hall’s creative choice on the red carpet.
“It’s not self-congratulatory, it’s not announcing itself, it’s just accepting it as a normal reflection of our reality,” he said about “Strange World.”
As a stand-up comedian and Twitter sensation-turned-Hollywood star, Young-White has been on a career hot streak in recent years. In late 2017, he made his late-night stand-up debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” during which he came out to his parents, and the world, as queer. He clarified that he identifies as gay in a 2018 appearance.
That same year, his biting, incisive internet humor landed him a gig as the Senior Youth Correspondent on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” at 24. He went on to write for the critically-acclaimed Netflix animated series “Big Mouth.”
—jaboukie (@jaboukie) December 17, 2017
Young-White most recently starred in the Issa Rae HBO comedy “Rap Sh!t,” the Hulu mystery “Only Murders In The Building,” the independent romantic comedy “Dating & New York,” and the drama feature “C’mon C’mon.”
According to the Trevor Project, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning children are at a significantly increased risk for suicide. The reporter on the red carpet commented that the representation of Young-White’s character could potentially save lives.
“That’s beautiful to think about,” Young-White replied. “It’s bigger than I am.”
“Strange World” hits theaters on November 23.