Asian Actress Playing Ariel In ‘The Little Mermaid’ Responds To Racist Trolls

Asian Actress Playing Ariel In ‘The Little Mermaid’ Responds To Racist Trolls
10 months ago

A touring production of "The Little Mermaid" made things rough at sea over its casting of an Asian actress in the eponymous role.

And the question on most people's minds might be: Ariel is a mermaid. And she's a cartoon. Does it matter what color of scales you have?

Unfortunately, Japanese-born Diane Huey, who plays Ariel, was subject to spiteful comments on Facebook during a recent engagement in Memphis. Patrons were chafing at the discovery of their beloved character being portrayed by an Asian instead of a white actress. 

She responded to the trolling on Facebook by sharing her thoughts on the controversy. 

She started her post by elaborating on the challenges and responsibilities of being an actor. "It's never easy being up on a stage in front of thousands of people everyday baring your soul, pushing through exhaustion and just hoping that they'll like you," she said.  

"When you are in a show, much less as a pinnacle character of it, there's a huge fear that if the audience doesn't like you or isn't with you, that you are doing them a disservice or ruining the show for them."

Huey felt resistance from her Memphis audience, but after a visit to the city's National Civil Rights Museum to gain perspective, she found the strength to swim against the current. 

"For me personally with this show, I've often also felt the added pressure of feeling like I have to work even harder to get the audience to like me or be with me because I'm not what they might have expected to see as an Asian American actor."

When auditioning for the show, Huey assumed her chances of booking the role were slim because she was Asian American. "Looking back at that now, that thought makes me so sad," she said.

"No one should feel like they aren't enough because of the color of  their skin or the shape of their eyes or any factor outside of WHO THEY ARE."

"And as I go out on the road city to city as an Asian American playing Ariel, I hope that it will inspire the next person who is out there auditioning for something to believe that THEY can be cast in a role based on their work and their talents."

The good news is, she's already making a positive impact with the younger generation.

On a phone interview with the Buffalo News, the actress recalled an Asian audience member and her daughter stopping Huey after her performance in Nashville. 

"The mom pulled me aside and said, 'The second I saw that you were  playing Ariel, I just burst into tears for the sake of my daughter being able to see that.' " 

The inspiring encounter in a city with a small Asian demographic reminded the actress of the importance of diversity and equality. "If I have to take the brunt of it every now and again, I will."

The actress also received an outpouring of support, and she thanked her fans and friends who've stood by her during these trying times on Twitter.

Casting director, Glenn Casale didn't even think twice of any repercussions from his decision to cast Huey. She was simply the perfect fit. "She was a good actress, she was the right age, she sings it like nobody else. We probably saw 50 Ariels, and Diana really sang it the best," Casale said. 

Even the original Broadway Ariel tweeted her...what's the word? Support!

The resilient actress closed her Facebook post by accentuating the positive, writing, "I am so proud to be a part of this company and I am so proud to be an Asian American artist. I didn't by any means set out to try to be the face or voice of anything - but I am humbled to be fighting for a more loving and equal place in the arts and in this community."

Like Ariel, Diane Huey's optimism makes us want to be a part of her world.

And as for the racists slamming Huey for donning her fins, it needs to stop. Besides, aren't there bigger fish to fry?