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Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy on Becoming Iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ Characters and the Logistics of Ursula’s Tentacles



Hollywood Boulevard was taken under the sea on Monday for the long-awaited world premiere of The Little Mermaid.

“I feel honored to be here today, I’m so grateful that everybody’s going to be able to watch it all together and I just can’t wait honestly,” Halle Bailey, who takes on the iconic role of Ariel in Disney’s live-action adaptation. , told reporters on the red carpet.

To become a mermaid, Bailey went through three months of training and rehearsals ahead of shooting, though she admitted that the hardest part of that process “was just mentally and physically being away from my sister. [Chloe Bailey], who’s my best friend. But other than that it was a just a lot of strength training.”

Melissa McCarthy, who transforms into sea witch Ursula, also spoke to The News84Media about that intensive rehearsal process, which involved five weeks of her practicing with her tentacles.

Director Rob Marshall “had eight dancers around me and each dancer had an eight-foot long tentacle with suction cups and they had them on poles, so as I would float across or go up into the air there were people with me doing my tentacles, McCarthy explained. “I was like, ‘Are we going to do this every day?’ And he goes, ‘I want you to know the space you take up,’ he’s like, ‘I want you to know when someone comes in that you’re 20 feet high looking down.’”

“I have to say, getting to do that, especially when you’re filming in such a virtual world that you don’t always see, to have the tactical and practical for all of those weeks of rehearsal — we all talked about it, what a difference it made,” she continued. “We were like, ‘We really do know what the world looks and feels like.’”

In becoming the iconic villain, McCarthy has noted that she took inspiration from drag queens, joking on the carpet that it goes beyond. The Little Mermaid to “all of my roles, I’ve been stealing from drag queens for years.”

“There’s something about Ursula, it’s that irreverent humor, it’s that bite, it’s her vulnerability, it’s her hurt, it’s how you cover, like what is your armor. I think Ursula it’s her makeup, it’s her stance, her posture, her acerbic wit,” the star said. “I think that’s what drag does so well and I think we’ve been doing it since the beginning of time so I certainly don’t want to stop now.”

McCarthy also weighed in on the decision to update both “Kiss the Girl” and her song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” to make them more appropriate for 2023, saying, “You can love something and realize it can need a little zhuzh or need to come into the modern world. I think it’s great, especially we had the fella who wrote it and he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So if [composer] Alan Menken says it’s OK, it’s OK,” as Menken worked on both the original and the new film.

Javier Bardem, who plays King Triton in the adaptation, teased that his and Bailey’s mermaid training were a bit different, as she was much more of a natural. “I’m a big guy, she’s a mermaid,” he joked. “When you see her moving on the set like she won’t need anything, any of that. Me, try to move this thing, it takes a lot of work and a lot of people.” He added that the real-life mermaid tail was only worn on occasion when learning the depth and distance between each other, “but most of the time no, I was wearing just some pants.”

Bardem also spoke about his relationship with Bailey on the film as it focuses on the relationship of father and daughter and “his journey to understand that true love really is about letting the other person be free, to be on his own or her own. I think the movie goes deeper than the original in that. For me with Halle it was instant, I met her and it was like there’s nothing we have to build, I adore you already because she’s like an angel and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. And she felt comfortable with me and we just played the scenes.”

Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Ariel’s love interest Prince Eric, had a similarly close relationship with Bailey, noting, “She was immediately one of my best friends. She looked after me the whole way through, she was kind, she was supportive.” Comparing it to the massive world premiere red carpet, he said, “It was the same on set. It was the full Disney works, so stepping onto a set like that was thrilling but quite intimidating as well, so she just looked out for me. She always held my hand, literally and metaphorically, and I was very grateful for her.”

The Little Mermaid splashes into theaters on May 26.

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