Sebastian Broadway Actor Titus Burgess Shares Honest Take On The Racist Comments Made About Halle Bailey And The Little Mermaid

For the last few years, Disney has made a habit out of making live-action adaptations of its animated classic movies. This trend continues with Rob Marshall’s upcoming Little Mermaid movie, which has been getting both praise and backlash over the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel. Actor Titus Burgess played Sebastian in the Broadway adaptation of the beloved Disney flick, and shared his honest take on the racist comments made about Bailey and The Little Mermaid.  

Titus Burgess is experienced in bringing Disney projects to life. Aside from his run as Sebastian in The Little Mermaid on Broadway, he’ll also be playing Bashful in the upcoming live-action Snow White movie opposite Rachel Zegler. He recently spoke to Page Six about the racist backlash that’s come at Halle Bailey since the first footage of her as Ariel was released, responding frankly with:

You know what? I’m not surprised by anything. We live in America. It’s a very racist country, it’s a very narrow-minded country, full of mental illness and people who cannot see the forest from the trees. The movie is not made for them; it’s made for people with open minds.

Well, he certainly didn’t mince words. Instead Titus Burgess addressed larger issues that he sees within the country that seemingly come up when pop culture moments like the Little Mermaid trailer break the internet. And as he sees it, this is a place that unfortunately contains both racism and mental illness.

Titus Burgess’ comments to Page Six as he attended the premiere of Disney+’s highly anticipated sequel Hocus Pocus 2. His comments come as there’s been a ton of discourse online about singer/actress Halle Bailey playing Ariel in the new Little Mermaid movie. While videos went viral of young Black kids experiencing the power of representation via the first trailer, racist hate also brewed online. Later during his conversation about this, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt actor went on:

It’s fictional! She doesn’t exist, so there’s that! [That’s] all the information you need about the people who are feeling cantankerous about it.

Fair. The Little Mermaid isn’t a biopic or historic drama, it’s a fictional story based on classic fairy tales. And as such, Ariel can seemingly look like anyone, not just the caucasian redhead that we saw in the beloved 1989 animated blockbuster. Titus Burgess’ comments have been similarly echoed online by those defending Halle Bailey.

All of this chatter online came as a result of Rob Marshall’s Little Mermaid releasing its first teaser. While setting up the underwater world of the upcoming movie, we got to see a brief glimpse of Halle Bailey as Ariel singing “Part of Your World.” As a reminder, you can check out the trailer below:

Since the trailer went viral, plenty of celebrities have come out in support of Halle Bailey. That includes Titus Burgess’ Snow White co-star Rachel Zegler, who is similarly making history as a Latina actress playing a Disney Princess. Lin-Manuel Miranda also recently came to her defense, as well as Bailey’s namesake Halle Berry. 

The Little Mermaid will arrive in theaters on May 26th, 2023. In the meantime, check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.