“I feel like I’m dreaming and I’m just grateful and I don’t pay attention to the negativity,” she told Variety. “I just feel like this role was something bigger than me, and greater. It’s going to be beautiful. I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
This is the first time Hailey has publicly discussed criticism of her casting, although right after the news first broke, she told Keke Palmer that she was grateful and “still really in shock” over the opportunity.
Negative reactions to Bailey’s casting in fringe corners of the internet prompted the #NotMyAriel hashtag, as well as a Change.org petition in protest of Disney’s decision to choose a black actress to portray the role. However, many fans are celebrating Bailey for nabbing the role, as she has both the acting and singing experience to make Ariel come alive. She is part of the R&B duo Chloe x Halle with her sister Chloe Bailey, and they both appear on ABC’s Grown-ish.
Bailey’s also got some big names who are rooting for her, including Halle Berry, Zendaya, and of course, the actress who originally voiced Ariel in the 1989 animated movie.
“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart and their spirit is what really counts,” Jodi Benson said in July.
Directed by Rob Marshall, The Little Mermaid will also star Melissa McCarthy, Jacob Tremblay, and Awkwafina.