Halle Bailey is ready to take over the world as The Little Mermaid’s Ariel. From the moment her casting was announced we knew she would make an amazing Disney princess. Now that the live-action remake of the animated classic is ready to hit theaters on May 26, reviews have raved about the singer/actress’ star-making performance. With excitement for the film increasing by the day, Bailey spoke to The Root about being Ariel for a new generation and working with her award-winning co-stars.
The minute the first trailer was released, the reaction from real fans was extremely positive. Black kids have been overjoyed to see an Ariel that looks like them. With such strong early reviews, Halle is thrilled that the cast and crew’s hard work is being appreciated by the people they made the movie for.
“It feels amazing to hear the first reactions from people because we put our heart and souls into this film. I worked very, very hard to get to this point,” Bailey told The Root. “It’s been a long waiting process for this film to come out. To finally be able to see the fruits of our labor is a really special time. Hearing all the positive feedback is just amazing.”
When the original film was released in 1989, Ariel’s independent, fiery spirit signaled a new, more modern Disney princess. Now, Bailey is poised to reinvent what it means to be a Disney princess for a new generation. She’s showing young fans that there’s a place for everyone in these fairy tale worlds. It’s a truly beautiful moment that isn’t lost on the Grown-ish actress.
“It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to reinvent Ariel as a Black woman, as somebody who has such innocence, strength and power. Maybe she doesn’t know that quite yet at the beginning of the film, and she learns these things about herself throughout,” she said. “As Halle, I’ve tried to adopt some of these traits of Ariel, because she’s truly taught me a lot about myself and who I can be as a young woman. I still feel like I’m finding myself every single day, but I think Ariel truly brought me closer to who I am.”
Bailey’s award-winning co-stars were deeply moved and impressed by her performance. That respect and admiration goes both ways, as she has nothing but praise for Melissa McCarthy, who plays Ursula, and Javier Bardem, who plays Ariel’s father, King Triton.
“They are just iconic people as human beings and just really good, loving, kind people,” she said. “Javier and Melissa, I had already been huge, huge fans of before. So to get to meet them and see that they were just normal, warm, amazing human beings really meant a lot to me as a fan. It made me so happy to work with them and want to work with them more in the future.”
One of the elements that makes Halle so spectacular is how she brings her own style and voice to the well-known character. It would have been so easy for her to deliver a carbon copy of the Ariel everyone is already familiar with, but she praises director Rob Marshall for allowing her the space to portray her Ariel. This is perfectly displayed in her performance of the princess’ signature song, “Part of Your World.”
“The songs are just iconic and you have big shoes to fill. For me, ‘Part of Your World’ was already so amazing that Jodi Benson did,” Bailey said. “I was just trying to do my best and live up to the original, as well as put my own spin on it. I was really grateful to Rob Marshall that I was allowed to do different riffs and nuances, and add the essence of Halle in this song.”
The Little Mermaid splashes into theaters on May 26.