Cooper Howell, Prince Hans in “Frozen: Live at the Hyperion” Speaks Out About Experiences with Inequality Behind the Stage

Actor Cooper Howell, an actor in “Frozen: Live at the Hyperion” at Disney’s California Adventure who played Prince Hans, is speaking out about his experience as an actor of color.

Howell has taken to his Facebook page to comment on the “Heaven and Hell: or my experience being a person of color in Disney’s Hyperion Theater”. Howell expresses the joy of being cast as the role of Prince Hans and how he was excited that people of color were cast in roles that were originally created as white.

HEAVEN: Once upon a time Liesl Tommy cast me as Prince Hans in Frozen: Live at the Hyperion. And I was gooped. GOOPED. There was nothing in my prior history that gave any indication this was possible. Up until then every role I played had to do with my race. Every. Single. One. And even ones where it didn’t (Shakespeare or classical pieces mostly) I was always made aware that the novelty of me being a poc in that role that gave me the part. So much did I not expect to get this part that when I got the callback I rolled my eyes and didn’t take the actual callback seriously. I mean, there was a zero percent chance that Disney would ever let me play a Prince, especially when the dude in the movie is a ginger.

Howell also shared that he and fellow Cast Member Domonique Paton were thrilled to be able to be a prince and princess on a Disney stage, until things began to take a turn for the worst with a new director taking over the show’s production, when the heaven turned into a hell.

In my first note session with Roger he pulled me into a room with Domonique Paton, my best friend and incredible costar who played princess Anna in the show I was in. She just so happens to also be black. Almost all of Prince Hans’s scenes in the show are with her character and so most of my notes would be primarily based on those interactions with her. Earlier in the day I performed with a different (white) actress but it was the show with Domonique that I had a note session about. Imagine my surprise and dismay when, with how Liesl set up the show experience, we were told this:
“WHEN THE TWO OF YOU PERFORM THE SHOW TOGETHER ITS TOO… URBAN.”

Howell continues on in his post about how things only got worse regarding sexual harassment and how his struggle with Disney’s HR lead to him ultimately quitting a job that he once loved.

This one time 4 years ago I got to feel something other than my color for the first and only time in my professional career. It lasted from about March 2016 to July 2016 and never again since.

You can read about Howell’s full retelling of his experiences on Howell’s Facebook page.