Jonah Hauer-King Is Much More Than a Prince
LONDON — Jonah Hauer-King doesn’t normally pick up calls from unknown numbers, but when director Rob Marshall called at 7 a.m. from an American cell phone, he instinctively picked up.
“He said that he was looking for Prince Eric and I said, ‘that might be me, I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘it’s yours, well done,'” Hauer-King recalls of the moment he found out that he would be playing the role of the prince in the live-action adaptation of the 1989 animation film, “The Little Mermaid.”
More from WWD
'The Little Mermaid' World Premiere With Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy and More
'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' Premiere Red Carpet With Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez & More
“I sort of thought that it hadn’t happened. I thought it might have been a bit like a dream, so I texted the number saying, ‘is this Rob? Did you actually give me the part?’ And he said, ‘yes, you crazy person, it’s definitely yours,’” he adds.
In Marshall’s version of the Disney film, the audience learns more about Prince Eric, an adventurous prince on a voyage who mingles and helps out with the crew ship members. It’s also subtly noted that the prince is adopted, but treated as much as a royal as his mother, Queen Selina, played by Noma Dumezweni.
“He has more layers, there are more dimensions to him and we understand him better. He’s a bit restless and lost because he doesn’t really want to be the future king,” says Hauer-King, explaining that’s why Eric and Ariel are “kindred spirits because they’re quite similar, it makes sense that they fell for each other so quickly and they’re willing to give everything up for each other.”
He had three months to learn princely activities: horse carriage riding, scuba diving and rowing boats, which he says he will keep on doing because it was “quite nice and I feel like that’s quite a romantic little thing to be able to do.”
Hauer-King says he’s a terrible swimmer, but it worked for the part. Despite the prince being always at sea, in the film, his character is saved from drowning.
“I didn’t really have to look like I could [swim] because I couldn’t,” he says, laughing.
Hauer-King grew up watching the 1989 film at home with his two older sisters, who loved and watched it so much that it became part of his consciousness, he says.
He recently took a BuzzFeed quiz with the whole cast to determine which character they would each be.
“I was the only one that got my own character. I was sort of trying to answer it slightly stupidly as well and it still came back [as Prince Eric],” says Hauer-King, who got into acting from a young age at school, but admits to not being cast in many of the plays.
“It kind of came later for me. The first play I did was when I went to a theater festival in Scotland. It was the kind of place where you do everything, you build your own set, you put it up every day, you have to take it down after performances and you’re promoting it every day. I was part of something creative and it gave me a sense of belonging,” he says.
The London-born actor is the son of Debra Hauer, a producer turned psychotherapist, and Jeremy King, an acclaimed restaurateur behind the Wolseley and the Delaunay.
He attended Eton College, a prominent school recognized for its alumni of royals, writers and actors such as Prince William and Harry, Ian Fleming, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne. The school has also produced 20 British prime ministers.
Hauer-King went on to study theology and religion at University of Cambridge, where he graduated with top marks while acting on the side.
“At the time, it was just what I was interested in, there was not really any rhyme or reason. I just really loved the course, but I think looking back, the degree was about looking at different religious communities and the way they live their lives, the way they find meaning and purpose and relate to one another,” he says, comparing it to storytelling and building a character from “trying to understand them, what makes them tick and what they’re afraid of.”
“Looking back, I still do use a lot of the tools that I learned whenever I start a job now,” he adds.
Hauer-King’s next two projects are worlds away from Disney fairy tales. He will be starring in the TV adaptation of the 2018 Holocaust novel, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” by Heather Morris and “Rich Flu,” a dark comedy thriller from Spanish director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
“When I was starting out, I’d say yes to things I was offered. I didn’t really have that much choice. Now that I’m starting to get a little bit more choice, which is a huge luxury, it’s pretty story-driven and director-driven. If there was a theme, it would be just looking for variation wherever possible,” he says about curating his acting résumé.
He calls “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” an incredibly challenging and difficult job because of its harrowing nature.
“When I feel like something seems difficult or scary, that’s a good sign because it means that I push myself out of my comfort zone,” he adds.
In Gaztelu-Urrutia’s project, he takes on the role of the villain, which he jokingly says he eased into. The film centers around a mysterious disease that threatens to kill anyone with wealth.
“It was really fun to play someone who’s deeply, deeply flawed, not very nice and quite obnoxious. I think the ‘Rich Flu’ character felt fun because you were kind of exploring things that you don’t usually, [aren’t] allowed to say, and that was quite fun,” says Hauer-King.
Best of WWD
'The Novice' Pushed Isabelle Fuhrman Past Her Breaking Point