While Halle Bailey’s role as Ariel in Disney's upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid may have caused outcry from some fans, her Grown-ish co-star Yara Shahidi believes the casting is “redefining” the world of fairy tales and what it means to be a princess.
Shahidi stopped by ET’s suite at Comic-Con in San Diego, California, on Saturday and gushed to Kevin Frazier about why Bailey, who is also one half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle with her sister Chloe, is so perfect for the role.
“One, she is Ariel,” Shahidi said. “Like, if you know her, she is the most ethereal voice. And Chloe x Halle are two powerful young women. I don’t know other people who produce and write their own music, that are so involved in their process, that take their art so seriously and have such a great message.”
“So to see Halle in this role, it redefines what it means to be a princess, and I think she does maintain all of those classic traits of Ariel while still bringing that sense of confidence and empowerment,” Shahidi continued.
Given that some of the outcry about 19-year-old Bailey’s casting has focused on physical differences between her and the character in the 1989 animated The Little Mermaid, Shahidi noted that such details shouldn’t matter.
“It’s really about the essence of the character, and I think that’s what she maintains beautifully,” said the 19-year-old actress, who plays Zoey on ABC’s Grown-ish. “When you hear her voice, everything about it [is perfect]. I’m excited for a group of young people to grow up with her as Ariel. I know what it did for me when I saw The Princess and the Frog, and so she’s redefining the landscape.”
Bailey’s casting was announced earlier in July, with director Rob Marshall explaining why she was perfect for the role in a statement.
"After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance -- plus a glorious singing voice -- all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role," Marshall said.
After some took to social media to complain that Bailey’s race and physical appearance made her unsuitable for the role, Disney's Freeform jumped to her defense.
"Yes. The original author of The Little Mermaid was Danish. Ariel...is a mermaid. She lives in an underwater kingdom in international waters and can legit swim wherever she wants (even though that often upsets King Triton, absolute zaddy)," their post stated. "But for the sake of argument, let's say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black. Ariel can sneak up to the surface at any time with her pals Scuttle and the *ahem* Jamaican crab Sebastian (sorry, Flounder!) and keep that bronze base tight. Black Danish people, and this mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair."
The film will feature songs from the animated original by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as new music by Menken and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is also a producer on the project.
Meanwhile, ET recently learned that One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles is in talks to play Prince Eric in the film, which is set to begin production in 2020.
See more on the film below.