Rob Marshall wants to be clear.
“There was no agenda to cast a woman of color,” said the director of Disney’s new live-action reboot. the little Mermaid The film calls for a reimagining of sailor heroine Ariel, a role that eventually went to rising pop star and actress Halle Bailey.
“We looked at everyone for that role. I mean, across the board, every ethnicity,” Marshall continues. “It was really just, ‘Let’s find the best Ariel.’ And it was quite a demanding bill to fill because she’s got an extraordinary voice, strong and passionate. There was a need to be, but also to be vulnerable and naïve, and maybe even otherworldly.
“And Halle came in and she sang ‘Part of your world.’ And I remember so clearly, at the end of the song, I was just in tears. It was emotional. She’s so moving, connected so deeply and we kept bringing her back.
The casting of Bailey, who is Black, was met with the all-predictable racist backlash and complaints that Disney was staying “woke” by re-imagining its anachronistic, mythical mermaid creature into a film taking place in a fictional fantasy land Was. non-white actors.
But while the controversy grabbed most of the headlines, there was also widespread celebration. Video of young black girls happily reacting to movie trailer spread rapidly.
“Those moments mean everything to me,” Bailey, 23, tells us. “Seeing the kids’ reactions and seeing them say, ‘Wow, she looks like me’ is so special and powerful and honestly healing my inner child. I feel like seeing examples of myself on screen.” being able means a lot to us. And it does a lot to your self-worth, especially when you’re a kid and you see someone as a princess. So those moments mean the world to me and I I’ll never get tired of it.
Seeing herself as Ariel on the big screen for the first time also had a profound effect on Bailey. “I was sobbing for like the first 20 minutes, watching myself,” she admits.
When the finished film was finally screened early for critics, it was Bailey’s stellar performance and powerhouse vocals that garnered the most praise.
Her co-stars weren’t surprised.
“She was amazing,” says Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Ariel’s love interest Eric and received a FaceTime call from a teary-eyed Bailey after seeing the film for the first time.
“She has everything,” says Javier Bardem (Ariel’s father, King Triton). “She has everything you can ask for in any actress and singer. But above that, she’s a beautiful human being and she has an aura that you either have or you don’t. And she was born with it. So when you see it on screen, you just can’t take your eyes off them.
“I first heard her sing ‘Part of Your World’ during rehearsal,” recalled Jacob Tremblay, who voices Flounder. “It was really just rehearsal and she was (barely) even trying and still gave such a beautiful performance. She gave everyone goosebumps. It was absolutely fantastic. My mom, who grew up with the original, she Was crying from her eyes.
“And she really put the whole thing on her back,” says Daveed Diggs, who stars as fan-favorite Sebastian. “That’s an incredible amount of pressure for a young woman like that to announce once And everything came down to her. But I can’t think of anyone who could handle it like her. She’s really, really special.
Cast members also agree that the film’s color blind casting should be celebrated, not criticized.
Melissa McCarthy says, “You can’t give people who are afraid of anything they don’t see in the mirror what we do and how we love and who we admire and look up to ” Witch Ursula. “So I love what our film depicts.
“God, how boring it would be if we were all the same.”
the little Mermaid Opens in theaters Friday, May 26.
watch the trailer: