Unless you’ve been living under the sea, chances are you’ve heard about Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid that’s now in theaters.
Halle Bailey stars as Ariel, the young mermaid who yearns to experience life out of the water, in an updated version of the classic 1989 animated film. Melissa McCarthy takes on the role of the devious Ursula, a sea monster who offers Ariel the chance to experience life as a human—for a price.
Even before reaching the big screen, the film has seemingly divided fans at every turn—from its casting choices to the potentially off-putting CGI, and even minor lyrical changes in popular songs from the original. However, this weekend will be the first true indicator of whether the film succeeds or, well, flounders.
Either way, it won’t be for lack of star power. Here’s your guide to the cast of actors appearing in, or lending their voices to, The Little Mermaid and where you might have seen them before.
Halle Bailey, 23, plays titular mermaid Ariel, the daughter of Atlantica leader King Triton who dreams about being part of the human world. Bailey is one half of the singing duo Chloe x Halle with her sister, Chloe Bailey. As an actor, her most notable role to date has been as Sky Forster on the TV series Grown-ish from 2018 to 2022.
Disney’s casting of Bailey, first announced in 2019, has drawn racist backlash from some fans of the animated original who complained that a Black actor should not portray Ariel, who was a white character in the earlier film. #NotMyAriel even trended on social media. However, Bailey has said she moved past the negative reactions with the help of her family and is proud to play a character she resonated with as a child. “I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special, and that they should be a princess in every single way,” she told Variety.
Actor Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the animated original, has stated she is proud of Bailey and specifically highlighted “her pure spirit [and] her joy” among the reasons Bailey is fit for the part. Benson, 61, makes a cameo appearance as a market vendor in the 2023 film.
Melissa McCarthy plays Ursula, an octopus-like sea witch who offers Ariel the chance to become human with treacherous ulterior motives. The comedian and actor, 52, first gained fame through TV roles as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls and title character Molly Flynn on the sitcom Mike & Molly, for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2011. McCarthy has also starred in films such as Bridesmaids (2011), The Heat (2013), Ghostbusters (2016), The Happytime Murders (2018), and Thunder Force (2021).
The animated version of Ursula was inspired by drag queen and actor Divine, and McCarthy told Deadline her performance similarly pays homage. “I just hope to do like every incredible drag queen proud, and Divine proud,” she said. “I wanted to give her everything that, you know, she was due.”
Jessica Alexander from the Netflix series Get Even plays Ursula’s human alter ego on land.
Read More about Melissa McCarthy
Spanish actor Javier Bardem, 54, plays King Triton, the leader of Atlantica and Ariel’s overprotective father. The actor is best known for his role as assassin Anton Chigurh, the primary antagonist of the 2007 Western No Country for Old Men, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Bardem has starred in films such as Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Skyfall (2012), and Mother! (2017). More recently, you might have seen him in the 2021 sci-fi epic Dune and as Desi Arnaz, the on-screen and real-life husband of Lucille Ball, in 2021’s Being the Ricardos. The latter earned him his fourth Academy Award nomination.
During a recent appearance on the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Bardem discussed the intricate stuntwork required to make The Little Mermaid and praised the film’s special effects. “The only thing you can do, you have to do, is to try to learn the lines, say the lines, and forget about the whole noise around you,” Bardem said. “It’s so beautifully done, it’s so realistically done, and at the same time, has so much magic, that I’m not put off by [the CGI]. I go, ‘Wow, I believe that they are under the water.’ It’s something else.”
English actor Jonah Hauer-King, 27, plays Prince Eric, who becomes Ariel’s human love interest after she rescues him from drowning. He told The Hollywood Reporter he went through months of rehearsals to get the part, including learning to ride horses and scuba dive and, eventually, beat out Harry Styles for the role. His prior acting credits include the 2019 film A Dog’s Way Home and the BBC television drama World on Fire. He also has musical experience, having starred in a professional production of Rent while a student at St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge.
Meet the Supporting Cast of The Little Mermaid
Jacob Tremblay voices Flounder, a talking tropical fish who is Ariel’s best friend under the sea. Tremblay, 16, had his breakout role as young child Jack Newsome in Room (2015), earning a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He also voiced the titular character in the 2021 Pixar film Luca, and has appeared in films like Wonder (2017), The Book of Henry (2017), Good Boys (2019) and Doctor Sleep (2019).
Daveed Diggs voices Sebastian, a crab who serves as an advisor and court composer for King Triton and who watches over Ariel. The 41-year-old stage and screen actor won a 2016 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his dual roles as the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton. He appeared with Tremblay in the film Wonder and had a part in the TV series Black-ish, mostly in season 3.
Awkwafina voices Scuttle, a seabird and friend of Ariel who teachers her, often erroneously, about elements of the human world. The 34-year-old actor and rapper is the star of the Comedy Central series Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens and voiced the dragon Sisu in the 2021 Disney animated film Raya and the Last Dragon. She has also appeared in films such as Ocean’s Eight (2018), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).
Noma Dumezweni plays Queen Selina, the mother of Prince Eric. As a stage actor, Dumezweni, 38, has won Laurence Oliver Awards for her roles as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She also appeared in the 2018 film Mary Poppins Returns and the 2022 Netflix series The Watcher.
Art Malik plays Sir Grimsby, Prince Eric’s trusted butler and companion. The 70-year-old British actor portrayed Kamran Shah in the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, as well as antagonist Aziz in the 1994 action film True Lies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. He more recently played Bunny Latif in the TV thriller Homeland on Showtime.
Lorena Andrea (Perla), Simone Ashley (Indira), Kajsa Mohammar (Karina), Nathalie Sorrell (Caspia), Karolina Conchet (Mala), and Sienna King (Tamika) each play a daughter of King Triton and sister to Ariel.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.