In light of the backlash to Disney’s race-swapping of Ariel for their upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, director Rob Marshall has adamantly denied that there was any sort of “agenda” behind the casting of Halle Bailey as the traditionally fair-skinned princess.
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Marshall, whose previous directorial credits include Chicago (2002), Memoirs of a Geisha, and Mary Poppins Returns, offered his side of the story while speaking with Entertainment Weekly about The Little Mermaid‘s development.
The director first broached the subject of Ariel’s race after being asked by outlet reporter Nick Romano how he felt seeing the numerous social media posts featuring young black kids expressing excitement at seeing the role being played by a black woman rather than a white one.
“I wasn’t anticipating that because, in a way, I felt like we’ve moved so far past that kind of thing, but then you realize, in a way we haven’t,” replied Marshall. “It was very moving to me to see how important this kind of casting is for the world.”
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However, despite the “importance” with which he views Bailey’s casting as Ariel, the director then attempted to assure Romano and his readers that there was “no agenda” behind Disney’s asking the actress to be a part of The Little Mermaid‘s world.
“We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period,” declared Marshall. “The end.”
“We saw everybody and every ethnicity,” he added, maintaining that the only goals he and his fellow members of the film’s production team had during the casting process was to find someone who could act “incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever,” and deliver such a performance with “a great deal of fire and joy.”
“Halle still had that freshness in herself,” concluded Marshall. “As soon as we cast her, we were really thinking in terms of how we can make this her Ariel.”
As of writing, Halle’s murky, hard-to-see, CGI-heavy debut as Ariel is currently on track to crash into theaters on May 26th, 2023.
NEXT: Disney’s Live-Action ‘The Little Mermaid’ Star Halle Bailey Responds To Race-Swap Criticisms: “The Reassurance That Little Girls Just Like Me Should Be Princesses Was Something I Needed As A Kid”