Last year it was announced that Hamilton star Daveed Diggs was cast to play Sebastian the crab in Disney’s live-action version of The Little Mermaid.
In a recent interview with Collider, the 39-year-old performer described the role as ‘tricky,’ confessing, ‘I worked harder on Sebastian probably than I have for any role in my life.’
Speaking about the pressure of mastering the voice when he is not of Caribbean descent, he said that some aspects of the role ‘stressed [him] out.’
Tough role: Hamilton star Daveed Diggs, 39, calls his Little Mermaid character Sebastian in the live-action film the hardest of his career: ‘I worked harder on Sebastian probably than I have for any role in my life’; pictured 2020
Sebastian: The Snowpiercer star said that the role has demanded a lot of research on his part as he strives to be as vocally accurate as possible while portraying the Jamaican crab
The Snowpiercer star said he often takes on roles that he does not think he’s the best fit for, which is ‘true of Sebastian’ – the Jamaican-accented guardian of Ariel.
‘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.’
Born in Oakland, he opened up about the obligation he feels to make sure his character voice sounds authentic, which has caused mounting pressure.
‘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. Even though maybe my voice doesn’t sound exactly right, I wanted to feel like somebody connected to it.’
Field work: Diggs confessed that he spent time in Trinidad and Jamaica for research as he shared with Collider ‘I did more research for that role, than I have for any part, ever, and I’m literally a crab’; pictured 2019
Diggs spoke about the importance of the character’s representation in mainstream American culture, as he referenced ‘many friends’ who resonated with Sebastian’s heritage.
‘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. So, that role stressed me out quite a bit, but also is incredibly fun.’
Making sure he felt wholly prepared when the cameras began to role, he said ‘I did more research for that role, than I have for any part, ever, and I’m literally a crab.’
‘Doing that kind of work and trying to immerse myself. 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.’
Re-imagined: The live-action reboot additionally stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Javier Bardem as King Triton and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
Sebastian was originally voiced by Samuel E. Wright – who was born in South Carolina – in the 1989 animated classic, with Diggs now taking the reins as he joins a star-studded cast.
Grown-ish star Halle Bailey will star as Ariel, with Javier Bardem as King Triton, Melissa McCarthy as sea-villain Ursula, and Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay playing mermaid pals Scuttle and Flounder.
‘The amount of lifting I’m doing in that is nothing compared to Halle [Bailey], or any of the like incredible performers who are really carrying that. I just sing a couple of cool songs and call it a day,’ Daveed humbly said.
‘You get to hear a new song before it comes out and it’s amazing, and then you hear the performance of it by an actor you might not expect to be able to do that and that’s also amazing,’ he shared while teasing the many surprises in store for viewers.
Production on the film was delayed on account of the pandemic, as McCarthy said in a December People interview, ‘Hopefully, if everything is … safe, we go back to shooting in January in London. Which is very exciting.’
Fresh voices: The reboot of the animated classic features a diverse cast from all stages of their careers, with the Grown-ish star at the heart of the film as Diggs gushed ‘The amount of lifting I’m doing in that is nothing compared to Halle’