Halle Bailey spent most of her time up in the air instead of under the sea while filming “The Little Mermaid.” In a recent interview with Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos on “Live With Kelly and Mark,” Bailey shared more about the intense workout routine she had to maintain to prepare for her role as Princess Ariel.
“When I was filming, I was in the best shape of my life.”
“I went through a lot of mermaid training because I spent a lot of time on what you call a blue screen,” Bailey told Ripa and Consuelos on May 18. “So I would be in a harness and wires, basically, suspended in the air, and I would have to simulate the swimming motion.” Bailey’s mermaid training did eventually take her to the water, though. “I was in the water for about half of filming as well, so it was a mixture of both. All of the water scenes that you see — the shipwreck, me saving Jonah [Hauer-King] — all of that was in a tank and that was so much fun. It was warm — thank goodness — because I hate being cold. I hate cold water.”
While the training was strenuous, there was one benefit to the early morning wake-up calls and structured fitness routine, according to Bailey. “When I was filming, I was in the best shape of my life,” she said. “It was like, intense, every day, 4 a.m. gym, then stunts, then get in the water; it was, like, a lot.”
In a Q&A video posted to her YouTube channel in September, the singer and actor answered fan questions, elaborating on the “intense physical training” and behind-the-scenes acrobatics she executed daily.
“I was in intense physical training for three months, and then every single day I’d either be up on wires and a harness or I’d be in the water all day,” Bailey said in response to a question asking what the hardest part of playing Ariel was. “It was super exciting but my body was like — that was probably the hardest [part], and the most in shape I’ve ever been in my life. That was the toughest part, I think — having to be that strong.”
In the trailer for the upcoming live-action Disney film, Bailey can be seen navigating the ocean waters with a brilliant, iridescent tail, performing elaborate twirls and gracefully swimming through her secret grotto. Take away the CGI and green-screen effects, and countless wires are involved to bring the magical, undersea moments to life — plus some major ab strength. To soar through the air with the grace of a mermaid — and no sea water to offer any buoyancy — takes a lot of strength, and we have no doubt that months of filming as a half-human, half-fish would be a serious workout.
While training was strenuous, Bailey had fun during filming, especially when it came to scenes in the water tank. “Filming underwater was so much fun, but it was kind of brief, honestly, because most of the time I was on wires and in the air, and in kind of what they call a tuning fork, where I would swim in the air,” she said. “It kind of simulated being in Ariel’s grotto, so that’s kind of where I spent most of my time, but for the times I would be underwater, it was crazy. I was in this huge water tank and they had this wave machine that would go. I can’t wait until you guys actually see it so you know what I’m talking about, but it felt like I was in the middle of the ocean.”
Above, watch Bailey discuss what it was like to film as Ariel, how she coped with being away from her sister, Chlöe, for nine months while shooting, and her plans to release new music.