Melissa McCarthy Confirms Her Ursula Was "100%" Inspired By Drag Queens
“There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her.”
Melissa McCarthy has starred in countless blockbuster dramas and comedies like Bridesmaids and Tammy, and now we’re about to see her shine once again in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid as Ursula. In a new interview ahead of the movie’s release, the actress and mom of two opened up about taking on the role of the iconic sea witch and confirmed that she was “100 percent” inspired by drag queens.
Ursula’s character in the original Little Mermaid was inspired by the late drag performer Divine and was described as the “Drag Queen of the Century” by People magazine in 1988. McCarthy, as she told Rolling Stone in 2017, used to perform as a drag queen in New York under the name Miss Y before her acting career took off and even dressed as Divine for Entertainment Weekly’s Comedy Issue in 2011. Needless to say, the actress’ love and appreciation for drag goes deep and the original inspiration carried on with the remake.
“There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her,” McCarthy told Entertainment Weekly earlier this month, adding that drag “100 percent” influenced her portrayal of Ursula. “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.”
So what can we expect from McCarthy’s take on Ursula? “She’s the villain, but there’s such an edge to her,” McCarthy told Entertainment Weekly. “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.’”
The Little Mermaid also stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Chef Louis, Javier Bardem as King Triton, and Awkwafina as Scuttle.
In addition to McCarthy’s edgy Ursula who maybe smokes a pack a day, Bailey said Ariel has also gotten some updates to show her more of her passions and personality. “For this version of the film, we have really been expounding upon what's already been there and it's been a joy,” Bailey told Insider. “You’ll see more of her going after her passions and what she wants for herself and her life as well as her love story, too. You get just a deeper dive into her brain, really.”
The Little Mermaid premieres in theaters on May 26.