Rolling Out

Mykal-Michelle Harris elevates ‘Ariel’ to a whole new world

Emmy-winning actress breathes new life into beloved Disney character for fans
DISNEY JR.’S ARIEL - "Disney Jr.’s Ariel” stars Mykal-Michelle Harris as Ariel. (Disney/Nathalie Gordon)

As Emmy Award-winning actress Mykal-Michelle Harris gracefully enters the Frank G. Wells screening room at the iconic Disney Lot in Burbank, California, it is impossible not to notice the youthful energy and poised professionalism that emanate from her. Alongside Harris, her mother and coach, Kimberly J. Harris, stands in quiet support as they prepare to debut her new series “Disney Junior’s Ariel,” participate in a Q-and-A session before a live audience, and engage with the 50 guests to support the show. The anticipation in the room is palpable as Mykal-Michelle gets ready to watch her highly anticipated animated show with an audience for the first time. The air is filled with excitement and curiosity; however, Harris is as poised as ever. She seems eager to see how this latest generation will enjoy Ariel’s charisma and the time she invested into carving out the role and making it her own.

Harris smiles as representatives from Disney brief her on the schedule. Meanwhile, her mother remains within arm’s reach, diligently capturing candid behind-the-scenes moments for her social media and ensuring Harris feels safe, secure and well-prepared.

Harris’ journey didn’t start with “Disney Junior’s Ariel.” This opportunity marks the next step in a career that has included multiple leading roles and an Emmy win. She previously had leading roles on “Mixed-ish,” alongside Tika Sumpter and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and on “Raven’s Home,” the series that ultimately earned her an Emmy. At only 12 years old, she has landed more major leading roles than most adult actors. These opportunities speak to her unwavering dedication to her craft. This dedication led to her success and has inspired those around her.

“When I tell my non-industry friends, they can’t fully understand,” she says during her interview with rolling out. “It’s something, for a lot of people, that’s so out there. It’s so strange. It’s not something you would think about as a job [or] career. I am so blessed to be able to do this full time.”

In the highly anticipated premiere of “Disney Junior’s Ariel,” Harris is set to breathe new life into one of Disney’s most beloved princesses. The show’s innovative and contemporary approach to the iconic character promises to engage a new generation of Ariel fans while imparting timeless life lessons.

“There are so many good themes,” Harris adds. “There is friendship — indulge in the destination but also the journey of getting there. There are so many incredible lessons.”

Not to mention, there is an entirely brand-new catalog of music where Harris gets to put her singing voice to the test without being compared to other renditions of the most popular songs from the original film.

“Every episode, there is a new original song, and it’s not like ‘Part of Your World,’ or ‘Under The Sea,’ the stuff we’ve heard before,” says Harris. “[There are] brand-new songs, and they’re all so good.”

Mykal-Michelle Harris elevates 'Ariel' to a whole new world
DISNEY JUNIORÕS ARIEL – “The Endless Sleepover/Daddy Daughter Dinner” (Disney)

In the animated series, the focus shifts from Ariel and her individual wants to the dynamic and important friendship shared between Harris and her fellow 8-year-old mer-friends Fernie (Cruz Flateau) and Lucia (Elizabeth Phoenix Caro) as they navigate many adventures.

“Ariel inspired me for sure. She is an incredible character. I also do the same, bringing my friend into adventures and things of that sort. Not as much as Ariel, but things of that sort,” Harris reveals.

As Ariel’s adventures can pull her into harm’s way if she’s not cautious, her devoted father, King Triton, looks on, protecting her and providing resources in each episode.

Although the show has all the significant elements one expects from the Disney machine, Harris connects everything. Her name will be a part of our world forever, whether for her ease in front of the camera or her adventurous spirit; MMH is built to last.

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