‘The Little Mermaid’ Live-Action Cast and Where You’ve Seen Them Before

All the way back in 2016 Deadline Hollywood reported that Disney was in the early development of a live-action version of the 1989 runaway success, The Little Mermaid. Following the mostly positive reception of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, and Aladdin, with Will Smith as Genie, it seemed only a matter of time until our favorite underwater redhead made a splash too.

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Six years and a pandemic later, finally, there is a confirmed release date: 26th May 2023. With the infallible Lin-Manuel Miranda as producer and co-writer of at least four new songs, and Stardust writer Jane Goldman providing the screenplay, there’s a lot for fans to look forward to. Anyone concerned about awkward human-in-a-suit swimming à la Splash, have no fear! This isn’t director Rob Marshall’s first entanglement with Mer-people. His expert eye for CGI tails is on full display in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. There are a few familiar faces under this sea, but where do we know them from?

Halle Bailey as Ariel

Halle Bailey smiling, a still of Ariel and Flounder from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

As one half of Grammy-nominated RnB duo Chloe x Halle, Bailey rose to fame with her sister by her side. The two gained none other than Beyonce’s attention with their soulful YouTube covers and were signed to her record label in 2015. The duo went on to star in the sitcom and Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish, which was recently renewed for a fourth season. In 2019, Disney released their official cast list for The Little Mermaid and the response was mixed, to put it lightly.

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The hashtag #NotMyAriel began trending on Twitter, with some taking offense to Bailey, a Black woman, playing Ariel, a fictional mermaid. The Disney-owned TV network Freeform, on which Grown-ish is broadcast, released a suitably scathing open letter to the outspoken minority, stating in part “Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black”. Similar attempts to diversify franchises have also been met with heavy criticism. It’s a disappointing attitude that thankfully does not represent the majority of the fans. We can’t wait to see what Bailey does with the part.


Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric

Jonah Hauer-King in front of a still of Prince Eric from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

English-American actor Jonah Hauer-King is a relatively fresh face for viewers across the pond. Cutting his teeth in complex and brooding British dramas, the family adventure film A Dog’s Way Home (2017), based on the novel by W Bruce Cameron, was Hauer-King’s first international success.

Being cast as the lost and lonely Prince Eric will be the perfect test of his leading man potential. While the animated version’s most notable characteristics are his dimples, Hauer-King now has the opportunity to add depth and vulnerability to the reluctant royal. We just hope fans don’t find out that he’s not a real Danish Prince.

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula

Melissa McCarthy in front of a still of Ursula from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

The Emmy award-winning actress burst from the seams of the beloved sitcom Mike and Molly onto a string of Hollywood blockbusters between 2011 and 2018. It was then she earned her second Oscar nomination, this time for her role as notorious fraudster Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me? McCarthy has well and truly proven herself as far more than just a phenomenal comic actor.

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It was long-agreed in the fandom that Queen Latifah would make the perfect Ursula, and she certainly did in ABC’s special The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live!. Now that it’s someone else’s turn to take up the mantle as the bodacious villainess, we can’t think of a better fit than charismatic McCarthy. We’ll have to wait and see if this Ursula will make use of the actor’s signature wit, or involve another dark and devious performance.

Javier Bardem as King Triton

Javier Bardem in front of a still of King Triton from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

The brilliantly diverse and Oscar-winning Javier Bardem is sure to shine as patriarchal King Triton. Bardem’s list of accolades is ridiculously long and impressive. He was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in When Night Falls (2000), his second English-speaking role ever, and won his first, for Best Supporting Actor, in No Country for Old Men (2007). He remains the only Spanish actor to do so.

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Casting a big-name actor like Bardem in what could have been a smaller part suggests audiences will see a lot more of the royal widower in this live-action version. Based on the diverse roles he’s taken over the years, we’re confident that he has the skills to embody the powerful but big-hearted father of seven daughters.

Jacob Tremblay as Flounder

Jacob Tremblay in from of a still of Flounder from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

Ariel’s best friend Flounder will be voiced by gifted child star Jacob Tremblay. Audiences will recognize him from his starring roles in Room (2015) opposite Brie Larson, and Wonder (2017) with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. He also voiced the titular character of the Academy Award-nominated Disney smash, Luca (2021).

