Who Could Star in A Live-Action Little Mermaid?

Casting Call The Little Mermaid social

In this series, we speculate on what actors would be the perfect choice to play an upcoming character, or what type of character a particular actor is best suited for. Feel free to unilaterally agree with all our picks voice your opinion in the comments!

What with the surprising quality and success of Maleficent and Cinderella, it appears that these contemporary live-action reboots of beloved Disney animated classics are becoming big business. Now we have very encouraging casting news regarding Beauty and the Beast and a recent trailer dropped for The Jungle Book.

Hey, you know what would make all the money ever?! If Disney turned The Little Mermaid into the hardcore Aquaman movie we will never get from Warner Brothers. Imagine a huge, sweeping nautical adventure with a big fleet battling a typhoon-spewing Ursula kraken in the final act. Reimagine Prince Eric as a Master and Commander type who is abdicating his duty to the throne by roaming the high seas. What do you get? You get Pirates of the Caribbean meets Into the Woods. But how do you cast that? So many of the characters are larger than life and should really only function as cartoons. Let’s take a look at the main cast and who would blow the doors off those big musical numbers and/or make those fish scales look smashing.

Ariel the Little Mermaid

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1. Ariel

What we need is a young lady who can be willful, courageous, and a bit of an outsider. Also, someone who can emote capably without speaking due to a slight case of voice theft. Not only that, but we need someone who has quite a voice to steal; Ariel should bring the house down for “Part of Your World.” I submit that the best choice is Brie Larson, of 21 Jump Street and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World fame. She has a fantastic voice and can easily thread the needle between the undersea fun and the manipulated love story. Besides, I would love to see her in a starring role. She is a born scene-stealer.

Ursula the witch

2. Ursula the Sea Witch

This one is painfully difficult. Ursula is one of the cruelest and most sadistic of Disney villains. But she’s also just a stone-cold diva. A character that demands a possessive presence. Now, the theater-loving side of my brain wants Kate Mulgrew, of “Star Trek: Voyager” and more recently “Orange is the New Black.” In her role as respected power-broker Red Reznikov, Mulgrew darts nimbly between vulnerability and maniacal genius. That sounds perfect.

Although, Mulgrew does not have a musical background as far as I’m aware. While the Internet’s kneejerk reaction seems to revolve around Queen Latifah, I submit that we would never buy her as a psychotic and vengeful sorceress. She seems to have a beatific smile on by default. Now, [/b]Yvette Nicole Brown[/b] can be scary. On occasion as Shirley on “Community” she would drop the happy homemaker persona and bust out a bonafide death stare and chilling growl. Plus, she has a powerful singing ability, which would help with “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

Prince Eric

3. Prince Eric

I’ve never come closer in my weeks as a hypothetical casting director to saying, “Eh, whoever.” But the fact is, that’s a big mistake. Most Disney princes are cast with whichever Johnny Actor-Face is available for reshoots at a moment’s notice. But Eric is a little different. While at once he’s kind of a badass seafarer who wields a harpoon and eventually impales a giant sea beast with the prow of a ship, he’s also a vulnerable and lovesick boy who pines for just the mere sound of the girl who rescued him from the depths. He’s a major dude, alright.

I’d call up Colton Haynes for this. He’d cut an impressive figure in that white naval uniform and the alternative pirate shirt, and his work on both “Teen Wolf” and “Arrow” prove his believability as a fierce warrior and an emotionally misguided loverboy.

King Triton

4. King Triton

Here we have the Obi-Wan Kenobi role; sometimes an exceedingly silly production needs a respectable thespian in a supporting role to class up the joint. What we need here is a older man with steely eyes, a booming baritone voice, and some impressive facial hair. Too bad Sean Connery isn’t possible.

Now, let’s just forget anything I said about James Bond last week. Hugh Jackman would be perfect in this role now that his Wolverine days are coming to a close. If, by chance, the filmmakers wanted to add a musical number for him, they’d be all set since he can sing wonderfully. And let’s face it, if you saw Jackman as a merman charging at you with a big magic trident, you’d be simultaneously entertained and pants-wettingly frightened. Perfect.

Sebastian Crab

5. Sebastian

Boy, is it just me, or does this half-fish chick have way too many adorable animal sidekicks? Fortunately for us, the cute guppy and the goofy seagull could be just about anyone, especially since all these animal buddies would have to be rendered in CGI. But there are very few names who could be trusted with the show-stopping, Oscar-winning “Under the Sea.” Sebastian is a Jamaican crab who serves as underwater composer, advisor, and friend to Triton and his daughter. Gee, that won’t be hard to pinpoint or anything.

Well, if this were some kind of Dreamworks picture we could rest easy knowing that they would give the role to Snoop Dogg. But Disney would be certain to make sure this crab was a little more appropriate to the spirit of the musical. I submit that unless Disney were to bring back original Sebastian voice Samuel E. Wright, the best choice is Tituss Burgess of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Burgess played the role on Broadway, and while he registers as a tenor he could put a great new spin on a character that would be otherwise undoable if merely imitated from the 1989 film. Rest assured, no one could dare stop Burgess from playing it big and loud and fun. “Under the Sea” could just possibly top the pop charts.

Agree? Disagree? Can’t get those infectious lyrics out of your head? Let us all know about it in the comments!


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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.