If you’re one of the people wondering how anybody could possibly live up to Samuel E. Wright, The Little Mermaid’s original Sebastian, don’t worry – Daveed Diggs is wondering the same thing.
The Little Mermaid star, known best for his originating role as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway musical Hamilton, simply couldn’t believe it when he got a call from director Rob Marshall asking him to audition. He thought it was perhaps a formality, or they were just being nice – after all, Diggs is close with composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also worked on the film.
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“It took a long time to register,” Diggs admitted to Variety – the star had actually workshopped scenes with the director and his partner, producer John DeLuca, before he realized that the part was his.
Now, of course, he only has the world’s biggest crab shoes to fill. Diggs still remembers seeing The Little Mermaid with his father in Oakland in 1989:
It must’ve been opening weekend. The line wrapped around the block. I remember loving Scuttle, thinking he was just the funniest thing I’d seen up to that point, and loving the songs.
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Even once he had the part, Diggs was nervous, in awe of all the talent around him. Now he actually gets to sing with Scuttle, in a new song that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote especially for the film, and he praised his co-star Awkwafina for her ability to emote while performing the fast patter rap that is so indicative of the composer’s style.
“Her performance is insane — to be doing what she’s doing in that voice and all those characterizations,” he adds. “The rap battle [between us] at the end is just icing on the cake, like candy. It didn’t take much work.”
Daveed Diggs Is Not A Trained Vocalist
What Diggs was really nervous about, though, was the big 11th hour number “Under the Sea,” because, despite his Broadway background, Daveed Diggs doesn’t have any traditional vocal training.
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He recalled that he had to be repeatedly encouraged by Marshal and DeLuca to deviate from the way the song originally sounded – because, as he put it, “that performance is a thing that sits with me.”
Overall, Diggs seemed more than ready to admit that he will never live up to Wright’s original performance.
Vocally, what we ended up on is a nod to the Sebastian that everybody knows and loves but also is what my voice is capable of doing, both singing and speaking. It was this process of trying things out with the various coaches to get a thing that feels consistent with who this crab is.
You can judge for yourself how he did tomorrow, when The Little Mermaid finally hits land in theaters everywhere.
What do you think of Daveed Diggs’ casting as Sebastian? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.