ABC Casts R&B Star as Belle in 'Beauty And the Beast' Special

Grammy- and Academy Award-winning R&B artist H.E.R. has been cast as Princess Belle in ABC's upcoming special celebrating the beloved Disney film's 30th birthday. Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration, executive produced by Jon M. Chu and directed by Hamish Hamilton, will air Dec. 15 on ABC and will be available on Disney+ the next day.

H.E.R. will lead the audience through the one-of-a-kind live-action and animated blend with never-before-seen live musical performances honoring the story of Belle, complete with brand new sets and costumes. The "Slide" artist will be the first Afro-Filipina woman to play the role of Belle on screen, which she celebrated during the casting announcement.

"I can't believe I get to be a part of the Beauty and the Beast legacy. The world will see a Black and Filipino Belle!" she said in a statement Wednesday. "I have always wanted to be a Disney princess, and I get to work with two wonderful directors Hamish Hamilton and my favorite, Jon M. Chu. It is very surreal and I couldn't be more grateful."

"With her obvious extraordinary talent and stage presence, H.E.R. is the perfect embodiment of our Belle and we are thrilled for audiences to see her in this celebration of creativity," Chu added in his own statement. "We were both influenced as storytellers by the original animated movie, so it's very exciting to collaborate together to honor the artistry of that timeless classic while also inspiring a whole new generation of creators."

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The two-hour Beauty and the Beast reimagining will be filmed in front of a live audience at Disney Studios before it airs on Dec. 15 on ABC and the following day on Disney+. "Beauty and the Beast was always a game-changing cinematic experience for me," Chu said earlier this month in a statement. "When the animated movie came out, I watched it multiple times in the first weekend. It showed me the outer limits of what animated artists and storytellers could achieve, so the fact that I get to executive produce a tribute to all the creatives that made this masterpiece through our Electric Somewhere company is a dream I didn't even think was possible. With world-class creatives and talent to reinterpret the classic musical numbers (with a few surprises), I can't wait for the audiences, in person and at home, to experience what we have in store for them. It's a true celebration of creativity."