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‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ Embraces Diversity: ‘We Were All Really Conscious of It’

Misty Copeland made history as the American Ballet Theater’s first African-American principal dancer, and now she’s bringing her legacy to the big screen in the new holiday film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”

“[‘The Nutcracker’] is the perfect platform for people to be able to step into a movie theater and learn about ballet and maybe see it for the first time,” Copeland told Variety at Monday’s premiere at the Dolby Theater ballroom in Hollywood. “And the fact that it’s a black ballerina in this film is even crazier; this next generation will be able to see me up there and think that’s normal, that’s what a ballerina looks like, and that’s progress.”

Copeland plays the central dancer of the film’s first ballet sequence, which tells the story of how the four realms in the movie were discovered via dance. Watching Copeland’s performance is Clara (Mackenzie Foy), the film’s main protagonist, who must find a stolen key in order to keep the fantasy world from being destroyed.

Starring alongside Foy is Jayden Fowora-Knight who plays Phillip, a nutcracker soldier who accompanies Clara on her quest for the key. On the red carpet, Fowora-Knight echoed Copeland’s statement about diversity and recognized the strides the film industry is making toward increasing representation for people of all backgrounds.

“It’s 2018…It’s just how the business is nowadays,” Fowora-Knight told Variety. “There’s a lot of diversity in TV, in movies, in everywhere – everyone’s got their own representation now, and it’s nice to see it.”

Representation was also a priority for the film’s producers, especially when they were laying the groundwork for the film. Executive producer Sara Smith said she and other producers made a concerted effort to incorporate diversity into the film from its very beginnings, which stemmed from producer Mark Gordon‘s annual holiday trips to the “Nutcracker” ballet.

“We were all really conscious of it; we wanted it to look like the world today,” Smith said. “That’s life, and we wanted to be reflective of that.”

As such, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” features several actors of color including Fowora-Knight as well as Morgan Freeman, Lil Buck, and Eugenio Derbez.

Off of the red carpet, the premiere pre-party embraced its fantasy roots with a twinkling room of lollipop trees, candy bars, and costumed actors walking on stilts. Attendees could also participate in various activity booths around the room, which included snow globe making and a hair styling station where one guest was getting his head dyed blue.

Following the red carpet, audience members crossed the street to the El Capitan Theatre where Christmas lights hung from the rafters accompanied by live organ and a glittering blue curtain, which came down to signal the start of the movie.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is in theaters on Nov. 2.

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