Melissa McCarthy Reveals Her Ursula Inspirations: ‘It’s Like She’s Had Too Many Martinis Alone’

"There's a drag queen that lives in me," McCarthy said. "I'm always right on the verge of going full-time with her.”
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 13: Melissa McCarthy attends the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on March 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
Melissa McCarthy
Getty Images for Critics Choice

Rob Marshall’s upcoming reimagining of “The Little Mermaid” seems well-positioned to be one of the biggest live action Disney remakes in years. From Halle Bailey’s jaw-dropping rendition of “Part of Your World” to the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda teamed up with Alan Menken to write new music, Disney fans have been given plenty of reasons to be excited about the film.

Of course, another big selling point is the inspired casting of Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, McCarthy explained that her approach to playing the famously campy villainess was shaped by her lifelong interest in drag as an art form.

“She’s the villain, but there’s such an edge to her,” McCarthy said of Ursula. “She’s been put in this lair. It’s like she’s had too many martinis alone. Her friends are eels. 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.'”

McCarthy said that she saw the opportunity to play Ursula as the culmination of a lifetime of drag-inspired performance, dating back to her early days performing in New York clubs under the drag name Miss Y.

“There’s a drag queen that lives in me,” McCarthy said. “I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her… 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.”

In addition to McCarthy, “The Little Mermaid” stars Halle Bailey, Javier Bardem, Daveed Diggs, and Jonah Hauer-King. The film’s official synopsis reads: “‘The Little Mermaid’ is the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea and, while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land but ultimately places her life – and her father’s crown – in jeopardy.”

“The Little Mermaid” opens in theaters on Friday, May 26. 

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