Why Halle Bailey Is So ‘Grateful’ To Be Able To ‘Reinvent’ The Ariel Role As A Black Actress

Halle Bailey in the music video for Ungodly Hour
(Image credit: YouTube)

For over a decade, Disney has been returning to many of its beloved films and remaking them within a live-action setting. The House of Mouse has seen massive success with its re-imaginings of The Lion King, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland, to name a few, and there's many more to come. The next one is The Little Mermaid, which is making history in that the studio cast Black actress/singer Halle Bailey as Ariel

When it was announced that the Grown-ish star had nabbed the role, there was some of the partially expected backlash, but many more fans are embracing the casting choice. When the 21-year-old was recently a guest on Talks With Mama Tina, she got candid about how it felt to be cast as Ariel at first. In her words: 

Getting that role felt very surreal. It was much of a shocker for me, even when I was asked to audition, I looked at it and I was like, ‘Me? For Ariel? that just doesn’t…’ You know, because my image of Ariel that I’ve had is the red hair and the pale skin and the tail. She was amazing to me and I loved her, like we all did but that’s what I’ve seen her as for so long. So even the auditioning process, I remember being so scared and so nervous.

Halle Bailey was chosen out of an “extensive” search for the live-action Ariel. Director Rob Marshall teased the actress having a “rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance” he felt necessary to take on the beloved role. While speaking on the talk show hosted by Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Bailey continued: 

I think my dad one time, he was like, 'let's run through the lines.’ And I started reading them and I started sobbing. He’s like, ‘Halle, what’s wrong, what’s wrong?’ I’m just like, ‘I can’t believe I’m even going to go for this.’ But so grateful I kind of get to reinvent Ariel. And show other young, beautiful, black and brown children, that ‘Hey, you can be this too. You are magical and mythical and all of the other things in between as well.’ Oh no, I’m going to cry. But going into the filming process I had to learn and say to myself that ‘You can do it, it’s OK and that my sister is here.’ And she was. It was just a beautiful experience to kind of spread my wings in that way.

While sharing the experience, Halle Bailey couldn’t hold back the tears as she expressed how meaningful the opportunity is not only to her, but the many young children who will have a new Ariel to look up to. Halle Bailey and her sister Chloe Bailey were discovered by Beyoncé when Halle was 13 and Chloe was 15. As Chloe x Halle, the pair were signed to Beyoncé’s record label and went on to tour with Queen Bey. 

The Little Mermaid remake will also star Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder and Awkwafina as Scuttle. It will feature the original songs written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, along with a few new tunes by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Menken.

The movie wrapped production in summer 2021 amidst COVID-19 delays, but the wait is still a year and a half away. The Little Mermaid will surely make a splash in theaters on May 26, 2023. While we wait for it, check out what upcoming 2022 movies are on the way. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.