Kelly Marie Tran, the voice actress behind the title character in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, just made an exciting confession: she thinks Raya is a gay woman.
Tran, and the movie, both wowed over the weekend, with Raya and the Last Dragon earning rave reviews and landing the #1 spot at the box office. Now, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Tran has opened up about her take on the role, and the need for more LGBTQ representation in family films.
“I’m obsessed with Namaari and I’m obsessed with Gemma Chan. So I’m really excited you brought this up,” Tran says of her character Raya, and of Raya’s on-screen comrade Namaari, voiced by Chan. Tran goes on to say that Raya isn’t officially gay in the script, though the actress began to think of the character that way. She also says she knew a queer audience would pick up on the same feeling.
“I think if you’re a person watching this movie and you see representation in a way that feels really real and authentic to you, then it is real and authentic,” she explained. “I think it might get me in trouble for saying that, but whatever.”
In the same article, commentators draw parallels between Raya and Korra, the leading character in the Nickelodeon TV series The Legend of Korra. The series finale of that show revealed that Korra was a lesbian, which Nickelodeon has also confirmed.
For Tran, adding explicitly LGBTQ characters in major films is the next big step.
“I want to live in a world where every single type of person can see themselves in a movie like this,” she said. “There’s a lot of work to be done in that respect. I’d love to see a Disney warrior who—I don’t know, can I say this without getting in trouble? I don’t care—is openly in the LGBTQ community. I would love to see representation in terms of someone who maybe isn’t able-bodied. And I’m hopeful. We’ll see.”
Disney has earned both praise and criticism in recent years both for adding LGBTQ characters to its movies, and for “gaybaiting” queer audiences. The company revealed that the character Lefou in Beauty and the Beast was supposedly gay, though apart from dancing with another man on screen, nothing in the movie implied as much. In The Rise of Skywalker (which also starred Tran), a female couple shares a brief kiss, though the film does not offer any greater detail or context to their relationship. The animated film Frozen II also featured the “girlfriend” of the lead character Elsa, though nothing in the movie depicted their relationship as anything more than platonic.