When young R&B star Halle Bailey was announced as the star of Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of the beloved animated 1989 classic The Little Mermaid, not everyone was as enthused about the update to the Disney Renaissance favorite as her co-stars. To put it plainly, the subset of genre fans who always complain loudly whenever a minor change is made to a character’s skin color or gender really came for Halle, denouncing her casting as a case of “race-swapping” gone overboard — despite the fact that the main character Ariel’s race is in no way important to the story of her trading her voice for legs.
And unfortunately, due to the ever-pervasive nature of social media, those complaints made their way back to the actress herself. However, she was undeterred by the criticism, as she told Variety in a long-form feature published today. This was thanks mainly to her grandparents, who encouraged her in the face of the racist #NotMyAriel movement.
“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement,” she said, “telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you.’” Their words helped put things into perspective for her: “What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything,” she explained. “Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us.”
Elsewhere in the feature, Halle recounted how the time spent away from her sister Chloe while filming during 2020, the height of COVID lockdowns, affected her. “She couldn’t visit me; everything was on lockdown,” she said. “It was that agony, that pain of being pulled away from something that’s like your arm, so I was pulling from that.”
The Little Mermaid is set for release on May 23, 2023.