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“I said, ‘I have to do this. I have to,’” Castro Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. She joined the project as a writer and had never been in a directing role.

Castro Smith, who has a young daughter, said “it means the world to me for little brown kids everywhere to get to see themselves and to see themselves represented in a positive way and feel seen.”

“Encanto,” which she co-directs with Jared Bush and Byron Howard, is set in Colombia — the land of magical realism — and follows Mirabel Madrigal, a teenage girl dealing with the frustration of being the only member of her family without magical powers. It opens in theaters Nov. 24.

Castro Smith and Bush also share writing credits with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created original songs for the film. The cast, led by Argentine American actor Stephanie Beatriz (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “In The Heights”), includes Diane Guerrero, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama and Colombian Angie Cepeda.

“Encanto” is undoubtedly a big step for Castro Smith, who started as a playwright and only had a few TV credits as an actor (small parts in “The Good Wife,” “Body of Proof” and “Unforgettable”), writer (“Devious Maids,” “The Exorcist”) and producer (“The Exorcist,” “Sweetbitter”). AP

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