'Little Mermaid' star Halle Bailey addresses racist casting backlash: 'I don't pay attention to the negativity'

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
'Little Mermaid' star Halle Bailey addresses racist casting backlash: 'I don't pay attention to the negativity'

Halle Bailey, who was cast at Ariel in Disney's upcoming live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, is looking for positive vibes only.

Asked about the casting backlash after it was announced she nabbed the film role — racist trolls made comments about a black actress playing Ariel, a character that was white in Disney’s animated version — Bailey, 19, told Variety she blocking out any hate.

Halle Bailey at Variety's Power of Young Hollywood event on August 6. (Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

“I feel like I’m dreaming and I’m just grateful and I don’t pay attention to the negativity,” she replied. “I just feel like this role is something bigger than me — greater — and it’s going to be beautiful. I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”

At the same event, she told Entertainment Tonight that landing the role “means so much” to her. “Ariel was one of my favorite princesses growing up so it's a dream come true. I'm very excited and happy."

Her classy response to the backlash was applauded on social media, where she was reminded that she has “more support than ... haters.”

Bailey has had support throughout the outcry. Jodi Benson, the original actress who voiced Ariel in the 1989 animated film, said, “I think the most important thing is to tell the story. We have, as a family, raised our children and for ourselves that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside. I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters ... And no matter what we look like on the outside, no matter our race, our nation, the color of our skin, our dialect, whether I’m tall or thin, whether I’m overweight or underweight, or my hair is whatever color, we really need to tell the story.”

Sierra Boggess, who originated the role of Ariel in the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid, also came to the singer’s defense.

Next up is finding out who Bailey’s co-stars in the film will be. ET asked who she thought should play Prince Eric — Harry Styles was reported “in talks” for the role — and Bailey replied, "I think that anyone would be great for it.”

She also addressed fans campaigning for Idris Elba to play Ariel’s father, King Triton. "I mean he's awesome,” was her reply.

This week, Melissa McCarthy hinted she will be Ursula.

Before this film musical even hits screens, there will be more Mermaid coming. ABC announced The Little Mermaid Live — a live stage version based on the Broadway musical adaptation — will air on the TV network Nov. 5. It is also more representative ethically with Auli'I Cravalho as Ariel, Queen Latifah as Ursula and Shaggy as Sebastian.

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