In 1997 Paolo Montalban was cast as Prince Topher opposite Brandy in a new adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. The actor had already been on Broadway (he was in the 1996 revival of The King and I), but on November 2, he was imprinted into the minds of countless fans who have supported him over the past two decades.
Below, Montalban shares his memories and a scrapbook filled with personal photos. The star used both a Yashica T4 and a Nikon SLR camera for his collection.
They say “never meet your heroes.” I say if they’re of the caliber of talent and quality of human beings I got to work with on the 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella movie, then go for it and never look back.
I loved working with [the cast] so much that I’d show up on set to scenes I wasn’t even in. The director [Robert Iscove] would say, “Paolo, you’re not called today. What are you doing here?” I'd reply, “I promise to stay out of the way, Rob. I just want to watch and learn.” These were master artists who were at the top of their game working tirelessly, but staying curious and generous.
I often forgot how accomplished my colleagues were because they were all so down to earth. It was a true ensemble effort dedicated to making each other, and especially our glass-slippered heroine, shine.
The lasting impact it had on my career became less about the opportunities that came along. It was more about the countless stories of people saying that Brandy’s Cinderella was a game changer for them growing up. How it opened up novel ways to see themselves in the world. How by watching someone who looked like them on TV be a Filipino leading man or the first Black live-action Disney princess, they pursued their own goals without limitations. How it gave them license to pursue their childhood dreams with abandon and make them reality.
So you see, representation, diversity, and inclusion do matter in entertainment. And where entertainment goes, society follows.