If Jonah Hauer-King wasn’t a name that sounded familiar to you a few years ago, that’s more than likely not the case now. A big part of that can be credited to the British actor bagging himself one of the lead roles in Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, which has been the talk of the town for months now. He plays Eric, the human prince who Ariel, portrayed by Halle Bailey, falls in love with. With Walt Disney involved in the production side of things, it comes as no surprise that Hauer-King’s profile has been boosted rapidly due to the global exposure the big-screen movie has attracted. Whether it’s attending a red carpet event all suited and booted, gracing a magazine cover in designer gear, or making a television appearance, Hauer-King has been soaking up his new-found status as the next big thing, and rightfully so! I mean… who can blame him when his rise to stardom has been many years in the making?
Born in Islington, London, Hauer-King was raised Jewish by his American mother and British father and has dual UK and US citizenship. Growing up in a household with two older sisters, his love for theater came early on as his mom was a director and a producer. “She’d always take me to shows, and she gave me quite a diverse exposure to the theatre world. Though I grew up with it, I never really admitted to myself that I wanted to act until my mid-teens,” Hauer-King revealed to Broadway World in 2016, adding, “My parents gave me a very realistic outlook on being in this industry — the uncertainty and instability. They didn’t actively encourage me until I said ‘This is what I want to do’ and they’ve been hugely supportive ever since.”
Hauer-King left school with hopes that he was going to be an actor. But, the attempt to book work proved to be more of a challenge than expected. “Pretty quickly I got cold feet because I went to about six months of auditions and didn’t get a single callback,” said Hauer-King in a 2020 interview with Oliver Spencer. Referring to that period as a “pretty scary” reality check, he insisted that maybe it would be a wise decision to focus on another avenue. As a result, he made the choice to attend the University of Cambridge to study theology. Although, acting wasn’t out of the picture for too long as offers would start to pass him by quite soon after enrolling in his course. Instead of just waving goodbye to his education to pursue his dream, he decided to juggle his degree while actively working on stage and screen.
“It’s been tricky, but it’s such a thrill to do both – it feels like a massive privilege,” Hauer-King told Broadway World at the time. “I got my agent through an Edinburgh Festival show and then had a few months not working – all my friends were in nine-to-five jobs or studying, and I got cold feet and applied for uni. I’m now at Cambridge and we’ve just started our new term, so lectures and essays are kicking in…”
In 2016, he secured his debut West-End gig – playing Frank Kenneth in the revival of The Entertainer at Garrick Theatre, a role that is pretty major for any up-and-coming self-taught actor. “I had so much support and advice, but it’s always going to be terrifying!” he said about stepping out onto the West-End stage for the first time. “I remember coming to the Garrick to see Romeo and Juliet when we were in rehearsals, and just being in the theatre was scary. I thought “I’m just watching the show – how am I going to feel backstage when that curtain goes up?” Thankfully I got through that first one, and now it’s the biggest rush.”
His admiration for theater productions didn’t limit his acting ambitions. Since day one, Hauer-King has always dreamed big and has been keen to challenge himself, whether that be taking on roles out of his comfort zone or visiting a different genre. Kickstarting his movie career with a number of short film appearances, he would finally land a lead role in 2017’s British drama The Last Photograph, which would swiftly be followed up with more impressive work. That said, while those early independent projects may not have introduced his talent to the masses, he still looks back on them with such gratitude and pride. “I spent my first three or four years doing a lot of independent films, which is something I feel really passionate about. A lot of the time, the stories are so interesting. And you are working with fascinating people too,” Hauer-King said. “These projects might not get the largest audiences, but I’ve always tried to act in a diverse range of productions.”
Fast forward six years and Hauer-King was able to walk into The Little Mermaid with a lot more experience under his belt. In addition to starring in a number of films on the big screen – A Dog’s Way Home, The Song of Names, and Ashes in the Snow – he also became a series regular in World on Fire and The Flatshare and starred alongside Angela Lansbury in Little Women.
With The Little Mermaid finally released, the spotlight is being shone on him in a way that it has never before. Well aware that his international breakthrough is just around the corner, Hauer-King has had enough time to mentally prepare himself for the crazy fanfare. “It’s my first big – like really big – movie and it’s so exciting,” Hauer-King told GQ earlier this month. “I’ve had a few years to process how big this movie might be, as I actually started preparing for it back in April 2019,” he continued, adding, “Four long years of production, which was halted by Covid, and now we’re finally releasing it to the world. It’s pretty daunting.”
And just like any busy actor in demand, Hauer-King is already onto the next thing, which he assured definitely won’t be another Disney prince portrayal. “I’ve done it now, and while it was amazing and nothing like I’d ever dreamed of, I won’t be doing it again. I’ve ticked the box,” he said. The 27-year-old has just wrapped filming The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, a six-part series that will air on Peacock. “The Little Mermaid has been a huge part of my life for four years, so it feels weird to let it go. But also quite liberating. Sad to see it go, but also very excited for what’s next,” he concluded in his GQ interview.