The Little Mermaid: Introducing new Ariel actress Halle Bailey

If there's one thing that's going to bring a little joy to your life, it's a Disney musical – and there's a brand-new one coming to Cineworld cinemas next week (Friday May 26). Directed by Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns, Into the Woods), The Little Mermaid is a live-action adaptation of the animated classic that won so many hearts when it was released back in 1989.

You probably don't need us to remind you that the main character in this enduring tale is Ariel, the youngest daughter of Triton – leader of the subaquatic kingdom of Atlantica. Though mermaids are forbidden to surface above the water, Ariel comes to the rescue of a handsome prince after his ship is wrecked, causing tensions between her and her father. Determined to spend more time with her new companion, she makes a pact with the evil sea-witch Ursula, putting both herself and the kingdom of Atlantica in jeopardy.

For this new film, the part of Ariel is played by movie newcomer Halle Bailey – and a brilliant job she does, too. But who is this talented 23-year-old and how did she land this dream role? Read on to find out...



1. She's a pop star

If you think you recognise Halle, that might be because she's one half of a successful singing duo, Chloe x Halle, alongside her older sister Chloe. The pair have released two albums – The Kids Are Alright (2018) and Ungodly Hour (2020), and opened for pop queen Beyoncé on her 2016 Formation world tour. That'll be why she sounds so good crooning the songs in The Little Mermaid!

2. She was chosen for this role over lots of hopefuls

Ariel is one of the best-loved Disney princesses, so it's understandable that the film-makers wanted to find the right person to play her. The process was long and arduous, but director Rob Marshall reckons it was worth every second. "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," he said in a statement. "All intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role." 

3. She didn't think she'd get the part

The story goes that Marshall spotted Halle after she and her sister performed at the 2019 Grammy Awards. The youngster was invited to audition for the role of Ariel, and sang Part Of Your World in front of the director and his team. However, she later revealed that she didn't expect to get the thumbs-up. "I get so nervous," she told Vogue. "Bubble guts, everything. And I’m like, ‘I’ll probably never hear anything back again.'"

4. Playing Ariel ignited a new passion in her

As you might expect, filming scenes for The Little Mermaid involved spending time in the water – and Halle admits that she loved every minute of it. She told The Face: “I did diving training for the first time and discovered that I have a passion for it. We didn’t end up diving a lot during filming, but it’s harnessed this newfound love for being in water.”

5. During filming, she was in awe of meeting one person

As the lead actress in The Little Mermaid, Halle got to star alongside some very talented people, including Jonah Hauer-King (Eric), Javier Bardem (King Triton) and Awkwafina (the voice of Scuttle). But there was one person whose presence really blew her away – composer and eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken. “I mean, oh my gosh, he’s just a genius,” she told The Face. ​“I just remember looking at him like: ​‘This is really cool!’ I was really grateful for his feedback on my singing and him being open to this new version of Ariel."