Little Mermaid Cast Take Us Under The Sea In Their Reimagined Fairytale

We all try and avoid it wherever we can, but Halle Bailey has given us a crash course on why we should answer calls from unknown numbers.

The Little Mermaid star said: “I was at an Airbnb, we’d celebrated my sister’s birthday the day before and I was getting back in work mode. A call was coming through from an unknown number, but I don’t answer unknown numbers – my baby brother kept bugging me to answer it, so I did, and on the other end of the phone was Rob (Marshall, director), who said “hello, I’m looking for Ariel?”

“That was my first reaction to getting this role. I was sobbing for the rest of the day.”

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Bailey is now receiving critical acclaim for her debut leading role in Disney’s live-action adaptation of their classic fairytale, which famously kicked off their animation renaissance back in 1989. It’s the end of a long journey which began five years ago, and having lived with Ariel for that amount of time, the character’s determination and optimism has rubbed off on the breakout actress.

She continued: “I tell people all the time that Ariel has truly helped me find myself. From 18 to 23, those are very intense, transformative years as you’re developing as a young woman.

“But when I look at what she had to go through with her passions and drive and speaking up for herself, I see that she always went for it, even though they were often scary. I feel like those are traits I really try to adopt and give to Halle now, so Ariel really has taught me so much.”

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Although the cast all stress this was one of the most fun projects they’d ever worked on, it wasn’t a shoot without its challenges. This was especially true for Bailey, who from her first day on set, had to climb into a water tank at Pinewood Studios and embody Ariel – which led to injuries as filming progressed.

“On one of Jonah’s (Hauer-King, Eric) first days on set, he was thrown in the tank with me. One of the first things we shot was me picking him up and saving him, in the middle of a rainstorm with a wave machine going; even though it’s just a tank at Pinewood, it’s still so intense.

“When they turn on the thunder and lightning and fires around us, it feels like you’re in the middle of the ocean during a thunderstorm. But I had to approach the scene with an “I’m a mermaid, I do this all the time” mentality.

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“Plus, Jonah’s so much taller than me, but I had to hold him up. And we kept laughing about these boots that he had to wear, because he kept sinking under because of how heavy they were – and he kept stepping on my toes, but Rob kept saying that he couldn’t take them off, so I was just dying in the water the whole time as he kept accidentally kicking me, whilst I was trying to look natural”.

As Hauer-King laughs, he “nearly killed” his co-star during that stretch of the shoot, but that wasn’t enough to tamper with their screen chemistry. The pair bonded during filming, which the actor believes helped create a new dynamic to this famous fairytale partnership.

He explained: “Their friendship is my favourite new addition to the story. Disney romances are always filled with that instinctive attraction to one another, which we all want to see, but I think what was fun about this was looking at Ariel and Eric as two people who were kindred spirits who felt a little bit restless – they were behind the four walls of their respective castles, and were very much looking outwards and not in.

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“And I think what was nice about that was that it meant that their relationship feels really earnt. They both felt like they were teaching each other things, and were excited and fascinated by each other’s worlds although they didn’t actually know it until the end.

“I think it’s a really good message for what it means to be in love and what it means to be in a relationship is ultimately tied to friendship. That’s the fundamental thing reason why it lasts, and that’s what makes it special.”

Another person who was drawn to Bailey during filming was the great Javier Bardem, here playing Ariel’s over-protective father King Triton. He found it easy to develop an authentic father-daughter relationship with his co-star immediately after meeting.

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He explained: “Right in the moment I met her, I just fell for her; she has this thing where you just can’t help but love her unconditionally. I was always mesmerised by the quality of her as a performer, let alone the singing which I already knew.

“As an actress, she is willing and courageous to go the places that her character goes to. It was amazing to see.”

With a much bulkier running time clocking in at 135 minutes, King Triton is given more depth than in the previous animation. This gave Bardem more responsibilities, as his character had to be a believable obstacle in his daughter’s life, which meant exploring more of his interior motivations.

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Bardem continued: “It’s about a man who is deeply in love as a father with his daughter, and he’s confused and has fear and insecurity within that love. He’s blocking her from her being free.

“One of the beautiful themes in the story is that the mother and the father learn from their kids the very important lesson of what love means. They thought they knew, but no, they didn’t have a glimpse of what real love is until they saw their own kids departing; they learn to respect other people’s journeys.”

If the movie really is as moving as Bardem puts it, expect to have more water in your eyes than any of the deep sea creatures here.

The Little Mermaid is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 26th May.

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Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder


Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.