Introducing Naomi Scott, Aladdin actor and Compassion UK ambassador
British actor and singer, Naomi Scott, is about to take to our screens as Princess Jasmine in the live action remake of Disney’s Aladdin. A passionate Compassion-supporter for more than seven years, we caught up with Naomi to hear, in her own words, why she’s determined to champion the voice of girls worldwide.
Naomi, you recently travelled to Rwanda to see Compassion’s Child Survival projects as part of our Different Path appeal. Now you’re back home, can you share any reflections on your trip with us?
Rwanda is such an incredible country. The communities I visited as part of the Different Path appeal were amazing and the people I met so resilient. I saw for myself how people came together. That was the underlying theme of the trip — the universal language of women coming together, helping and empowering each other.
Mothers are the source of life, so I saw how beginning to educate women and help women at that stage of life has such a positive knock on effect to so many different aspects including poverty and economic growth.
For me, I love that in the context of a Compassion project, which is always connected to a local church and always rooted in a community, pregnant women get the education and help they need to ensure a healthier life for their family. That has an incredible impact on future generations.
You’ve also visited Ethiopia with friends from your parents’ church in Essex. Can you tell us a bit about your experience of seeing our Child Sponsorship Programme in action and meeting one of your three sponsored children?
When I visited the Compassion project I saw that giving children hope is the heart and culture of Compassion.
I remember that we went to the head offices and we saw how sponsors’ letters are sorted. We learnt so much about how children are incredibly protected through the sponsorship programme. We met a guy called Tsehaywota who is the National Director for Compassion Ethiopia. He is an amazingly humble man. It struck me that all the staff were so welcoming and so joyful and enthusiastic about what they are doing. The heart for children really does run through the whole organisation.
I saw the impact Compassion has on a child’s life. That when you sponsor a child , you provide them with medical care, tend to their emotional and social well-being and ensure the chance for a great education. It's very holistic which is something I really love. Ultimately, it’s showing God’s love and showing God’s grace.
We love your passion for empowering women and girls around the world. Why do you think it’s so important for girls to have strong role models?
For me, it’s all about instilling value and hope. I think when we feel valued we begin to dream, that’s where it starts. It’s so important to get young girls to understand that they have a voice, they have something to offer.
The women I met in Rwanda, women like Ernestine and Eugenia, were so inspiring! They took nothing and made something.
With the Child Survival projects, I saw the impact when women started daring to think, daring to dream. When they came together you could see that they felt loved. You could see Compassion is helping women understand they’ve got more to offer, growing them and giving them more opportunities.
We’re so excited about your role as Jasmine in the new Disney Aladdin live action movie. Could you tell us a bit about the role?
I’ve always tried to be very thoughtful about the roles I’ve taken.
When the opportunity came up for the Aladdin remake, I was very aware that Jasmine was my princess growing up. So yes, I wanted to connect with her on that level, but I also wanted to take the role further.
It’s 2019 and I love what Disney are doing with their heroines. I can remember sitting down with one of our producers and asking about their vision for the character and it really felt like we were on the same page.
We say these words like ‘strong’ – that’s a buzz word right now – we want ‘strong women’. But for me, it’s also about telling a woman’s story. Having a female narrative, whatever that female narrative is.
I love that what we envisioned for Jasmine was yes, all of those things we loved about her in the iconic animated version of the film. But also, that we wanted to portray she’s actually fighting for choice and the liberty and freedom of her kingdom. [The director] Guy Ritchie was championing that. Jasmine wants to lead her people! She can see that Jafar is a dodgy geezer! Her objective at the beginning of the movie is ‘how can I connect with the people so I can lead them?’
In the Aladdin movie we’ve got this incredible new song called ‘Speechless’. The essence of the song is all about finding your voice. What a timely thing! There are so many people in our world who’ve been silenced, shut down, neglected. I know it’s a song in a Disney movie – and the issues we’ve seen and the issues that Compassion deals with are two different things – however, for me, they still connect in a way. I’m so passionate about giving people a voice.
Aladdin is a much-loved story – was it fun to make? Can you tell us any funny stories you have about your time filming with the Aladdin live action cast?
