Glass talks to Disney’s Latest Prince, Jonah Hauer-King

Glass Man speaks to British actor JONAH HAUER-KING, now on the brink of global stardom for his role in the highly anticipated live-action Disney remake, The Little Mermaid

From Spring Issue 52 of Glass Man

“It’s my lucky charm,” says Jonah Hauer-King pointing proudly at his Arsenal top. “I can’t go travelling without it.” For those close to the north Londoner, this probably comes as no surprise – he has been a stalwart supporter of the team since he was five after attending the FA Cup Final with his dad.

Now, as the 27-year-old fan prepares for a still under wraps project in a hotel room in Bratislava, his kit hangs in his wardrobe for moral support. However, looking at the upwards trajectory of his career to date, you would not think that Hauer-King is in need of much reassurance.

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

After bouncing between leading and supporting roles in TV and film for the past few years, he
is already a recognisable face on our screens. However, it is his upcoming role as Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid, the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated film of the same name, that is likely to bring him international fame.

Despite this, the aforementioned project still has him slightly worried and he pauses his thoughts about The Little Mermaid to share his nerves with me.“I’m in prep at the moment,” he clarifies, before slowly scratching his brown wavy hair. “I have to shave my head on Tuesday.”

Though not unusual for actors to sacrifice what seems to them as immortal parts of their identity
for a character, it is the first time for Hauer-King who is about to undergo a change for an undisclosed role.“I’m trying not to be vain about it and just accept it. I’ve never really done the shaved head thing before so I don’t know whether or not I have an alien head.”

“It’s only hair, right?” I reassuringly reply. “It will grow back.”

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

Understandably, with change brings trepidation. But for Hauer-King, his buzz cut is a strategic move to help him to evolve. While his upcoming role in The Little Mermaid is an undoubted boost to his career, it also potentially risks him being perennially defined as Prince Charming – albeit not a bad nickname to live with.

So, Arsenal shirt in hand, he knows that the hair must go for him to subvert expectation and to continue to conjure a fresh identity with each new project.

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

Raised in Islington, north London, by an American theatre-producer mother and British restaurateur father, Hauer-King grew up loving the arts. “I suppose it’s not a surprise that I was really into The Lion King and most Disney musicals growing up,” recalls the chiseled faced actor.

“I think I was more drawn to music than film or art.” By the age of ten, he could play the guitar and during his teenage years he even joined a band. As for acting, he says he only “flirted with the idea of doing plays but I didn’t think I was very good”.

The turning point came in his mid- teens. “My friend had written a play which we were going to take to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,” he explains. “It was a play with music about a speakeasy bar in New Jersey during the Prohibition era.” Although he took on an unassuming role, the experience was to become a defining moment for him.

“I think it’s always easier to look at this stuff in hindsight but growing up in London, going to day school, I had as much sense of self as an 11, 12-year-old could have,” he says.

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

“When I went to boarding school, it shifted slightly. When you’re a teenager, you’re trying to find out who you are and I was finding that particularly difficult. So I think looking back at it now, that was a massive part of it, being a part of a company and being in shows – that gave me something to latch onto being, like, ‘this is me’ and to a certain extent, how I want to define myself.”

The play was performed again in London and watching his 16-year-old self in action was the woman who would go on to become his agent. “She saw me and afterwards asked whether I would come
to her office for a cup of tea,” he vividly remembers.

“It was the first time I’d had any kind of professional recognition. I think so many of us get involved with a bit of theatre or a drama club, but the industry aspect of it seems a bit far away and quite a massive bridge to cross. So Lindy, my agent, was that bridge that made it all feel like it was possible.”

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

However, Hauer-King found himself at a dead end between finishing school and failing to get callbacks from auditions. Undeterred, he decided to get on with the rest of his life and he began studying for a theology degree at Cambridge.

University proved to be far more fertile ground than just learning about the ins and outs of divinity, opening up opportunities to accumulate theatrical experience across a wide range of roles, most notably as Alan Strang in Equus.

“I think what can be really special about university is that it gives you space to fail because it’s not professional and it’s not industry standard. It just feels like a safe space,” he says before adding, “Don’t get me wrong, university students are brutal and so getting naked on stage [in Equus] was a nightmare.”

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

What came next was a run of small roles in short films before finding himself front and centre in Old Boys (2018), Ashes in the Snow (2018) and the BBC’s primetime British WW2 drama series, World on Fire (2019) as the recurring Harry Chase.

Then in 2019 it was announced that the actor had been cast in Rob Marshall’s blockbuster musical, The Little Mermaid. “I certainly have felt nervous over the last couple of years,” he replies when I ask how he copes with predictions of global fame following the release of this film.

“I was cast in November 2019, so, on the one hand, it’s terrible because it gives you way too much time to overthink it and just build it up unhelpfully. But also we’ve had enough time to process it and I guess we don’t really know what it’s going to mean or be like.”

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

Ruminating on the role, it’s clear that, despite being at a point where he is just weeks away from a rampant press cycle to publicise the film, Hauer-King is still coming to terms with the scale of it all. “The truth is, these types of jobs come around infrequently and it’s exciting and you get a flutter when it enters your inbox,” he explains. “You usually send a tape off into the abyss and never hear back.”

Removing the rigmarole of the ten month intensive audition process that he says he doesn’t want to “bore” me with, Hauer-King eventually found himself in a room with Marshall. “I lost my voice somehow, I could only whisper,” he recalls with a smile.

“I phoned my agent saying I can’t go, it’s embarrassing, but they urged me to go. So I showed up … I couldn’t sing the song that they wanted because its range was too big, so instead I sang Amy Winehouse’s I Heard Love Is Blind. So thank you, Amy.”

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

After a screen test with co-star Halle Bailey, equipped with costume, make-up, a full crew and a purpose-built set, Hauer- King got the role. I asked the actor what he wanted to bring to the beloved character.

“Rob and I felt, like, on the one hand we needed to try and capture everything that everyone loved about Eric in the cartoon – him being this charming, charismatic prince figure,” he carefully explains. “But we agreed that we felt as though we didn’t really get to know him that well in the film. So that was a massive thing for us through the script stage and I think a big part of that was them choosing to give him a song.”

Hauer-King is not blind to the weight of this remake, “I think there is a responsibility for all filmmakers remaking these much-loved cartoons. I do think you have to be able to justify the ‘why’ in doing it, at least from a creative standpoint. I think we need to feel as if we have dealt with something respectfully and have breathed new life into something in a hopefully entertaining and surprising way.”

At the end of the day, it is for audiences to decide. But for now, Hauer-King is taking a break from fairytale castles, mermaids and singing sea creatures and just hoping his beloved team wins the Premier League. “I would be proud of them whatever they do,” he exclaims just before we finish our call. It sounds like Hauer- King is going to make a perfect prince.

by Imogen Clark

Photographer: Kosmas Pavlos

Stylist: Luke Day

Grooming: Liz Taw at The Wall Group using Up Circle Beauty

Photography assistant: Matthew Tortolano

Digital Imaging: Alexandra Heindl

Digital Operator: Nick Radley

Styling assistant: Sam Deaman

All clothing and accessories LOUIS VUITTON SS23 Collection