It’s no small task to reimagine the iconic animated villain Ursulal from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but comedian and actress Melissa McCarthy has managed to smash it in the live-action remake of the 1989 classic.
Speaking exclusively with Etalk, the Bridesmaids star revealed that not only did she base her look and approach to Ursula on drag queens, she also gushed about drag’s cultural relevance.
“We’ve been telling stories since the beginning of time, drag has been a part of that,” she said. “It’s Shakepearean, there’s never not been drag.”
She continued emphatically, “To have a microscope and the hate coming towards it is really unbelievable. Certainly anyone who doesn’t like it has never been to a great drag brunch!”
The Can You Ever Forgive Me? star went on to explain how drag served to inform her career and her approach to comedy.
“I have been a fan, a big fan of drag since I was in my teens and first saw it. The humour, the dedication to how much work goes into a drag show and to a persona … It’s so clever, it’s so heady, it’s so irreverent, you’re the butt of the joke and you’re telling the jokes!”
“It’s a fantastic art form that I can't recommend enough how much we need it,” she added. “And if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour because I’ll tell you what: Drag is NOT THE PROBLEM.”
Her comments come at a time when drag bans are sweeping the United States, especially in Montana, Tennessee and Florida, where drag shows have been banned to anyone under the age of 18, and curiously labeled as “sexually oriented” performances. Montana has also banned drag readings to children, citing the need to protect children. However these states have not introduced legislation to restrict gun ownership to protect children, as school shootings are the number one killer of American children, per CNN.
This isn’t the first time Melissa has tipped her hat to drag performers for inspiration. On The Little Mermaid red carpet, Melissa gushed that she’s been “stealing from drag queens for years,” and that there’s “something about Ursula” that hits the drag note, like her makeup, her vulnerability, her acerbic wit, and her bite. “I think that’s what drag does so well.”
Speaking of makeup, Disney and Melissa have shared on social media how the drag-inspired makeup of Ursula (based off of drag performer Divine, per TIME), came to be and how it evolved. This is a transformation!
"I have always been, since my teens, a huge fan of drag," she also told Out Magazine. "I think it's an unbelievable art form, and I couldn't separate that from Ursula."
This isn’t the first time Melissa has revealed her undying devotion to drag. In a 2017 Rolling Stone cover story, she revealed that during her struggling actor days in the 90s while living in Hell’s Kitchen, she donned full drag on stage. “It was me there with my lovely gay guy friends and I was dressed like a big old drag queen. I went by Miss Y,” she told the outlet.
“I had a gold lamé swing coat on, a huge wig, big eyelashes. I talked about being incredibly wealthy and beautiful and living extravagantly, and the first night worked great. It was such a happy, good feeling, and it gave me such confidence.”
'The Little Mermaid' is in cinemas now.