This might sound a silly thing, but in the Aladdin trailer I walk down steep stairs and I’m in this crazy outfit, I’ve got high heels on and I’ve got a dress with a 10 ft train! So we’re filming me walking down the stairs and the doors open and the team say ‘Nay, do you think you could just not look down?’. And do you know what? That’s one of those moments when you feel like joking, ‘oo sure, why don’t you try this dress on, try these heels on and try and walk down stairs while looking up!’.
But I’m a very competitive person and I said, alright, I’ve got to do this! I did it and I was incredibly proud. I walked down the stairs and I didn’t look at my feet once! Which of all the stunts that Mena Massoud [Aladdin] did, all the stuff that Will Smith [Genie] did, I guarantee you neither of them would have been able to do that!
You’re also starring in Charlie’s Angels which hits cinemas late autumn. What was it like working with the director Elizabeth Banks and the team?
Having Elizabeth Banks at the helm of Charlie’s Angels was incredible. What a smart, amazingly talented, multi-faceted woman. Because she’s an actress, she wanted us to make our own choices. It was kind of scary at times but it was brilliant!
She was fantastic. Even something so small as the fact Kirsten Stewart, Ella Balinska [the other Angels] and myself are such different heights! There’s often a push to make the cast the same so it’s so refreshing that Elizabeth said, ‘I don’t care that you’re different heights, you’re different people’.
Do you have any other favourite acting roles to date? You’ve had such a varied career from Lemonade Mouth to Terra Nova and then going on to playing the pink Power Ranger, Kimberly. What was it like to be part of Power Rangers?
My role in Power Rangers was really interesting for me because it was incredibly physical. And again the outfits were a challenge! Me and fellow Ranger Becky Gomez literally felt like Tellytubbies in those suits! It wasn’t just latex, there were loads of layers so it felt like armour. You couldn’t even walk so we kind of had to waddle!
Could you share a bit about how your Christian faith has shaped you and your career? Why is it so important to you and your husband Jordan Spence?
My husband and I were actually talking about this yesterday. Sometimes we get asked the question, ‘How do you juggle your faith and what you do?’ But for me, I don’t know how I would do life without my faith.
That peace that you know you’re loved and valued is something that keeps me incredibly grounded, incredibly focused. Quite honestly, I don’t see it as this separate thing, this add on thing. My faith is just a part of who I am and what I do.
Life is incredibly exciting at the moment, there’s a lot going on. We just think wow. God’s grace. But no matter what happens, no matter what somebody says about me on Twitter, whatever the future holds, to know that that doesn’t define me is incredible. To know that doesn’t inform my identity in any way shape or form (although it’s easier said than done sometimes). That’s going to be the thing keeping me going. Keeping the main thing, the main thing throughout.
Many people know you as Naomi Scott the actress, but you’re also an incredibly talented musician. Tell us about your music and what fuels your creativity?
Music was always my first love. It’s part of who I am. It just so happens that there have been other creative things and outlets and the acting has come to the forefront timing-wise. But in terms of all the different aspects of me, I view them all as one. I’m an artist and love to create things.
I’m really excited about getting my new music out this year. Even in the music industry there are certain traps you can fall into in terms of having to do something a certain way, chasing the streams, chasing the views. You know, when Jordan and I discuss stuff like that we say, ‘let’s simply do the work that we love.’
We often try and get to know our ambassadors in 1 minute! Could you tell us what you’re currently …
Reading? I’ve just read this booked called ‘Just Mercy’ by Bryan Stevenson. It’s an incredible, incredible story. You should read it!
Watching? I’m always so inspired by movies like the Isle of Dogs, Grand Budapest Hotel and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
Listening to? I’m obsessed with Koffee, Ariana Grande’s new album, Solange.
Wearing? I have this jacket which I’ve absolutely overworn! It’s a bomber jacket and it’s my favourite thing in the world. Jordan bought it for me for my birthday.
Thankful for? I have the best team and the best family around me.
Praying for? We’re just praying that we enjoy this upcoming time and that we always keep the main thing the main thing.
Naomi Scott is raising awareness of the challenges faced by mums and babies in Togo, West Africa as part of Compassion UK’s Different Path appeal. Even though our appeal is now closed you can still donate. Your gift won't be doubled by the UK government, but it will still make a big difference.