Disney Channel and Marsai Martin’s ‘Saturdays’ Could Bring Disabled Girls of Color to Forefront

In the world of disability representation, girls of color are rare to see, but the Disney Channel could be giving them greater visibility. In a piece originally dropped via Deadline, Disney is working on a pilot for the children’s series, “Saturdays,” a single-camera series about a girl and her interest in competitive roller-skating.

The series is being produced by Marsai Martin, of “Black-ish” fame, and her Genius Entertainment company, as well as writer and executive producer Norman Vance, Jr. with Charles Stone III, helmer of “Drumline” directing. Actress Danielle Jalade, who you can see on Netflix’s new family feature “Yes Day,” will play Paris Johnson, who loves to roller-skate but is battling sickle cell anemia.

“Saturdays” will also star Omar Gooding and Golden Brooks as Paris’ parents, with Jermaine Harris as her older brother, London. Daria Johns and Samantha Smith have been tapped to play Paris’ best friends and skating partners, while Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Whitaker will play the owner of the local roller-skating rink, Duchess.

“When we met with Marsai about this project, we couldn’t have been more impressed with her passion for diverse storytelling and commitment to female empowerment,” said Rafael Garcia, vice president, Development, Disney Branded Television in a statement. “We’re extremely excited to team up with Norman and the Genius Entertainment team to tap into roller-skating culture in a way that’s truly both authentic and aspirational for our audience.”

Martin has become a wunderkind at the age of 16, creating her own production company and transitioning into feature films. She continues to portray Diane Johnson on the critically acclaimed ABC sitcom, “Black-ish.” In 2019, she starred in the body swap comedy “Little,” opposite Issa Rae.

Despite an increased awareness of the need to show disabled women of color, the needle hasn’t moved much on increasing representation. With 26 percent of adults in the United States holding some form of disability, it stands to reason there are several generations of young people who have never seen themselves represented on screen.

There is no current word on when the pilot for “Saturdays” will be shot, and a pilot order isn’t the same as a series order, but the hope is that this is progress for Black disabled representation.

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