Halle Bailey On How Playing Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’ Changed Her (Exclusive)
Halle Bailey is living her dreams!
The 23-year-old, who stars in Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid,” recently sat down with “Extra’s” Rachel Lindsay to dish all about what it was like to bring this iconic character to life — a journey Halle says changed her as a young woman.
“The beautiful thing about this is I feel like Ariel has taught me so much about myself as Halle,” she said.
Having first auditioned for the role at 18, she said, “I think that the years that I've been doing this film are very transformative years. As a young woman you're still finding yourself, I'm still finding out who I am every single day. And these values, these characteristics of her that are strong, passionate, such drive that she has her not being afraid, I really feel like I truly tried to adopt some of those values. I feel like when we wrapped, I truly felt like those stuck with me. I was a different person than I was when I started filming on the first day, so she's truly taught me a lot about who I am and what I can be if only I just go try and work hard.”
When asked what makes Ariel so beloved, Halle says it’s her vulnerability that connects her with people.
“I think it's her openness and her honesty about struggling with maybe feeling out of place, which I think we all can relate to. Feeling like she doesn't belong and everyone has felt like that at some point,” Halle explained.
“Watching her conquer her fears and go through this journey of ‘I feel this way but I know what I want for myself in my life and I'm gonna go after it’ and watching her come out on top is what resonated with all of us when we were smaller and even still resonates with us. It’s that hope that we all have for ourselves and our lives. I think it’s one of the things as to why we're so enamored by her.”
Halle, who is part of the R&B duo, Chloe x Halle, also shared with “Extra” how getting to sing in the movie was something she especially enjoyed.
“The music was so exciting for me because I consider myself a musician and artist first. I was so excited to sing these songs that have been the soundtrack to my childhood for a very long time.”
Halle went on to note how special it was to work with Disney’s Grammy-winning composer Alan Menken.
“I was honestly fangirling being in the room with Alan Menken, the original composer of this film and so many amazing Disney scores. To be able to get his stamp of approval and have him cry at hearing me sing the song that he's heard a million times — it's like very surreal. I was just grateful that I was able to bring my own Flair to the songs,” added Halle.
Something else Halle loved was working with co-star, Melissa McCarthy, from whose very presence she says she learned so much.
“I was just so like struck by her power and her strength and her regalness. I remember watching her just command the set,” Halle said. “She's so kind; she's such a genuine person, but she also knows her worth and she knows how to speak up. Watching her communicate her needs was like wow! I've been a fan of her for a very long time but watching her be just everything a woman can be: all the layers to — you are so beautiful, you can be genuine and kind but also strong and stand in your power.”
Disney’s live-action films, which have included remakes of “Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” have gone on to have smashing success at the box office. “Aladdin,” which was released in May 2019, grossed over $1 billion worldwide.
“It truly means the world to me to be in this position I am. It’s just overwhelmingly big. I’m just so grateful.”
Playing a Disney princess comes with getting your own doll and becoming cemented into Disney history, which Halle is still getting used to.
“People ask me and I'm like I'm still wrapping my head around the fact of this. But to be able to see the reactions of these babies and see that it's impacting this generation makes me cry and feel like I'm in the right place. God has done this for a reason.”