New Zealand's Power of Inclusion Summit Adds 'Pose' Creator Steven Canals, 'Grown-ish' Star Yara Shahidi

Yara Shahidi and Steven Canals

The new participants join previously announced speakers, such as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and 'Mulan' director Niki Caro.

New Zealand's upcoming The Power of Inclusion Summit continues to pack out its lineup of speakers and participants.

Joining previously announced speakers, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and director of Disney's upcoming live-action film Mulan, Niki Caro, are Steven Canals, creator, executive producer, writer and director of FX's Pose; and Grown-ish star and activist Yara Shahidi.

"I'm elated to be a guest at this critically important summit and eager to engage my fellow storytellers in a global conversation around representation and inclusion in film and television," Canals said.

Held Oct. 3-4 in Auckland, the inaugural Power of Inclusion Summit will feature case studies, panels and keynotes addressing issues related to inclusion and representation, with the aim of generating action to create a more inclusive industry and world. More than 35 other screen industry leaders, activists and change-makers already have signed on to participate in the event, including Philippa Boyens, the Oscar-winning co-writer and producer of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies; and Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List.

A dance musical show set in New York's 1980s ball culture world and beyond, Canals' Pose boasts the largest cast of transgender actors in TV history and has been lauded for its representational storytelling both in front of and behind the camera. Now in its second season, the show was nominated for two Golden Globes this year, including Best Television Series - Drama, and is nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.

Shahidi, meanwhile, came to the limelight with her breakout role in the Golden Globe-nominated series Black-ish and then further with her starring role in the spinoff Grown-ish, which has been greenlit for a third season. Also lauded for her activism and advocacy, she founded Eighteen x 18, an education platform focused on providing information and resources to new voters across the U.S. She also created Yara’s Club in partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership Schools in NYC, and served as a spokesperson for DoSomething.Org and 3M’s STEM campaign, which raised funds for classrooms in need of science and tech resources.

The Power of Inclusion Summit also announced the participation of social critic and producer Heather Rae (Frozen River), well-known New Zealand actors and creators Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok, Moana), Oscar Kightley (Hunt for The Wilderpeople) and documentary director Hepi Mita (MERATA: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, a documentary paying homage to his late mother Merata Mita, who is widely regarded godmother of indigenous cinema.) 

The Power of Inclusion Summit will employ some of the progressive practices it promotes during its two-day duration. A complimentary crèche, or nursery, will run throughout the confab and be available to children under five. Breastfeeding wherever mothers feel comfortable is welcomed, and the summit will also provide a breastfeeding space.

Additional participants — including people of color, women, inter-faith, indigenous, LGBTQI and differently-abled individuals — will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The event will be hosted by the New Zealand Film Commission and Women in Film and Television International, with support from The Walt Disney Studios.