The Hamilton star plays the beloved crab in the upcoming Disney live-action movie

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 26, 2021 10:33 AM
Daveed Diggs
Credit: Jon Kopaloff/Getty; Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett

Daveed Diggs did lots of studying to play this iconic crab.

In the upcoming live-action version of Disney's The Little Mermaid, the Hamilton star, 39, voices Sebastian, and, as he recently told Collider, he prepared for the role more diligently than he has for any character he's ever played.

"I worked harder on Sebastian probably than I have for any role in my life. It's tricky," Diggs said. "... 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."

"I'm not of Caribbean descent," he said, explaining that he'd been "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," said Diggs. "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."

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The Snowpiercer actor said he wants people to be able to connect to his performance and feel seen.

"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," Diggs said. "Even though maybe my voice doesn't sound exactly right, I wanted to feel like somebody connected to it."

"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," he continued. "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!"

"It seems crazy maybe, in hindsight," he joked.

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The Little Mermaid film also stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Awkwafina as Scuttle and Jacob Tremblay as Flounder. The movie is directed by Rob Marshall, who helmed recent Disney films like Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns.

Diggs also teased that there are "so many cool surprises" about the reimagining — secrets he's "just sitting on."

"The amount of lifting I'm doing ... is nothing compared to Halle or any of the like incredible performers who are really carrying that," he said. "I just sing a couple of cool songs and call it a day."