‘The Little Mermaid’ Star Melissa McCarthy Had to Let Go to Perform Ursula’s Iconic Song: ‘I’m Awkward as a Person’

“I was too nervous and I just couldn’t let it go,” McCarthy told TheWrap about performing her big number, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”

Melissa McCarthy has played all manner of outlandish characters, but stepping into the role (and tentacles) of Ursula, the sea witch from Disney’s 1989 animated feature “The Little Mermaid” originally voiced by Pat Carroll, was an intimidating feat.

“I so loved Pat Carroll,” McCarthy told TheWrap. “She crushed this in the original that if I’m going to do this I have to stop and just say, ‘all the love I have to you, homage to the beginning’ and then try to make mine my own.”

That process started, as McCarthy said, by treating Ursula no different than any other character the actress has played. “I just kind of took her apart like any other character and started really think about what makes her tick. What’s kind of a front and what is she really hiding? What’s the vulnerability, and what’s the loneliness and the isolation?” she said.

From the minute McCarthy talked to director Rob Marshall she started taking voice lessons to be able to pull off Ursula’s main musical number, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” “I had never done anything like that,” McCarthy said. While she started to feel changes in her voice and how she sang, the actress admitted she couldn’t get over her nerves.

The problem, according to McCarthy, was that she’d get wrapped up in trying to sing a note just right, as opposed to performing a song in a way that would aid her performance. It was her voice coach, Eric Vitro, who gave McCarthy the tough love she needed to take the song to the next level.

“He finally said, ‘You keep trying to sing well as Melissa, which isn’t going to happen.’ And I was like, ‘Oh! There we go.’ And he goes, ‘No, no, like, you’re doing it as Ursula but then you try to sing.’”

“Finally, he was like, ‘You have to sing as Ursula’ and then I suddenly knew how to do it,” she said. “It’s the same with acting. I’m awkward as a person. I don’t know what to do with my hands at a party. But as a character I’m like ‘Well, I know what Ursula does with her hands.’”

You can watch the full video with McCarthy above.

“The Little Mermaid” is in theaters May 26th.