Appearing as part of ABC’s special edition of 20/20 in Cinderella: The Reunion, which aired Tuesday night, the actress, comedian and View co-host opened up about how she delivered one of the film’s funniest (and most regal) performances.
During a segment discussing Goldberg’s casting, she expressed that she based the character on herself, and was even behind her signature vocal characterization of answering with exasperated, shocked or faux hurt reactions.
“I wanted her to be me in a dress. A little silly, a little fun. And I gave her a distinction,” Goldberg said. “She doesn’t finish sentences, she makes sounds.”
After being described as the “soul of the production,” Goldberg also revealed that the very real, very expensive jewels Queen Constantina wears throughout the film were her idea.
“I love Harry Winston,” Goldberg admitted. “I said, ‘Listen, I’m playing this queen and I would like to have some jewels. Will you guys loan us some jewels?’ They said, ‘We’ll pick out our most royal jewels.’ And so that’s what they did.”
Jason Alexander, who plays Lionel, the servant to Goldberg’s queen, Victor Garber’s King Maximilian and their son Prince Christopher (played by Paolo Montalban), said the jewels were on guarded watch.
“There were armed guards just beside the camera,” he said, “so that if anybody approached or Whoopi made a mistake and tried to leave the set with that jewelry on, someone would have been shot.”
Elsewhere in the special, star Goldberg, along with star Brandy, Montalban, Garber, Alexander, Bernadette Peters and Veanne Cox all spoke about the significance of the film’s representation, Whitney Houston’s unforgettable portrayal as the Fairy Godmother and how the film has gone on to defy expectations, becoming a beloved tale to a whole generation of girls and women.
During a recent interview with NPR, Montalban — who as a Filipino actor played the prince to Brandy’s Cinderella and the son of a Black woman and white man onscreen — spoke about the experience of the film’s casting.
In the special, it’s described not as color-blind casting but as diverse casting, something Montalban told NPR he thought society — not Hollywood — was ready for.
“At least I can say that from my end, I brought up how I actually thought the industry wasn’t ready for our color-blind casting a version of Cinderella but how society was because the response to it was one of overwhelming acceptance and gratitude,” he said.
But the actor does say he believes Hollywood has caught up to the vision the 1997 movie had. “I would say 25 years later, the industry definitely has caught up. You can see examples of it in other period-type dramas that have nontraditional casting like Bridgerton. Or you have people of color playing traditionally Caucasian characters in history in, say, Hamilton,” he explained. “I think that that proof of concept that we did back in 1997 has permeated throughout the industry in a very positive way.”
He also responded to an old New York Times review of the TV movie, which described it as “a cobbled-together Cinderella for the moment, not the ages.”
Montalban’s response underscored what much of the special captured: that this Cinderella was unlike anything that had come before or has come after, resonating deeply and personally with those who watched it.
“I guess I could say maybe The New York Times got it wrong because I have people who say that this is their Cinderella, and it’s the only Cinderella that they’ll acknowledge,” he said. “And to me, that kind of ownership means that it’s the Cinderella that spoke to them the most.”