The Little Mermaid director slams racist backlash towards Halle Bailey's casting
21 December 2022, 15:06 | Updated: 26 May 2023, 18:16
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"We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end. We saw everybody and every ethnicity."
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When Disney first announced that Halle Bailey would be playing Ariel in their live-action The Little Mermaid, the decision was met with widespread praise. Anyone who has heard Halle sing, could tell you that she is perfect for the role. However, there was also an onslaught of racist complaints from people who were upset that Ariel would be portrayed by a Black woman.
Now, Rob Marshall has addressed the racist response to Halle's casting and explained why she was always the best Ariel.
Discussing the response to the trailer in which many videos of young Black girls reacting to Halle as Ariel went viral, Rob told Entertainment Weekly: "I wasn't anticipating that because, in a way, I felt like we've moved so far past that kind of thing but then you realize, in a way we haven't. It was very moving to me to see how important this kind of casting is for the world."
Addressing the racist backlash to Halle's casting, Rob said that he had "no agenda" when choosing her. He explained: "We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end. We saw everybody and every ethnicity." Rob said that his goal was to find someone "incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever" with "a great deal of fire and joy".
Rob also revealed that finding someone with a magical voice was of the utmost importance to him. He said: "That voice is something that is so signature and so ethereal and so beautiful that it captures the heart of Eric. He looks for her for the entire film."
Rob continued to say that many of the other actors who tried out for the role were too "jaded" for the part: "Halle still had that freshness in herself. As soon as we cast her, we were really thinking in terms of how we can make this her Ariel."
Speaking to Variety about why she decided to audition for the role of Ariel, Halle previously said: “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. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. That reassurance was something that I needed."
The Little Mermaid debuts in cinemas worldwide on May 26th 2023.
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