Lilo & Stitch is recasting the actor originally set to portray David Kawena following a controversy surrounding the n-word.
Originally, Kahiau Machado was announced as the actor to portray David, the love interest for Nani in the original 2002 animated film. However, the casting has been rife with controversy, with social media accusing Disney of colorism. Disney seemingly conceded to the controversy because of recent discovery of Machado’s history with racism and the n-word.
According to Inside the Magic, Machado created a Spotify playlist with the n-word in its title years ago. He’s also posted on Instagram an inflammatory post comparing himself to Rosa Parks. Even though he or his team tried to hide his online history, social media brought it back to light, leading to Disney, who never officially confirmed Machado’s casting in the first place, casting newcomer Kaipo Dudoit.
From his Instagram page, Dudoit seems to be Native Hawaiian and is a hula dancer, model and actor who has starred in indie film My Partner. Lilo & Stitch would be his first mainstream feature film role. Online reports state that Machado has Native Hawaiian ancestry, but people on social media felt he was too light-skinned to play the part.
Social media praised the casting as more authentic and truer to the character. They also hope the same can be done for the casting of Nani. Currently, Sydney Agudong has been announced as playing Nani, but like with Machado, social media feels she is too light-skinned to play the character, leading to accusations of Disney trying to whitewash visibly darker characters.
The film has had other casting controversy, with rumors of the Black character Cobra Bubbles, voiced by Ving Rhames in the animated film, being replaced by a new character, Ms. Kekoa. Courtney B. Vance was officially announced as the actor to portray Cobra Bubbles, quelling fears that the film’s Black character wouldn’t make the jump to live-action.
Lilo & Stitch will begin production next year.