The Little Mermaid director Rob Marshall has revealed the casting directors auditioned actresses of ‘every ethnicity’ before Halle Bailey was snapped up for the role.
The 22-year-old singer will make her big screen debut as Ariel in the live-action remake of the classic Disney movie, which is set for release next year.
It will follow the all-singing mermaid as she 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.
With Halle in the lead role, it’s the first time the world will see a black actress play the beloved character on-screen.
After the release of a short teaser trailer earlier this year, parents began sharing heartwarming reaction videos of their young Black children, mostly girls, seeing a Black Ariel for the first time. However, there was a group of racist trolls who began bombarding Halle with abuse for simply being cast in the role of the fictional character.
Addressing the decision to cast a Black actress, director Rob insisted there was ‘no agenda’.
‘We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end,’ the filmmaker told Entertainment Weekly.
‘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.’
Rob went on to praise Halle’s ‘ethereal’ and ‘beautiful’ voice, which mesmerised millions in the teaser trailer, and explained how it ‘captures the heart of [Prince] Eric’ who ‘looks for her the entire film’.
In the teaser, Halle is seen sitting on a rock with her green mermaid’s tail, purple shell top and flowing red locks, while belting out a snippet of Part Of Your World.
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.
A source recently revealed to Metro.co.uk that Disney bosses have already had talks with Halle about her reprising the role for a sequel, after seeing the overwhelmingly positive reaction to her trailer.
The response to the trailer alone gave Disney a positive indication that it had made the right choice,’ the told us.
‘It was the viral trend of little Black girls responding to Halle in particular that gave them no choice but to invite her back for a sequel. Internal projections for its opening weekend skyrocketed so Disney would like her to star in a range of sequels and derivative work.’
They added: ‘It’s almost impossible to tell how well a movie will do in today’s market because it’s so fragmented. The positive response Halle earned online told Disney all it needed to know.’