Another trailer for Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” dropped on Feb. 15, which meant star Halle Bailey had to deal with another round of racist trolls using social media to complain about a Black actor taking on the role of princess Ariel. It’s hardly the first time Bailey has had to tune out racist backlash. Both her casting announcement in 2019 and the film’s first trailer last year sent viewers into a tizzy online.
“As a Black person, you just expect it and it’s not really a shock anymore,” Bailey told The Face in a new cover story interview. ”When [Chlöe and I] first signed to Parkwood, [Beyoncé] was always like: ’I never read my comments. Don’t ever read the comments.’ Honestly, when the teaser came out, I was at the D23 Expo and I was so happy. I didn’t see any of the negativity.”
“I know people are like: ’It’s not about race.’ But now that I’m her…People don’t understand that when you’re Black there’s this whole other community,” she added. “It’s so important for us to see ourselves.”
Bailey has been only focusing on the positive when it comes to the reaction to her “The Little Mermaid” casting. When racist viewers stormed the internet after the film’s trailer dropped last year, Bailey instead shared supercuts and montages of young Black girls getting emotional while watching the first footage of her as Ariel.
“People have been sending these reactions to me all weekend and I’m truly in awe,” Bailey wrote on Twitter at the time. “This means the world to me.”
“The Little Mermaid” director Rob Marshall previously told Entertainment Weekly that he had “no agenda” when it came to casting Ariel and that his team auditioned “every ethnicity” for the role before landing on Bailey.
“We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end,” Marshall said. “We saw everybody and every ethnicity. [The goal was to find someone who can be] incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever [and with] a great deal of fire and joy.”
Bailey had all of those qualities, plus the kind of voice the role of Ariel demands. As Marshall explained, “That voice is something that is so signature and so ethereal and so beautiful that it captures the heart of Eric and he looks for her for the entire film.”
Bailey told Variety last year that her family helped her drown out the backlash when the #NotMyAriel hashtag started trending on Twitter. Bailey’s grandparents shared their own memories with her of the racism and discrimination they faced in their lifetimes.
“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, 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,’” Bailey said.
Disney is set to open “The Little Mermaid” in theaters on May 26, 2023.