In the latest of Variety’s popular “Actors On Actors” installments, actresses Rachel Zegler and Halle Bailey sat down to discuss the early career boom they both experienced in the past year. Zegler starred in “The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes” as Lucy Gray Baird, and was also cast as the titular Snow White in Disney’s live-action remake of the iconic story. Bailey starred as Ariel in Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid,” and will soon appear in Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple.”
While both actresses widely received praise for their performances in these high profile projects from both critics and audiences alike, they both fell victim to a barrage of online vitriol for a number of reasons. Bailey is the first Black actress to portray Ariel onscreen, who originally appeared white with red hair in the 1989 Disney cartoon. For months, conservative media personalities and far-right commentators bashed the adaptation with racist language. The film’s production team has long defended its casting choice, recognizing that the characters’ ethnicity was ambiguous, and that representation matters. Director Rob Marshall reiterated that he did not think that casting Bailey should have been made into “a big deal” by critics.
On Zegler’s end, the singer and actress was met with widespread criticism over a red carpet interview she gave regarding the contemporary retelling of “Snow White.” The actress frequently alluded to several major plot changes in her upcoming iteration of the beloved princess tale. Disney’s original “Snow White” was first released in 1937.
The film served as Disney’s first ever technicolor film, and has already had two live-action redos in the 2010s, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and The Huntsman”. In the original film’s plot, loosely pulled from the original tale from The Brothers Grimm, an innocent Snow White has a target on her head from her evil stepmother who is envious of her beauty. The princess runs away and hides out with seven friendly dwarves, until the Queen disguises herself and poisons Snow White with an apple that puts her into a coma. The coma can only be broken by the kiss of a prince.
The plot laid the groundwork for numerous similar fairytales. A viral clip of Zegler insinuating that her Snow White portrayal will not be saved by a prince due to this archaic story trope found viral attention and heated commentary. In the video, Zegler says that it is “not 1937”, and costar Gal Gadot quips that she will “not be saved by a prince.”
Snow White’s Rachel Zegler feels The Prince in the original is a creepy stalker
The Princesses Of The Plot
“Actors on Actors” pairs together actors from films and television shows that sparked cultural commentary and critical recognition, encouraging them to discuss their experiences in a unique manner rather than a traditional interview. Zegler and Bailey, both singers and actresses just a year a part in age, found kinship in both their Disney princess roles and public scrutiny. Zegler will soon be the first Latina actress to take up the role of Snow White, and as she returns to filming that was delayed by the SAG-AFTRA strike, Bailey offered words of wisdom regarding how much her younger self would be proud of where she is today.
“That little girl is still in you, and she's so proud of you.”
Halle Bailey and Rachel Zegler tear up as they discuss how, as a child, Zegler once dressed up as Snow White — and is now playing the character in Disney's live-action film. #ActorsOnActors https://t.co/anCpFtPCw2 pic.twitter.com/nFI4cONdWX
— Variety (@Variety) December 7, 2023
Fans of the actresses felt happy to see Zegler and Bailey healing after the online firestorm that surrounded them this year.
it's so beautiful that these two are able to express their emotions regarding their historic castings ♥️
— sam 🔫⚡️🕊️🍎🪄 (@zeglerian) December 7, 2023
On the public scrutiny they both received, Zegler reiterated the importance of compartmentalizing constructive criticism and internet hatred. Bailey praised the way that Zegler coped with the situation.
Rachel Zegler on facing online hate: “As much as you’d like to remind people verbally that being in the spotlight doesn’t absolve you of your humanity…it doesn’t necessarily do what you want it to do, and it fuels them more.” #ActorsOnActors https://t.co/anCpFtP4Gu pic.twitter.com/j2fKBLq5J7
— Variety (@Variety) December 7, 2023
Bailey’s latest project “The Color Purple” drops Dec. 25, while Zegler’s role in “Snow White” is expected to hit the big screen in 2025.