Daveed Diggs Explains Challenge Of His 'The Little Mermaid' Role: "I Wanted To Feel Like Somebody Connected To It"
In a new interview, Daveed Diggs opened up about playing "Sebastian" in Disney's live-action remake of The Little Mermaid! Diggs said that he wanted the character's Caribbean dialect to feel authentic, explaining why that representation is so crucial. See what he said here!
Daveed Diggs recently revealed he spent a lot of time preparing to play an iconic crustacean! Diggs— who's known for his roles in Snowpiercer and the Broadway musical Hamilton— is voicing "Sebastian" in Disney's live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, and in a recent interview with Collider, he explained why he found the role so difficult!
Diggs shares he was immersed in studying Caribbean dialect
Diggs shared that he researched extensively for the part, wanting to do it justice. "I worked harder on Sebastian probably than I have for any role in my life. It's tricky," the actor admitted. "... I tend to say yes to things when I feel like I can do it, but I'm actually not sure I'm the smart choice or the person naturally who should be doing it. That's true of Sebastian, for a lot of ways that are uncomfortable." And to get a grip on the character's distinctive vocals, Diggs said he immersed himself in Caribbean culture!
"I've spent a lot of time in Trinidad and I went to Jamaica to research, and I did a lot of voice work with Chris Walker and with the late Tony Hall, to try to get the voice right," he explained to Collider. "But more than the voice, the thing about a dialect is that everybody's voice is actually very different, so consistency is really more important than accuracy. Your speech pattern is based on culture, and that was the thing I didn't want to let down."
Diggs talks importance of representation with "Sebastian"
Diggs went on to explain why it's so important to him that his portrayal of "Sebastian" feels authentic to Caribbean culture. "I want somebody who is from Trinidad or from Jamaica, depending on where we landed with the role, to be able to see themselves in this, in some way," he said. "Even though maybe my voice doesn't sound exactly right, I wanted to feel like somebody connected to it."
The actor then said he's personally known people who have identified with "Sebastian"! "I had so many friends growing up for whom Sebastian was the first time they had seen themselves represented in mainstream American culture. As flawed as that is, that's still important," Diggs shared. "So that role stressed me out quite a bit, but also is incredibly fun. Like I said, I did more research for that role than I have for any part ever — and I'm literally a crab!"
Disney's remake of The Little Mermaid doesn't yet have a release date since it's currently in production. However, it does have a star-studded cast, including Melissa McCarthy as "Ursula" and Javier Bardem as "King Triton". It's also been announced that Jonah Hauer-King will be taking on the role of "Prince Eric", with Halle Bailey of R&B duo Chloe X Halle taking on the role of "Ariel"!