Tonight, fans will be delighted when the live version of The Little Mermaid hits their television screens just ahead of the Disney movie’s 30th anniversary.
The Little Mermaid Live! will air on ABC at 8pm EST, and stars Graham Phillips as Prince Eric. The 26-year-old actor will be playing opposite Auli’i Cravalho (best known for playing the title character in Moana) in tonight’s magical retelling, who also features Queen Latifah as Ursula, and John Stamos as Chef Louis.
Phillips has been acting since childhood, and this isn’t the first time he’s played a prince. 15 years ago, he was cast as the title role in The Little Prince, and now, he’s ready to go back to his roots.
Here’s what you need to know about Graham Phillips.
1. He Majored in History from Princeton University
In 2012, Phillips enrolled at Princeton University, where he majored in History.
In a 2016 interview with People, Phillips shared that playing the son of Julianna Margulies on The Good Wife heavily influenced his decision to attend college.
He told the outlet, “She went to Sarah Lawrence, and her argument was that your acting will always be best served when you have more in your arsenal… The more you know, the easier it is to understand people and to be more empathetic. So, I don’t regret the decision at all.”
David Duchovny wrote Phillips’ letter of recommendation for Princeton. In a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Phillips shared, “David Duchovny went to Princeton, and he thought he was going to be a writer, but he told me about how his experience as an English major really helped him out as an actor and as a filmmaker. That really helped me making my choice of college. We got to a level where he felt comfortable writing me a letter of recommendation for Princeton.”
2. He Starred in the Broadway Musical ’13’
In 2008, Graham was cast in the Broadway musical 13. He played the lead character of Evan Goldman. The show opened on October 5, 2008, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, and closed on January 4, 2009.
Prior to his work in 13, Phillips played the title role in The Little Prince at New York City’s Lincoln Center. His other stage work includes Young Clyde in An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera, A Christmas Carol: The Musical on Broadway, and The Ten Commandments: The Musical.
In his interview with d23 ahead of the live airing of The Little Mermaid, Phillips shared, “… it’s been about 15 years since I was cast as a prince [in The Little Prince], so it’s exciting for me to go back to my roots. The Little Mermaid was the first Disney film I remember watching. I was about 5 years old, and I have a really distinct recollection of watching that film with my family, so it was kind of surreal to even just audition for that role. Because at that age you don’t think they’re just characters, you see them as real people. So to breathe life back into that character—that I loved at an early age—was pretty awesome.”
2. He Dated Ariana Grande for 3 Years
From 2008 to 2011, Phillips dated Ariana Grande, after meeting her on 13 the musical. The two remain good friends.
In March, they were spotted hanging out in New York City, having dinner at the dinner spot Carbone. Before that, the two hung out for a reunion with the 13 cast in 2016.
Fans may recognize Phillips for playing Veronica’s ex, Nick St. Clair, on the hit CW series Riverdale. Phillips’s arrival on the show meant drama for Veronica’s romance with Archie Andrews in the third season of the series.
Along with his work on Riverdale, Phillips played Jordan Baxter in the Universal Pictures film Evan Almighty, Ben in Ben 10: Race Against Time, and Austin in Blockers.
4. He Recently Co-Directed His First Feature Film
Earlier this year, Phillips wrote and directed his first feature film, The Bygone, with his brother, Parker. The film’s synopsis reads, “When a young rancher crosses paths with a Lakota girl from a nearby reservation, her mysterious disappearance sparks a search that uncovers a harrowing past and hints at a dire future.”
According to the director’s statement on the film’s website, the movie was inspired by the “grim effects of the recent oil boom in North Dakota.”
The movie has been officially selected at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. According to a recent Instagram post, it will be available on iTunes and Amazon Prime on November 12.
5. He Has Been Swimming a Lot to Prepare for the Role of Eric
In order to prep for the role of Eric, Phillips has been swimming in an attempt to “get in touch with [his] aquatic self.” He tells d23, “The preparation has been quite rigorous. I’ve been swimming a lot and am basically trying to get in touch with my aquatic self. Prince Eric is obsessed with the water, and I think that’s pretty telling. He’s on a search for the unknown. He’s looking for adventure and something new. He’s happy to be free from the castle walls. I grew up in Laguna Beach so I’ve always been around the ocean, but I figured why not take some sailing lessons?”
Phillips goes on to say that his favorite character on The Little Mermaid is Ursula. As for working with Auli’i, Phillips says it has been a “delight.”
“She’s incredible. She’s got this amazing voice and brings so much of her emotion to that voice. She’s such a giving actress.”
Be sure to check out Phillips’ work by tuning in to The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC at 8pm EST.