Trending 24th May 2023 by Lisa Mullaly
Halle Bailey: ‘It would have changed my life if I got the chance to see a Black mermaid’
We caught up with the star last week!
Gather up your dingle hoppers and dust off your mermaid tails because it’s time to bring another Disney classic into a whole new world. That’s right! The live-action reboot of The Little Mermaid is finally coming to Irish cinemas.
Ahead of the film’s premiere, we sat down with the new Ariel; Halle Bailey, to hear about her experience of stepping into the role of a famous Disney princess and how she brought The Little Mermaid into the 21st century.
What originally drew Halle to the role of Ariel was the unforgettable music found throughout the original film.
“I’ve known and loved this character for so long. She was my favourite Disney princess. I knew all the songs, I would sing them in the shower and the bath. Never in a million years did I think I would get a chance to be Ariel for this new generation,” Halle says.
Halle started out her musical career on YouTube posting covers of pop songs with her sister Chloe. The musical duo, Chloe X Halle, made their professional debut in 2017 and have since won a total of five Grammy Awards.
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Halle says that she is first and foremost a musician, and as a musician it was important to her to be allowed to bring her own style to the memorable music while also staying true to the original.
“For the singer in me to be allowed to have freedom and add nuances and little riffs here and there, make it my own but still honour the original that we all know and love so much, was an honour truly,” she says.
“The musician in me really appreciated the fact that Alan Menken was so heavily involved in the creation of these new songs as well. It made me feel like we were honouring and respecting the work of the original.”
Menken, composer of the original Little Mermaid, has returned to work his magic on the musical score of the 2023 revamp. The composer worked with producer Lin Manuel Miranda to create some brand new music, but don’t worry, the new film still features all of your favourite tracks from the original like Under the Sea, Part of Your World and Poor Unfortunate Souls.
When preparing for the role, Halle didn’t want her characterisation to stray too far from the original film, but she wanted to add more depth to the princess.
“I really tried to embody all those things that we related to in her, like her soul and her independence and her headstrong-ness and her gumption for herself and her future, as well as the beautiful love she experiences. I think that is honestly just the cherry on top of her story,” she says.
Halle says that she and director Rob Marshall wanted to make the princess’s journey more about Ariel’s search for independence, empowerment, and meaning, rather than true love.
“In this version, you get a deeper look into her mind and her heart and you start to understand why she makes the decisions she makes. The connection between Ariel and Eric is deeply layered, and in our version you get to see why they connected,” Halle says.
“It makes me grateful to be a part of a film that can reflect us as women, and all the layers that we have.”
Halle is one of very few women of colour to be cast as a princess in a live-action Disney film. For fans, seeing a woman of colour reinventing a classic character has provided them with a sense of belonging and pride.
“I think people are so excited for this new version for that feeling, the feeling of being included and important and being seen,” she says.
“It means everything to me when I can see the beautiful little children’s reactions to the trailers. It’s very validating to the little girl in me. It would have changed my life if I got the chance to see a Black mermaid. It would have changed how I felt about my confidence and self-worth and everything.”
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Although the majority of reactions to Ariel being portrayed by a woman of colour were positive, there were some who disagreed with the casting choice. Halle says that she didn’t let this negativity affect her performance.
“I really just try to focus on the positivity and love that I have been receiving taking on this role,” she says. “It means everything to me to be able to represent my community, for all the black and brown babies.”
The Little Mermaid will be released in Irish cinemas on May 26th – and we can’t wait to see Halle flipping her fins and singing her heart out.
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