There’s a new Disney villain in town. Jessica Alexander stars as Vanessa, the human alter ego of Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula, in The Little Mermaid.
The English actress was cast in the live-action reimagining of the movie — directed by Rob Marshall — in March 2021, joining the likes of Halle Bailey as Ariel, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian and Awkwafina as Scuttle.
The original 1989 animated film is one Alexander said was “really special” to her growing up. “I used to play The Little Mermaid all the time on the beach,” she told Variety Radio Online at the movie’s May 2023 London premiere. “It’s timeless. It relates to everyone, really. I think everyone can relate to feeling a little displaced and wanting more at some point in their life.”
Though she rewatched the Disney classic in preparation to play Vanessa, Alexander also put her own spin on the part. “I kind of just went ‘go big or go home’ with a character like this and just hope that it lands, basically,” she noted.
As for what fans can expect from her version of the character, “A lot of screaming, ferocity, a little bit of a cat fight with Ariel herself,” she told HSN at the film’s Los Angeles premiere earlier that month.
The Little Mermaid may mark the England native’s biggest movie role to date, but she has starred in a number of projects over the years, including the Netflix series Get Even and the thriller film Into the Deep.
While chatting about her 2021 horror movie, A Banquet, with Total Film in February 2022, Alexander revealed that she knew she wanted to act since she was 5 years old. “It sounds so cliché to say! But there was never any doubt in my mind, because I’m not really good at much else,” she said at the time. “I’ve been to hundreds of f—king auditions, and never gotten anything. I’ve been auditioning since I was 14. I’m really just starting my career.”
Alexander also opened up about her experienced filming The Little Mermaid, telling the outlet that the crew let her have “free rein of this character.”
She continued: “I think I’m going to develop a reputation for being a screamer, because in all my projects I’m just screaming and being monstrous! The songs are amazing. And the costumes are just unreal. I’m very excited for the world to see it.”
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