Melissa McCarthy: Ursula was inspired by Drag Queens

“I have a drag queen in me,” McCarthy said. “I’m always looking to go full-time with him.”

Rob Marshall’s upcoming reimagining of “The Little Mermaid” looks to be well positioned to be one of the biggest live-action Disney remakes in years. From Halle Bailey’s performance of “Part of Your World” to the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda has written new music with Alan Menken, Disney fans have had 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 him Entertainment WeeklyMcCarthy explained that his approach to playing the famously camp villain was shaped by his lifelong interest in drag as an art form.

“She’s the villain, but she has a big edge,” McCarthy said of Ursula. “He got into this lair.” Like he drank too many martinis alone. His friends are eels. This is a woman who saw it, was in it, dug the way. All my references are terrible, but I kept thinking, ‘This woman has lived in many Pall Malls.'”

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

“I have a drag queen in me,” McCarthy said. “I’m always looking to go full-time with her… To keep Ursula’s humor, her sadness and her angst, that’s 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 Ariel’s beloved story, a beautiful and enthusiastic young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. King Triton’s youngest daughter and most defiant, Ariel longs to learn more about the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, she falls in love with dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden from interacting with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. He makes a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula that gives him a chance to experience life on land, but ends up putting his life—and his father’s crown—at risk.”

The Little Mermaid hits theaters on Friday, May 26.

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