‘Cinderella’: Whoopi Goldberg Was Initially Offered a Different Role in the Cast

One of the most memorable things about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was its cast. Not only were the actors exceptionally talented, but the producers for the project also utilized color-blind casting for the film. As a result, the film is a beautiful display of representation and also allowed the best actors to be cast in their respective roles regardless of race.

Cinderella cast member Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg | BET2020/Getty Images for BET NETWORKS

Though it’s hard to imagine the cast of Cinderella playing any other role than the ones that they brought to life, when the film was first being conceived, certain actors were being considered for different roles. Whitney Houston, for example, was initially supposed to play Cinderella. But, by the time filming started, the “I Will Always Love You” singer felt she was too old for the role, so she signed on as the fairy godmother and the title role went to Brandy.

Whoopi Goldberg was originally offered a different role in the ‘Cinderella’ cast

But Houston wasn’t the only member of the cast who ended up taking a role that was different from the one they were originally offered. Whoopi Goldberg, who ended up playing Queen Constantina with perfect precision, was initially offered the role of Cinderella’s evil stepmother.

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“The hardest role to fill was the Stepmother,” Debra Martin Chase, who was one of the Executive Producers on Cinderella, revealed in a 2017 interview with Shondaland. “That was the role we approached Whoopi with first, actually. But she was busy, and very kindly said we could circle back to her later on.” Chase recalled reaching out to many actors about the part after Goldberg was too busy to take it on. However, many White actors turned down the role because they didn’t want to have to be mean to a Black Cinderella.

Bernadette Peters was excited to play the evil stepmother

Fortunately, the exceptionally talented Bernadette Peters would go on to accept the challenge. “[Executive producers] Craig [Zadan] and Neil [Meron] invited me to come and play this wonderful role, and I immediately said yes,” the Into the Woods alum shared. “I don’t remember if I thought about the optics of playing a white evil stepmother to a black Cinderella. We weren’t really playing ‘real’ people — it’s a fairy-tale, and I just wanted to play the role as best as I could, as cruelly as I could. I think that’s how we all approached it.”

Once the producers had found their evil stepmother, they began thinking about who could potentially play the Queen. Their top choice was Julie Andrews but, unfortunately, Andrews had experienced severe damage to her vocal cords and thus had to decline the role. In a stroke of genius, Zadan and Meron circled back to Goldberg and offered her the role of the Queen in Cinderella.

How Goldberg came to be the Queen in ‘Cinderella’

“I got a phone call from Craig and Neil,” Goldberg recalled about how she came to be a part of the Cinderella cast. “They said, ‘Are you in?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ It’s Whitney Houston, it’s Brandy, and Victor is one of my favorite people from years back. I’ll do whatever you want!” Clearly, Goldberg was the right actor for the job. If you want to see her in the iconic film, Cinderella will begin streaming on Disney+ beginning on February 12, 2021.