Melissa McCarthy Looked to Drag Queens for Her Turn as Ursula

The live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is coming very soon, with comedy A-lister Melissa McCarthy playing our favorite queer-coded, voice-stealing sea witch. Judging by what we’ve seen and know so far, it looks like the comedian will live up to the wonder that is Ursula.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, McCarthy confirmed that she totally looked to drag queens for inspiration for her upcoming role as the iconic villain.


She explains: “I’m a huge, huge fan of drag shows and the whole art of it and the entertainment of it.”

 “I’ve been going to shows since I was not supposed to be going to shows. There’s a drag queen that lives in me. I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her.”

It’s been known that Ursula’s character has been inspired by legendary drag queen Divine. The drag artist rose to popularity after appearing in multiple Jon Waters films in the 70s, including Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974).

This knowledge solicited mixed emotions about McCarthy being cast for the film, with some people saying the role could have been given to an actual drag queen.


We have good reason to believe McCarthy is a pretty good match, though—and it’s not just because we’re the generation who loved her as Sookie St. James in Gilmore Girls (I swear!). Back in 2011, McCarthy has done a pretty impressive tribute to Divine on the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s comedy issue. Donning strongly arched eyebrows, bright eyeshadow and a red dress, McCarthy points a gun towards camera to channel Divine in Waters’ 1972 film Pink Flamingos. 


Feels like kismet now, huh?

What’s more, the Little Mermaid director Rob Marshall says that when McCarthy sat with him for a meeting, she opened up about how her career is rooted in drag. When she was still getting her career off the ground, McCarthy used to perform in Manhattan clubs in a drag persona called Miss Y.

She reveals to Marshall: “I had a character that I played and I was part of a drag show. That was really where I began before I stepped into comedy and acting.”


And McCarthy doesn’t just pull inspiration from drag, too—she’s actually a staunch LGBTQ+ ally. In an Instagram post last month, McCarthy has spoken out in defense of drag queens after a bill was passed in Tennessee banning drag shows from being performed in public or in the presence of minors.

She says: “You’ve been entertained by drag your whole life. Don’t pretend it’s a problem now.”

The most recent adaptation reveals Ursula’s origin story as King Triton’s (Javier Bardem) estranged sister. Which means the villain who stole Ariel’s (Halle Bailey) voice is actually her aunt! Exciting!

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