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Fil-Am actress Sydney Agudong to play Nani in 'Lilo & Stitch' live-action remake; sparks casting debate

By Kristal de Leon Published Apr 17, 2023 6:15 pm

While fans got excited about the adorable newcomer who has been cast as Lilo, some were not too happy about Disney's choice for Nani, Lilo's older sister and legal guardian.

The Hollywood Reported said on Friday, April 14, that Disney has casted 22-year-old Sydney Agudong as Nani in the upcoming Lilo & Stitch live-adaptation. Although the American actress is of Hawaiian ancestry with British-Irish and Filipino roots, fans of the classic animation accused the entertainment company of ‘whitewashing’ the character, saying that Sydney's looks are far from the original character.

The casting sparked controversy as some fans looked back to the 2002 animation and expected Nani to have ethnic features, darker skin, and black hair as depicted in the original version.  

One of the critics tweeted: “Nothing against the actor but I always loved Nani for the way she looked like my mom and my aunts and me. Every other Disney princess movie felt like some far [away] unachievable fantasy but Lilo & Stitch felt real despite being arguably more outlandish than a princess movie.”

Another one wrote: “This Lilo & Stitch is exactly why everyone needs to realize [that] Disney doesn’t care about representing PoC community and diversifying its legacy. It’s all about $$$ [money] and they have no interest in representing native Hawaiians.” 

One tweet from a critic also gained attention as she wrote: “When digging a little deeper, as a Native Hawaiian, I found this casting to be even more offensive. Her true ethnic background is Caucasian (mother) & Filipino (dad).” 

Meanwhile, one Twitter user said that the amount of bashing towards Sydney is a mark of double standards as they did not air the same sentiment when Halle Bailey was cast by Disney as Little Mermaid in the 2023 adaptation on which the original character has a fair skin color. 

Disney has yet to release any updates or comments about the issue.

Sydney previously appeared on NCIS, Infamously in Love, On My Block, West Michigan and soon, At Your Feet.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, she was born and raised on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, and she has a younger sister named Siena, who is also an actor.