Donald Glover is gearing up for the upcoming release of The Lion King, in which he voices Simba. But, at the premiere in Los Angeles on Tuesday, he had another classic animated Disney movie on his mind. The American actor spoke to E! News about the recent controversy over Halle Bailey’s casting in Disney’s upcoming The Little Mermaid remake.
“I thought that was so special,” Glover said. “We were just watching that film and I’m like, that’s such a great story but I’m just like, I dunno, I just hope that she’s like having fun and don’t let anybody make you feel the opposite of how you want to feel. It’s a very special role and you earned it, so I hope you’re listening.”
Bailey, who also attended the premiere on Tuesday, has received backlash on social media from angry commenters who want a white, red-haired Ariel like in the 1989 Disney cartoon. The Grown-ish actor and Chloe X Halle member hasn’t responded to the backlash but that hasn’t stopped others from chiming in.
On their Instagram page, Freeform, a TV channel owned by Disney, posted a note to “Poor, Unfortunate Souls,” saying, “Ariel is…a mermaid.”
The post went on to say that Ariel lives in international waters but even if she was Danish—the author of the original Little Mermaid story was Danish author Hans Christian Andersen—Danes can be black and have red hair. They continued by saying Bailey’s casting was “inspired” and calling her beautiful and talented.
lion king premiere last night ???? ...we cried like babies ???????? pic.twitter.com/AGPMnVBl53— chloe x halle (@chloexhalle) July 11, 2019
Actress Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the 1989 film, also spoke up for Bailey. Speaking on a panel at a convention in Florida last week that was uploaded on Instagram, Benson said regardless of color, nationality, or appearance, the most important thing is telling the story.
“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.”
Bailey’s casting marks the first time the Ariel character will be played by an African American actress. Disney hasn’t set a release date for the film, but it is expected sometime in 2020. Other actors in contention to star alongside Bailey are Melissa McCarthy as the villainous Ursula, Jacob Tremblay (Room) as Ariel’s sidekick Flounder, and Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) as the seagull Scuttle.
There’s no word on who will play Prince Eric or King Triton, but according to Entertainment Weekly, Terry Crews stated he was hoping for the role after he reposted fan art depicting him as Ariel’s father.