Disney is about to introduce viewers to the Johnsons in the new sitcom Saturdays, premiering February 24th on Disney Channel and February 25th on Disney+. Each episode takes place on a Saturday, and is also partially set in Paris Johnson’s favorite place in the world, a local roller rink called Saturdays! The place is a multi-generational home for the family, with parents Deb and Cal immortalized on the wall for having won the golden award in their youth. And Paris’ brother London even gets his first job there as a DJ! I had the pleasure of speaking with the cast and executive producers about this brand-new show, which skates away from Disney’s typical sitcom formula. (The video interview is included at the bottom of this post)
The most interesting thing i learned is that Saturdays was originally set in New Orleans instead of Chicago. Auditions began in 2020, which is when star Danielle Jalade landed the lead role of Paris Johnson. However, in the years between the pilot being filmed and the series getting picked up by Disney, the principal cast had grown. It was clear to series creator and executive producer Norman Vance Jr. that the pilot would need to be refilmed, and with that came an exploration of the best home for the show. With its own vibrant roller skating community, Chicago seemed like a natural fit.
black-ish star Marsai Martin serves as an executive producer on the show. You may be wondering why she doesn’t appear on screen, but that was by design. After spending 8 years on the popular ABC sitcom, she was just looking for a project she was passionate about without acting in. Her production company, Genius Entertainment, backed the pilot, which eventually found its home with Disney.
Paris’ crew is known as the We-B-Girlz. In real life, Danielle Jalade bonded with her on-screen friends Simone and Ari, played by Daria Johns and Peyton Basnight, when they were put together for roller skating lessons. Filming began in 2022 and the three actresses became friends in real life off screen. Daria also revealed that Simone originally had glasses and braces when she played the character in the pilot, but she helped reinvent the character into someone more true to herself. Funnily enough, Peyton is from Illinois, but had never been to Chicago before filming the series.
Jermaine Harris plays London Johnson, who rarely goes anywhere without his best friend Derek “D-Rok,” played by Tim Johnson Jr. Funnily enough, Jermaine and Tim were friends before they were cast in the show. Jermaine found out about the audition through his sister and was in the original pilot, but the character of Derek was added when the show was retooled. Tim had previously messaged Norman Vance Jr., sharing a short film her made, which is how he got the audition. He and Jermaind still had to do a formal chemistry read, but since they were already good friends, playing them was a breeze.
Saturdays breaks the mold for a Disney Channel sitcom, playing more like a TV-G version of black-ish. This is in large part thanks to London and Paris’ parents, played by Golden Brooks and Omar Gooding. Omar joked that this is why they brought them in as veterans, but praised the show’s writing and their ability to make the parts their own through improv. Golden loves the relationship between Deb and Cal, which allows them to show their flaws but also be competitive. Norman Vance Jr. remembers Disney saying the demographic they were seeking was ages 6 to 11, but he asked for permission to swing for a broader audience. And that’s why, when you check out Saturdays, you’ll notice that it truly offers something for the whole family.
Disney’s Saturdays premieres Friday, March 24th, at 9/8c on Disney Channel. The first 6 episodes will be available to stream on Disney+ beginning Saturday, March 25th.