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New Disney Channel Show Will Feature a Teen With a Rare Disease

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Disney Channel recently announced plans to shoot the pilot of a new series featuring a young teen with sickle cell disease. The series would be called “Saturdays,” and would center around a girl with a passion for roller skating who must overcome and fight through a flareup of the disease to keep leading her skate crew. The protagonist, Paris Johnson, will be played by Danielle Jalade and produced by “Black-Ish’s” Marsai Martin. 

“When we met with Marsai about this project, we couldn’t have been more impressed with her passion for diverse storytelling and commitment to female empowerment,” said Rafael Garcia, vice president, Development, Disney Branded Television. 

Sickle cell disease is a group of genetic disorders that affects red blood cells. The inherited condition causes cells to have a “c” shape instead of the typical round appearance. This causes the cells to get stuck and die early, causing a constant shortage in the body. According to the CDC, the disease affects about 100,000 Americans, and largely affects African-Americans. They say one in 365 African-American babies are born with the condition, while one in 13 carry the sickle-cell trait. 

Early signs and symptoms in babies can include fatigue, jaundice and swelling. As the disease progresses, patients can feel severe pain, delayed growth and heart problems. However, this is a lot of variety in symptoms and severity. Treatment typically consists of blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants. 

According to a press release, 13-year-old Paris will use determination and bravery throughout the “Saturdays” series to prove she can continue to skate and prove nay-sayers wrong. 

The potential Disney series will be written by Norman Vance Jr., who has previously worked on shows like “Moesha” and “Girlfriends.”

You can learn more about sickle-cell disease and find resources through the Sickle Cell Foundation. 

Image courtesy of Disney

Originally published: March 12, 2021
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