From left to right, Jermaine Harris, Peyton Basnight, Golden Brooks, Danielle, JalaJalade, Omar Gooding, Daria Johns and Tim Johnson Jr. star on "Saturdays." Photo courtesy of Disney Channel
LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) -- The teenage stars of Saturdays, premiering Friday at 9 p.m. EDT on Disney Channel, said they fulfilled childhood dreams of appearing on the network. Fifteen-year-old Danielle Jalade stars as Paris Johnson, who frequents the roller rink Saturdays on weekends with her friends.
"I always used to watch Disney Channel growing up and be like, 'Oh my gosh, I want to be on it,'" Danielle told UPI in a Zoom interview. "Having someone that looks like me on television, it's very heartwarming for me."
Danielle joins Raven-Symone's Raven's Home among current Disney Channel series representing Black families. Raven-Symone's childhood Disney show, That's So Raven ended before Danielle was born.
Danielle said there were a few other TV shows making progress for representation in the 2000s. Saturdays, Danielle said, brings more specific aspects of Black culture to Disney Channel, such as letting Paris and her brother wear their natural hairstyles.
"Our hair can do all types of things," Danielle said. "Hair is important in Saturdays because it's just showing all the different styles that young Black people wear."
Paris' brother, London (Jermaine Harris), keeps a pick comb in his hair. Harris, 24, said he grew his hair and used a pick to extend it for the audition.
"He knows he looks good," Harris said of London. "It worked out because they ended up keeping that for the character."
Now, Harris said he's proud to display the pick on screen. Harris said hair picks are a specific aspect of the Black community Saturdays can represent.
"It's another form of us being authentic and being real to the stories, the characters and the communities that we are representing," Harris said.
Paris and London's parents are Cal (Omar Gooding) and Deb Johnson (Golden Brooks). Gooding, 46, was a child actor on the sitcom Hanging with Mr. Cooper.
Brooks, 52, starred on the sitcom Girlfriends and its Paramount+ revival. A mother herself to 13-year-old Dakota, Brooks said she is proud to be on a show that can reflect her daughter.
"She won't care about me but she will care about 'Oh my gosh, look at Danielle. Did you see Paris' hair?'" Brooks said. "This is going to be great for young girls."
Saturdays is Danielle's first lead role after playing a young recruit in Black Widow and supporting roles in an episode of Just Roll With It and the Netflix movie Yes Day. Peyton Basnight, 16, was a studio dancer for nine years before landing the role of Paris' friend Ari.
"This is definitely my first big role," Peyton said. "I'm so excited that it's Disney."
Paris and Ari's friend, Simone, is played by a relative veteran, Daria Johns, 15. Daria has been working steadily for five years including episodes of Mixed-ish and a recurring role on the Netflix sitcom The Upshaws.
The cast of Saturdays underwent two months of roller skating training. Danielle said Paris' skating tricks accentuate her hair too.
"She spins a lot," Danielle said. "Her hair is so big so all you see is spinning and her hair spinning too."
Daria said she grew up skating at Chicago's World of Wheels rink. Saturdays added moves to her repertoire.
"For Simone, I would say her splits are her specialty," Daria said.
Each episode of Saturdays also showcases real performers in the world of roller skating after the episode ends. Creator Norman Vance Jr. said he wanted Saturdays to represent the real skaters who spend Saturdays perfecting their craft.
"There are people out there globally that are just skating and are so talented," Vance said. "We thought it would not only attract but inspire more people to get out there and do it."
Two episodes of Saturdays premiere Friday. The first six episodes of Saturdays premiere on Disney+ Wednesday.