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The Little Mermaid cast on making 'the most technically difficult thing we've ever faced'

The Little Mermaid director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca are quick to emphasize how easy their cast was to work with on Disney's live-action remake. Everyone says that in interviews these days, but they were grateful for it, because they had quite the challenge on their hands.

"It was really, truly the most technically difficult thing we've ever faced," says DeLuca, who has produced many of Marshall's films, including Into the Woods, Chicago, Mary Poppins Returns, and Nine.

"No question," Marshall agrees.

The filmmaking duo recently sat down with The Little Mermaid stars Halle Bailey (Ariel), Jonah Hauer-King (Prince Eric), Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), Javier Bardem (King Triton), Daveed Diggs (Sebastian), Awkwafina (Scuttle), and Jacob Tremblay (Flounder) for EW's Around the Table video series to discuss the components that went into their ambitious underwater musical, complete with acting performances in the water and harnesses to emulate the effect of swimming.

Ariel (Halle Bailey), Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle (Awkwafina) examine a dinglehopper in 'The Little Mermaid'
Ariel (Halle Bailey), Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle (Awkwafina) examine a dinglehopper in 'The Little Mermaid'

Disney Ariel (Halle Bailey), Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle (Awkwafina) examine a dinglehopper in 'The Little Mermaid'

"You were all fearless too, and that was the thing," Marshall tells his actors. "John and I kept saying from the very beginning, 'We cannot let the technical end of this lead it.' It can't be about the teeter-totters and the tuning forks and the wires. It has to be about story, it has to be about character, it has to be about feeling, and that's what you brought."

In theaters this weekend, The Little Mermaid is a new take on the classic fairy tale about Ariel, a young mermaid who becomes consumed with the surface world beyond her underwater kingdom. In her pursuit, fueled by an undeniable spark she feels with the human Prince Eric, she strikes a deal with the sea witch Ursula to become human herself, but it's all a secret ploy for the enchantress to claim Triton's throne.

"We didn't know until after we cast you, Halle — and this is crazy — what a great swimmer you are," Marshall tells his star. "Thank the Lord because you're saving Jonah." In a scene from the film, Ariel rescues a drowning Eric from a shipwreck, a sequence they shot in a tank of water at London's Pinewood Studios. "I'm a terrible swimmer, so that was lucky," Hayer-King says.

Watch the full conversation with the Little Mermaid cast above.

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