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Teenage Jacob Tremblay reflects on revisiting ‘The Little Mermaid’

The Vancouver-raised child star burst onto the scene as a pint-sized phenom in 2015’s ‘Room’
Jacob Tremblay and Millie Davis attend the Canadian Premiere of The Little Mermaid held at TIFF Bell Light Box in Toronto on May 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - George Pimentel **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Jacob Tremblay understands the confusion when fans appear surprised that he’s now 16 years old.

The Vancouver-raised child star who burst onto the scene as a pint-sized phenom in 2015’s “Room” says he’s grown a lot since the abduction drama brought him critical acclaim.

His latest film is Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.”

After walking the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere, he notes that internet comments seemed focused on how tall he is now.

“I was eight (years old), like, eight years ago,” he says, briefly pausing to consider the time gap during a recent promotional stop in Toronto.

“It makes sense actually. Because of COVID we were on lockdown, I went into the pandemic at 12 or 13 and came out at 16.

“It almost feels like a Thanos snap,” he says referencing the Marvel villain who wields incredible powers with the snap of his fingers.

For his latest role, Tremblay voices Flounder, a tropical fish who is the best friend Ariel, a mermaid who gives up her life in the sea and her voice to be with a human prince.

Ariel is played by Halle Bailey, one-half of the Grammy-nominated R&B sister pair Chloe x Halle.

Melissa McCarthy plays the villainous sea witch Ursula, Daveed Diggs is Sebastian the crab and Awkwafina voices an eccentric seagull, Scuttle.

Tremblay says he was a bit nervous taking on his role.

“The songs and film were always on repeat as I grew up, so to be a part of something that was going to be introduced to newer audiences made me feel a lot of pressure,” he says.

Adding to the pressure was internet backlash to the CG-photorealistic appearance of Flounder, which critics said lacked the cuteness of the 2D original.

“I thought it all looked pretty cool and worked really well because the sea life looked very real and recognizable and to see them dance together in that realized way, I think made it very magical,” says Tremblay.

Tremblay also sings for the first time in the film, and notes he had to do this in front of esteemed singers Bailey and Diggs.

Youth was actually an asset during the recording, says Tremblay, who was 13 at the time.

“My voice has changed so much since then, so it was far easier to hit those high notes,” he says.

“If I were ever to revisit it, I don’t think I could ever do nearly as good of a job as I did, because like everyone can tell, I’ve grown.”

Tremblay’s other roles have included the 2017 Julia Roberts drama “Wonder,” as a child with craniofacial differences, and the lead voice in Pixar’s 2021 animated film “Luca,” about a 13-year-old who looks and lives like a fish but takes human form on land.

Tremblay says he started acting “just for fun,” and that it has since turned into “a passion for filmmaking.”

Moving forward, he’s far more interested in being behind the camera than in front of it.

“Directing, screenwriting and producing have been elements I’ve been passionate about lately,” he says.

Tremblay credits his relatively normal home life in Langley, B.C., with keeping him grounded when giants like Disney knock at his door.

“I still go to public school and what’s cool is that I’ve kind of lived in the same neighbourhood the majority of my life, so everyone there knows me and sees me as a regular dude,” he says.

“I’ve also learned over the years that it’s very important to be humble and understand that we’re all people. I really pay attention to make sure that none of this ever gets to my head and that I stay a level person — I prioritize kindness over anything.”

The Canadian Press