The Little Mermaid Director Didn't Expect Backlash to Halle Bailey's Casting

Next year, audiences will get to experience The Little Mermaid, the highly-anticipated live-action adaptation of the Disney classic. The film has dominated components of the pop culture conversation almost from the jump, from its teaser trailer earlier this year to the very casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel. While many have immediately embraced the idea of Bailey portraying the iconic character, there was some backlash to the idea of casting a Black actress in the role — something that the film's director, Rob Marshall, was surprised by.

"I wasn't anticipating that because, in a way, I felt like we've moved so far past that kind of thing," Marshall explained in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, "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."

Marshall reiterated that there ws "no agenda" when casting the role, saying, "We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end. We saw everybody and every ethnicity. [We were looking for someone who was] incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever [and had] a great deal of fire and joy."

"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," Marshall added.

Who does Halle Bailey play in The Little Mermaid?

The Little Mermaid will star Bailey as Ariel, a young mermaid makes a deal with a sea witch, to trade her beautiful voice for human legs so she can discover the world above water and impress a prince. The film will be directed by Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns), with a script from David Magee and Jane Goldman. The film is expected to feature original songs from the 1989 animated blockbuster, as well as new tracks composed by Alan Menken and Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda.

"This movie means so much to me, since I was a little girl," Bailey told during D23 Expo. "I think, approaching this role, I said to myself, 'I can only try my hardest and make myself proud. If I make the little girl inside me happy, then I know I did a good job and I know I'm doing my best.' I just gave it my all, and I hope people can take something away from it."

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