One of the many reasons people looked forward to seeing The Little Mermaid was due to the movie's stellar cast including Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, and Ariel’s eye candy Jonah Hauer-King. When this British- American actor was cast as Prince Eric, it was a given young audiences wouldn’t be able to take their eyes off of him. If you thought he looked ripped when watching The Little Mermaid trailer, it turns out Hauer-King was actually in danger of being too ripped while filming his Prince Eric role.
Jonah Hauer-King was the perfect casting choice for Prince Eric. Whether you watch him in a romantic scene with Ariel or doing a cheesy dance on TikTok, you can’t help but swoon. While looking the part of Prince Eric involved a lot of physical training, strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer Sana Shirvani told Insider that Hauer-King was starting to look more ripped than planned.
We got him to that point, and then obviously if he continued training in that capacity, he was only going to get bigger and bigger. I remember the director coming up to me and saying, 'We are not after the Incredible Hulk, we want a strong sailor boy.
It must have been a shocking and unexpected transformation to see the male lead of the Disney remake have a bodybuilder stature. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down production of The Little Mermaid, that meant Jonah Hauer-King had eight months to physically train himself for Prince Eric before filming would start. Sana Shirvani put the Howard's End actor into a virtual bodybuilding style program to build muscle without gaining fat. He also used a meal delivery service in order to hit his protein targets.
During pre-production, Shivani would work with her actors in person for 60-90 minutes, five to six days a week. The London-born actor was training like a serious bodybuilder who was focusing on a different muscle group every day. Then, the exercise routine would continue to progress by either increasing his weights or his reps to stimulate muscle growth. Since this was the first time that Hauer-King trained as hard as he did, he ended up developing “newbie gains” where first-timers experience faster progress than experienced lifters. But as the intense training sessions were leading to this young actor looking buffer than planned, Shirvani had The Last Photograph actor reduce his food intake towards the maintenance route and reduced his training. It’s a relief that Hauer-King’s trainer knew when it was time to put the brakes on things as being overly fit is not always the healthiest option for people.
Not only did Jonah Hauer-King have to go through a body transformation for the under-the-sea musical, but his character, Prince Eric, had to go through some character revisions. Director Rob Marshall felt like Ariel’s love interest was too “wooden” in the original animated film and that the young prince needed more development for the live-action remake. This involved giving Prince Eric more of a story outside his scenes with Ariel, like wanting to escape his “small world” of royalty the same way Ariel wants to leave her life under the deep blue sea. This talented actor even got his own solo song for the movie called “Wild Uncharted Waters” which didn’t exist in the original. Disney remakes really are the perfect opportunities to make some modern improvements that would serve an audience of this generation well.
Jonah Hauer-King may have gotten too ripped when preparing for the role of Prince Eric. But fortunately, the intense training didn’t do him any permanent damage to his health. You can watch the 2023 movie release of The Little Mermaid in theaters now.