Halle Bailey just revealed a ton of new details about her upcoming roles in The Little Mermaid and The Color Purple.
Nearly 15 years after actress Anika Noni Rose was crowned Disney’s first Black princess for voicing the character Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, Bailey is next in line for the crown.
The grown-ish star is set to portray Ariel in the upcoming The Little Mermaid reboot.
In a new interview with Variety for their Power of Young Hollywood 2023, Bailey opened up about her barrier-breaking role, sharing the importance of donning Ariel’s fins, how she feels to be an inspiration to fans, the physically-challenging aspect of the role, and more.
Halle Bailey took on the role of Ariel so little Black girls can see themselves as princesses.
“I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special, and that they should be a princess in every single way,” Bailey told Variety. “There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed.”
During the interview, Bailey thought back to her younger self and how inspired she would have been inspired if the cartoon version of Ariel had been a person of color.
“What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” Bailey added. “Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”
Director Rob Marshall said Halle Bailey was a 'natural' during her audition.
After seeing Halle Bailey perform “Where Is the Love?” with her sister Chlöe on the 2019 Grammy telecast as Chloe x Halle, Rob Marshall asked the singer to audition for The Little Mermaid by singing Ariel’s signature anthem “Part of Your World.”
While speaking with Variety, Marshall recalled being encapsulated by Bailey’s voice and was so moved by her audition that he couldn’t hold back his tears.
“When she finished, I was in tears because she’s so soulful,” Marshall remembers. “You could tell right away that she was able to harness Ariel’s passion, her fire, her soul, her joy and her heart.”
Halle Bailey compared the first time she saw herself as Ariel to a scene in a Hilary Duff movie.
The first time Bailey really saw herself as Ariel was during her screen test, when costume designer Colleen Atwood came to her home.
The singer compared that moment to that of a scene in the Disney Channel original film The Lizzie McGuire Movie, when Lizzie (Hilary Duff) tries on different outfits in an avant-garde fashion show.
“Have you ever seen that Hilary Duff movie where she has a twin and she’s thrown into a room to put on all these clothes?” she asked. “I felt like that.”
Singing wasn't the most challenging part of Bailey's 'The Little Mermaid' role.
To help herself get in the right emotional headspace for the film, Bailey borrowed from her memories. To build Ariel’s relationship with her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem), Bailey channeled her relationship with her own father. “I would always talk about [how] my dad is like a mirror of King Triton; he’s always been so overprotective of my sister and I,” she says. “That’s one of the things that we love about him — the way he loves. When I had scenes with Javier, I just pulled from my experience with my own father: how deep that love is, and how strong and protective they get.”
The role of Ariel was physically challenging too as Bailey had to work on wires and other technical features so she could turn, spin and fly, mimicking Ariel’s mermaid movements.
Halle Bailey's 'The Little Mermaid' character isn't the only role she's connected with.
While filming The Little Mermaid, Bailey found that she related to Ariel a lot more than she expected.
The same goes for her role in Blitz Bazawule’s The Color Purple. In the upcoming film, Bailey plays main character Celie’s beloved sister, Nettie, a role she immediately connected with.
“We’re both the younger sister, we’re both the headstrong one and we speak up, and we’re very, very protective of our older sister,” Bailey says. “It was so cool to play this character where she had all of these pieces of me, but I think she’s a bit more sure of herself.”