‘Lightyear’: Who Plays Alisha Hawthorne?

Disney and Pixar created one of the most popular movie series with Toy Story. But the latest Pixar release takes the franchise in a radical new direction. Telling the story of the character that inspired the toy, Lightyear is supposed to be the movie that inspired young Andy to want a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday.

With Chris Evans stepping into the role made famous by Tim Allen, Lightyear is very different from what’s come before. In this new story, moviegoers meet Buzz’s best friend, Alisha Hawthorne. So who portrays her?

‘Lightyear’ takes the ‘Toy Story’ franchise in a new direction

1995’s Toy Story — the first fully computer-animated feature in history — spawned not only three sequels, countless specials and shorts, and theme park attractions. It also led to an animated direct-to-TV movie and subsequent animated series about Buzz Lightyear. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command ran for more than 60 episodes from 2000 to 2001.

Patrick Warburton took over as the voice of Buzz Lightyear for the show. Though it expanded Buzz’s world to include new characters, Lightyear’s Alisha Hawthorne isn’t one of them. Instead, Nicole Sullivan plays Princess Mira Nova, a rookie space ranger who is Buzz’s co-pilot and second-in-command. Essentially, she fulfills the role Alisha has in the new movie.

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Alisha Hawthorne is Buzz Lightyear’s best friend in the film

Uzo Aduba waves to fans at Disney and Pixar's "Lightyear" premiere
Lightyear star Uzo Aduba | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Early on in Lightyear, Buzz makes a mistake on a mission that leads his crew to become stranded on a distant planet. Obsessed with fixing his mistake, Buzz loses years with his friends, including Alisha, as he attempts to test hyperspace fuel. For much of the film’s first half, Alisha embodies Buzz’s humanity and serves as the heart of the movie.

Thankfully, Lightyear has actor Uzo Aduba in the role. Although her role has been unnecessarily overshadowed by controversy, Aduba brings not only warmth but the authority to her voice role. After all, Alisha isn’t only Buzz’s best friend. She is also his commanding officer, and Aduba’s vocal performance elevates the film, striking real chemistry between her and Evans.

Uzo Aduba won Best Supporting Actress for ‘Orange Is the New Black’

Of course, Aduba’s talents are far from unrecognized. The actor is known for her Emmy-winning role as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black. She received similar critical praise and awards love for her role as Shirley Chisholm in the miniseries Mrs. America, which debuted on FX on Hulu in 2020.

In 2021, Aduba also joined the main cast of HBO drama series In Treatment as Dr. Brooke Taylor. For that role, she earned a Golden Globe nomination and received her fifth Primetime Emmy Award nod. At the 2022 ceremony, she’s up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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