Both Tremblay and Awkwafina lent their voices to the animated comedy series Animals. (2016 – 2018), where their raw comedic ability was on full display. Sweet-voiced Tremblay will make a perfect, anxiety-ridden Flounder. His character juxtaposed with Awkwafina’s signature dry quips is sure to be a delight.

Awkwafina as Scuttle

Awkwafina in front of a still of Scuttle from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

The wise-cracking seagull will in this version be replaced by “a female diving bird… in order to feature the character in underwater scenes.” although, their role of provider of random objects and incorrect uses is to remain intact. Those familiar with Awkwafina will know that if there’s one thing she’s brilliant at, it’s stealing a scene. The rapper and Golden Globe nominee took on small roles in Ocean’s Eight (2018) and Crazy Rich Asians (2018) before landing her first starring roles in the very well received The Fairwell (2019) and Marvel‘s Shang-Chi (2021), the latter of which is due a sequel.

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The change-up of species for this character strongly suggests Awkwafina will be a thrill to listen to as she takes on another voice-acting role. She’s previously done voice work on two of the world’s most famous animated series: The Simpsons (2019) and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run(2020). She’s practically a veteran at this point.

Daveed Diggs as Sebastian

Daveed Diggs smiling in front of a still of the crab Sebastian from the Disney animated film the Little Mermaid

The famously-Trinidadian crab composer spent most of the animated classic trying to reason with the headstrong teenager in his charge. Naturally, this left him rather frustrated and at times, fighting for his life. The live-action will see the multi-talented performer Daveed Diggs lend his Tony and Grammy-winning voice to the character. Diggs is most well known for originating the role of the Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in Lin Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary Hamilton (2015).

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Diggs is an accomplished vocalist and rapper, heading the experimental hip hop group clipping. He has previously worked with Jacob Tremblay in Wonder (2017), and was in the show Black-ish (2016 – 2022), which inspired our Ariel’s big break on Grown-ish! Like Tremblay, this isn’t Diggs’ first Disney voice-acting role. He was the voice of Paul in the criminally underrated Soul (2020). We’re ready for a fresh take on the crustacean maestro with Diggs in the role.

Noma Dumezweni as Carlotta

Noma Dumezweni next to a still of Carlotta from the Disney animated movie The Little Mermaid

Another British name with a guest role in every notable drama is Swaziland (now the Kingdom of Eswatini) born Noma Dumezweni. The Harry Potter fandom will remember her as Hermione during the premier Harry Potter and the Cursed Child West End run. Having recently appeared in Rob Marshall’s Mary Poppins Returns (2018) as Miss Penny Farthing, it’s no wonder the director brought her and co-star Lin-Manual Miranda over to his new project too.

Carlotta in the animated film is a small role as Prince Eric’s (assumed) housekeeper, although it’s never explicitly stated. For this project, she is described as “Eric’s kind housekeeper, who looks after Ariel while she stays in Eric’s castle”. It’s official canon, fans! While there was quite the age difference between Carlotta and Grimsby in the 1989 version, this time the roles have been given to two attractive actors of the same age group. Could another castle romance be on the cards? We’re sure the shippers will be dying to know.

Jude Akuwudike as Grimsby

Jude Akuwudike next to a still of Grimsby from the Disney animated movie The Little Mermaid

Taking on the role of Prince Eric’s faithful butler is Nigerian actor Jude Akuwudike. The well-rounded thespian has been a mainstay on the British stage and screen since the 90s. In the 1989 animated feature film, Grimsby acts as Prince Eric’s oft-ignored voice of reason. In the new adaptation, he is described as “Eric’s loyal butler and confidant, who sees to it that Eric finds the right girl to marry”.

We couldn’t think of a better fit for the upper-crust butler role than an esteemed performer with a penchant for Shakespeare, like Akuwudike. This will be the actor’s first international role. Akuwudike rounds out the fresh and brilliantly diverse cast. The talent is positively overflowing. Bring on 2023!

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About The Author

Harleigh Cutts (15 Articles Published)

Harleigh is a writer for Collider, podcast developer and is completely a double major writing degree at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. She is a bi-wife with two large dog-children and a love for anything spooky or true crime related. Her fandoms include: DC (especially Harley Quinn), Kanto Region Pokémon, Shoujo anime, H3, Baz Lurhmann, the 80s, the Sims and CozyGaming, Frasier, Joe Gilgun and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

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