Actress Melissa McCarthy admitted that she embraced her inner drag queen to inspire her role as Ursula in “The Little Mermaid.”
It seems like fate that the “Nine Perfect Strangers” actress got the role, as she once dressed as Divine, the popular drag queen, for a photo shoot with Entertainment Weekly in 2011.
Composer Alan Menken, who has returned to write new music for the live-action adaption after scoring the original, admitted that he actually used Divine as inspiration for the character of Ursula.
Melissa McCarthy Embraced Her Inner Drag Queen To Play Ursula In ‘The Little Mermaid’
Many fans who watched the animated “The Little Mermaid” already know that Ursula, the sister of King Triton, is widely considered to be the “black sheep” of the family, at least according to producer John DeLuca.
“She’s been put in this lair. It’s like she’s had too many martinis alone. Her friends are eels,” McCarthy told Entertainment Weekly. “That is a woman who has seen it, been in it, dug her way back out. All my references are terrible, but I kept thinking, ‘Many a Pall Mall has this woman had.'”
Believe it or not, “The Heat” actress actually started her career in drag. Her drag persona was known as “Miss Y” and she used to perform around Manhattan Clubs while her career was still getting off the ground.
“I’m a huge, huge fan of drag shows and the whole art of it and the entertainment of it,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been going to shows since I was not supposed to be going to shows. There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her.”
Director Rob Marshall said that McCarthy was more than forthcoming about her past in drag during one of their first meetings. “I sat down with her to have a meeting, and the first thing she said to me, she goes, ‘You know my career started in drag,'” he recalled. “And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘Well, I had a character that I played and I was part of a drag show. That was really where I began before I stepped into comedy and acting.'”
McCarthy has called Ursula “everything I want in a character,” adding, “To keep the humor and the sadness and the edginess to Ursula is everything I want in a character — and frankly, everything I want in a drag queen.”
McCarthy Begged Director Rob Marshall To Play Ursula: ‘I Can Bring Snacks!’
Although the 52-year-old actress isn’t the best singer and admitted that it was the one thing that “scares me the most” about her new role, she admitted that she began to feel more confident when she stopped “trying to sing pretty and just sing in character.”
If anything, McCarthy recalls actually begging Marshall for the role when she learned that they were casting. “I literally was like, ‘Please, please, please! I’ll bring craft services. I make a great chicken salad, hummus. I can bring snacks,'” McCarthy recalled.
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“I don’t know what lunacy went through my head, because I’m not known as a singer, but I just have always been so strangely in love with Ursula that I thought I can try and lose, but if I don’t at least try for it, I’ll regret it forever,” she added.
Marshall called her performance “astonishing,” adding, “”I have to say, when you see her in this, you will not believe it because it’s unlike anything she’s ever done. It’s really astonishing. Of course she’s funny and wild, but there’s such depth to what she’s doing as an actor.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda Tells Fans That Melissa McCarthy Brings The ‘Camp’ To ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’
Along with her performance of “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” which featured a slight lyrics change from the original, McCarthy admitted that she had fun playing around with the depths of Ursula’s isolation.
“Something that I found really fun was, which of the lines — either talking or singing — is Ursula just muttering to herself?” McCarthy asked. “She’s been isolated a long time, so it was fun to play around with which ones are her talking to her friends, which ones are her arguing with herself, and then which ones are actually intentionally outward to Ariel? The concept of that suddenly seemed really fun.”
Although composer Lin-Manuel Miranda has widely praised Halle Bailey’s musical performance as Ariel, he admitted, “No one’s ready for Melissa McCarthy,” adding, “She brings all of the delicious camp from the original, but then also is just scary. If that’s your favorite song, you’re going to be happy.”
“The Little Mermaid” hits theaters on May 26.