Melissa McCarthy says drag queens influenced her portrayal of Ursula in live-action ‘Little Mermaid’

LOS ANGELES - NOV 16: Melissa McCarthy at the PS Arts Express Yourself Benefit at the Barker Hanger on November 16, 2014 in Santa Monica, CA
LOS ANGELES - NOV 16: Melissa McCarthy at the PS Arts Express Yourself Benefit at the Barker Hanger on November 16, 2014 in Santa Monica, CA Photo: Shutterstock

Melissa McCarthy said she was “100 percent” influenced by drag in her portrayal of Ursula in Disney’s long-anticipated live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

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

In fact, McCarthy used to perform on the New York City comedy scene as a drag queen named Miss Y.

Ursula, in fact, is said to have been inspired by the late iconic drag performer Divine, who McCarthy actually dressed as for an Entertainment Weekly cover in 2011. There is, however, some anger in the LGBTQ+ community that a drag queen was not cast in the role.

The new version of the story will depict Ursula as the estranged sister of King Triton. McCarthy said in playing her, she channeled the isolation she felt while quarantining during the height of the pandemic.

“She’s the villain, but there’s such an edge to her. 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.'”

She added that there are many qualities in Ursula that she also sees in drag queens.

“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.”

LGBTQ+ people have long felt a connection to The Little Mermaid. Out lyricist Howard Ashman co-wrote the iconic songs for Disney’s original 1989 animated version.

And the story’s queer subtext goes all the way back to the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The Danish author wrote the 1837 story of an outsider pining for a handsome prince in response to his own unrequited love for a straight friend.

McCarthy recently made waves for speaking out against the proposed drag bans taking place across the country. The actress posted a meme that declared, “You’ve been entertained by drag your whole life. Don’t pretend it’s a problem now.” It included photos of iconic drag characters, such as Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire and even Bugs Bunny dressed as a woman.

In response, the drag star BenDeLaCreme thanked her for her allyship.

“I hope to continue to see celebrities and public figures speak up as more and more LGBTQ+ lives are endangered,” she said.

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