The director told British Vogue in an article published Monday that Bailey was the first actor to audition for the role of Ariel in Disney’s new live-action remake and that her performance made him emotional.
“She came in, and she sang ‘Part of Your World,’” he said. “And by the end of it, I was crying. I couldn’t believe the depth and the truth and the simplicity and passion she brought to the song. It was just so moving.”
Marshall continued to praise Bailey’s work on the film, saying that as an actor, she “understood nuance, she understood truth and she showed all of those wonderful colors that Ariel needs.”
He added that “hundreds of other people” had auditioned for the role in the film, which is set to hit theaters on May 26, but that “the bar had already been set” with Bailey.
“And no one ever surpassed that bar,” he said.
Marshall told the publication that Bailey first caught his eye when she performed Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack’s “Where is the Love” at the 2019 Grammys with her sister, Chlöe Bailey.
“‘She looks like an angel,’” the director recalled saying at the time.
Disney released Bailey’s rendition of “Part of Your World” and a new teaser for the film on Wednesday.
Bailey has opened up about the importance of her upcoming role on several occasions.
Despite enduring racist backlash online as a Black woman playing the iconic Disney princess, the singer has focused on the significance of her casting.
“It just makes me cry,” the actor said. “The fact that all these little Black and Brown babies are going to be able to feel like they’re being represented is really special to me. I know that if I had that when I was younger, it would have changed a whole lot for me and my perspective on who I am as an individual.”
Last month, Bailey was captured in a video sharing a sweet moment with a young “Little Mermaid” fan at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Bailey can be seen in a video clip posted online holding the little girl, who hugs the actor tightly. Someone out of the frame can be heard saying, “Ariel’s her favorite.”