Melissa McCarthy worried she needed to dial back Ursula's shimmy to keep The Little Mermaid family-friendly

Melissa McCarthy's Ursula is no friend to The Little Mermaid, but for the poor unfortunate souls in the audience, the sea witch is hard to look away from. So what's the secret to becoming a magnetic, conniving sea witch? According to McCarthy, it's all about body language.

During an interview on EW's 3 Rounds video series, McCarthy discusses Ursula's signature dance move: her shimmy. The actress reveals that she got plenty of input from producer John DeLuca and director Rob Marshall about how to get it just right — but not all of their advice could be used. While the filmmakers encouraged her to really "go for it," McCarthy worried about keeping the movie family-friendly.

"John kept saying, lean into it and he kept shaking," McCarthy recalls. "He was a Fosse dancer, and he kept saying, 'Come down hard when you're coming down. Shake, shake, shake when you do your shimmy.'"

Similar advice came from Marshall, who McCarthy says told her, "'Really, just shake those shoulders as hard as you can.'"

Eventually, McCarthy had to illustrate the difference between their shimmy and hers. She told Marshall, "When you shake your shoulders really hard, one thing happens. When I shake my shoulders," she tells host Alexis Wilson, gesturing to her chest, "something else happens."

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Photo courtesy of Disney Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in 'The Little Mermaid'

"I was like, 'You can't throw these things around in the same fashion,'" McCarthy says. "And he was like, 'What?' And then I showed him and he was like [gasps]."

Despite her concerns, McCarthy admits that she still gave it her all and "did it anyway." As for how it all came together, PG rating and all, she added, "I think they fixed it in CGI."

All of the underwater characters shimmy through the waters of Atlantica, but Ursula in particular puts on a show when she invites Ariel to make a deal in "Poor Unfortunate Souls." Leaning into her dramatic flair, McCarthy took inspiration from the late drag queen Divine (who she also emulated for a 2011 EW cover story photo shoot).

Her dance moves aside, McCarthy initially had hesitations about singing for the role but eventually recorded Ursula's big number with an orchestra for the cast recording.

Lin Manuel Miranda, who collaborated with Alan Mencken on new songs for the film, recently praised McCarthy's performance in an EW cover story. "No one's ready for Melissa McCarthy," Miranda said of her performance. "She brings all of the delicious camp from the original, but then also is just scary. If ["Poor Unfortunate Souls"] is your favorite song, you're going to be happy."

Check out the entire 3 Rounds with Melissa McCarthy below.

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