Halle Bailey on ‘The Little Mermaid,’ putting her own spin on Ariel: ‘I just feel overjoyed’

Written by on May 16, 2023

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A new Princess Ariel has arrived!

Halle Bailey’s highly anticipated turn in “The Little Mermaid” live-action film is just weeks away, and theGrio caught up with the vibrant young talent, breaking down the opportunity to make the beloved animated role her own, what it was like to work with Disney legends like Alan Menken and how much the project means to her.

Halle Bailey attends Monday’s UK premiere of “The Little Mermaid,” in which she stars as Ariel, at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square in London. (Photo: Lia Toby/Getty Images)

As theGrio previously reported, Bailey was first announced as Ariel four years ago. Since then, Disney has been slowly releasing footage and visuals of Bailey’s turn as everyone’s favorite mermaid. Despite some small and often racist backlash when the casting was first announced, this version of the classic 1989 Disney tale has already received much love online, with the initial trailer striking the zeitgeist, leading to a viral challenge in which parents filmed young Black girls and their emotional reaction to seeing Bailey as Ariel onscreen.

As for Bailey, she tells us the opportunity — not only to play Ariel, but to be this representation for a generation of little girls who look like her — “feels amazing.”

“I just feel overjoyed,” she shared, “and I’m so grateful to even be a part of this readaptation of this iconic film that we’ve all known and loved for so long.”

“It feels amazing to be able to take on this character that has lived in my heart forever,” Bailey said, recalling watching the original on a VHS tape while growing up. “It’s truly a dream come true. To see it all come together and the finished product of the hard work that we did … it’s incredible.”

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In addition to Bailey putting her own stamp on hits from the original “Little Mermaid,” like “Part of Your World,” the new version also features new music from the project’s acclaimed original composer, Alan Menken, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony Award-winning composer of “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.”

“We were so excited to take on these songs because they have such a nostalgic place in all of our hearts,” Bailey said, “as well as the new songs. I was fan-girling with Alan Menken! I just was, like, freaking out that I even got a chance to meet him, and the fact that he was just so kind to me about me re-creating his songs was just a really cool blessing.”

The singer-actress also shouted out Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel, for giving her such a solid template to work with.

“These songs have such great bones already, and Jodi Benson did an iconic job of bringing this Ariel to life,” Bailey gushed, “so I just wanted to live up to hers and also just put my own spin on it. I was so grateful that I was allowed that freedom to do certain riffs and nuances and add Halle to Ariel’s character.”

“The Little Mermaid” releases nationally on Friday, May 26, in theaters.

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