Halle Bailey Shares How Filming 'The Little Mermaid' Helped Her Relate to Ariel: 'I Felt Stripped Bare'

The star opened up for the cover of 'V Magazine,' sharing what she learned on from her 'life-changing' performance.

While the story of The Little Mermaid is a universal one, it became far more personal for Halle Bailey when she began filming the live-action reimagining in 2020. In an intimate interview for V Magazine's May issue, the 23-year-old opens up about how playing Disney's beloved mythical princess helped her embrace change and realize just how much she has in common with her character.

An artist that has always seen herself as a musician first, Bailey explains that landing the role of Ariel was an unforeseen "blessing" that began "opening something new" within her. A formerly homeschooled artist that performed all around the world with her family, the singer shares that she was "always surrounded by people to hold me, to carry me," so the experience of tackling such a daunting role alone was jarring for her.

"I found that a lot of my time in London was that I was feeling the exact way Ariel was feeling in the beginning of the story. It was my first time away from home... I lived in my parents' home up until two years ago, and so I grew up always having people around, especially my siblings to guide me," Bailey says, adding that she had gotten used to having her sister and musical partner, Chloë Bailey, "who's like a second mom to me," always by her side.

"She has always been there in my personal life and my career, holding my hand and guiding me through every step of life. So this was the first project that I did by myself," she adds. "When I found out I was cast, it was this shock of suddenly finding out that I'd have to move to London -- and then the pandemic happened. So suddenly I found myself in London isolated by myself, the borders were closed, the world was shut down, and my family couldn't even come visit me."

But rather than wallow in despair, Bailey says she took the opportunity as a chance to explore who she is on her own. "I felt stripped bare and I had to find that strength within myself. But, I believed in myself and that there was something greater for me -- something greater on the other side of fear and the unknown," she says, explaining that she soon realized how she could apply that sense of wonder and desire to explore to her depiction of Ariel.

"I was glad that it was happening that way because it was almost like somebody showing me exactly how she felt and what she was going through, because I was going through it as well," she shares. "I honestly can say wholeheartedly that when I first started filming, I don’t think I knew my strength completely as an individual, as a young woman venturing out on her own, because I never got to do the college experience... I remember at the end of filming, I felt like a completely different person. Even watching the little teaser and trailers come out, I look at them and I’m like, 'Wow, do I know her anymore?' Like to me, that’s a different girl."

The actress credits co-star Melissa McCarthy for helping her come out of her shell, praising the longtime star for her "commanding" presence on set. "I just remember looking at her and being like, 'You can do that, too!" Bailey recalls. "I just had this epiphany moment, and slowly started coming out of my own shell. I started owning my power and knowing that I, as a woman, have that is a really beautiful thing. And I remember seeing that from her."

Bailey shared similar sentiments about her co-star when ET spoke with her on the red carpet of the Kids' Choice Awards, where she teased McCarthy's dramatic transformation into the iconic sea witch, Ursula.

"People are gonna be so amazed [by] her job [playing] Ursula," the singer shared. "First of all, she's a beautiful human being, so talented, and the way she just consumes Ursula is so beautiful. I'm just so proud of her and I can't wait for people to see it."

Bailey said that McCarthy's natural warmth added a layer of nuance to her wickedness in the film. "She has this very kind of maternal trickiness to her when it comes to tricking Ariel in the film, so I got to be consumed in her world and falling into her spell," she explained. "It wasn't so much like mean, mean. It was like [Ariel] looking for a maternal figure."

The Little Mermaid premieres in theaters on May 26.