When Disney decided to up the ante, as it were, and introduce more "colourful" faces into its movies, we met such racially-diverse characters as Pocahontas from 'Pocahontas', Jasmine from 'Aladdin', and Mulan from 'Mulan'. Each is basically the same as any other Disney princess or heroine, with the exception of skin colour.

Now Disney has taken another step in the right direction, introducing the company's first (can you believe it?) black princess. Based in New Orleans, a scene of much devastation after the Hurricane Katrina horror, 'The Princess and the Frog' seeks to break free of the typical princess-prince-happily-ever-after theme, to moderate success. Starring theatre pro Anika Noni Rose, whose voice you may recognize from 'Dreamgirls', the movie is a feel-good romp for the under-10 age bracket.

Moviefone Canada sat down to talk with Rose about what it's like to fill the monumental role, and how she truly feels about frogs.

When Disney decided to up the ante, as it were, and introduce more "colourful" faces into its movies, we met such racially-diverse characters as Pocahontas from 'Pocahontas', Jasmine from 'Aladdin', and Mulan from 'Mulan'. Each is basically the same as any other Disney princess or heroine, with the exception of skin colour.

Now Disney has taken another step in the right direction, introducing the company's first (can you believe it?) black princess. Based in New Orleans, a scene of much devastation after the Hurricane Katrina horror, 'The Princess and the Frog' seeks to break free of the typical princess-prince-happily-ever-after theme, to moderate success. Starring theatre pro Anika Noni Rose, whose voice you may recognize from 'Dreamgirls', the movie is a feel-good romp for the under-10 age bracket.

Moviefone Canada sat down to talk with Rose about what it's like to fill the monumental role, and how she truly feels about frogs.

How did you secure this lead role? What was the process?

I had actually been seen by Disney casting two years before the audition came up. I met with them, and they told me they'd probably have something coming down the pipeline for me. I didn't know when...there was a lot of crossing fingers and toes, and here I am.

Did you ever imagine that you'd be a Disney princess? The first black one, nonetheless?

No! I just wanted to be a voice! [Laughs] They hadn't done a princess in so long, it wasn't even on my mind.

What is the major difference between Tiana (your character), and the other Disney princesses?

Most of the previous princesses had some pretty rough lives – Cinderella was misplaced, abused, essentially. Most of them find their princes – well, many I should say. But the difference is that Tiana's goal isn't to find a prince, but to make her dream come true.

That's what I liked about your princess – you had some gumption, you kicked people...

[Laughs] She had wherewithal! And I only kicked people as a frog! She's interesting to me because of those reasons, and she's still a lady at the same time.

Tiana's passionate drive for her dream kind of parallels yours – you left it all for New York City, is that correct?

I went to grad school in San Francisco, and then left for New York City with my eye on Broadway. I had saved $5000, which seemed like a lot of money in my mind...until I realized it was going to take $2500 to get to New York and then the first and last month's rent. Between jobs, I had to file for unemployment just to audition for roles. With only one unemployment cheque left, I got my first gig on Broadway in 'Footloose.'

Amazing. If any little boy or girl wants to be on Broadway when they get older, you can be an example!

It's tough, I'm not going to lie. You have to be ready, you have to really want it, and you have to really work for it.

Did you get to work with Oprah Winfrey on this movie? [Winfrey voices Tiana's mother, Eudora]

No, unfortunately. She wasn't cast when I got the part.



Which character is your favourite, besides yourself?

I'm so glad you said 'besides yourself', I really appreciate that. [Laughs] It's a toss-up. Louis the Alligator makes me howl, but Ray the Firefly...and for that matter, Charlotte! She's out of her mind! That firefly wears me out, though. "I chipped my baby tooth." What? Are you kidding with that? [Laughs]

Would you kiss a frog in real life?

I have to tell you, I think not. I actually love frogs, I think they're very cute. I like them to be small.

You don't like the big ones, eh?

I can't say I'm a big fan of them, no. Here's the reason: I've had two very interesting frog situations. One, I was in Costa Rica and I saw this huge thing on the porch, I'm talking about the size of a soccer ball. I realized, oh my goodness, that's a frog! A woman started yelling in Spanish, "Don't touch it! Don't touch it!" Apparently this frog will spit in your eye and blind you. You should be careful about the frogs you decide to hang out with, and/or kiss.

And I found out that there is also a frog in Africa that has teeth. I don't need that. I'm going to stick to the North American frog. I like them. There are gorgeous frogs around the world, with beautiful markings...but they'll kill you by accident. [Laughs] You can't just go around putting your mouth on things, you know? We're no longer toddlers!

How are your cooking skills in real life?

Pretty darn good. I used to be a very good cook, and I really love to bake. Cheesecake, for sure. I make a good crunch-top apple pie, too. I met Emeril [the chef] yesterday, and he doesn't know it yet, but he's making me some beignets.

'The Princess and the Frog' opens in theatres across Canada on Friday, December 11.