Melissa McCarthy Discusses Ursula’s “Mental Health and Loneliness”

in Disney, Entertainment

Live-action ursula conjuring a spell

Credit: Disney

Believe it or not, Melissa McCarthy was nervous about playing Ursula in the live-action Little Mermaid – a role that she’s currently receiving praise for left and right.

McCarthy has said on multiple occasions that she “always loved” Ursula: The star has spoken previously about how she used to watch The Little Mermaid with children she babysat for almost every night.

It makes sense, therefore, that she was a little apprehensive about how she would re-interpret a character already played to perfection by Pat Carroll years ago.

I have such love for the original, but I did know I have to, at a certain point, shake off the nerves and just try to interpret her like I would do any other character.

However, she said that playing the character and picking her apart for herself gave her a new perspective on the sea witch.

Melissa McCarthy Got the Head of Ursula By Exploring Her Family Trauma

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula holding animated Ursula
Source: ITM/Disney

Related: Melissa McCarthy Is One of Nine People Who Play Ursula in ‘The Little Mermaid’

Like any professional actress, Melissa McCarthy uses a method to get into character for her roles. All actors handle this differently; some choose to create meticulously written backstories for their characters, down to details nobody would ever use in the films, to get into their heads; others, often called Method actors, choose to try to live as their characters 24/7 to embody the role best.

McCarthy’s process involves more of the first. She specified that she most likes to explore the hidden reasons for some of her characters’ most prominent public presentations – usually, she says, that is where the juiciest stuff is hiding.

This turned out to be as true for Ursula as it was for any other character.

She’s so funny, she’s sharp, she’s manipulative. But…I usually think in terms of people’s armor. I’m weirdly obsessed with how people and characters present themselves to the world and what it is deflecting, that people don’t see. And with Ursula, it’s the makeup, the bustier and the attitude. It’s wonderful, but I think it deflects her mental health and loneliness.

Ursula looks up at Ariel
Credit: Disney

Related: Melissa McCarthy Teases Sympathetic Villain in ‘The Little Mermaid’: “There’s A Little Ursula In All Of Us”

The characteristics that McCarthy highlights also served a greater purpose in the film. Some critics of the original Little Mermaid complain about Ariel’s rash decision-making. Still, Melissa McCarthy’s live-action performance makes it make sense: This is a woman who can empathize with Ariel.

Triton just destroyed all your stuff? Oh, honey. Auntie Ursula gets it. She knows what it’s like to feel abandoned and misunderstood by your loved ones – especially him.

She’s been isolated and shunned by her family. And that kind of hurt is so deep, especially within family, that those who should love you most have actually put you away for a decade and a half.

A close-up of Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
Credit: Disney

Related: ‘The Little Mermaid’ Live-Action Could Shine Light on King Triton’s and Ursula’s Family Dynamic

After the COVID-19 pandemic introduced us all to being shut away from family and loved ones for extended periods by force, one shouldn’t have to work very hard to imagine what that kind of isolation does to a person when your family’s own choosing does it.

This in-depth character exploration is undoubtedly one of the main reasons that Melissa McCarthy does a stellar job as Ursula in the live-action Little Mermaid.

But don’t take our word for it – you can see for yourself. The Little Mermaid is in theaters now.

What do you think of Melissa McCarthy’s take on Ursula’s character? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.

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