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Samuel E. Wright (1946–2021), voice of Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid”

by Linnea Crowther

Samuel E. Wright was an actor and singer known for roles including providing the voice of Sebastian the crab in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

Acting career

Wright was best known for his role in “The Little Mermaid,” for which he sang the iconic songs “Kiss the Girl” and the Oscar-winning “Under the Sea.” But he was also a stage actor as well as doing live-action screen roles. On Broadway, Wright starred in “Pippin” as the Leading Player. He was nominated for two Tony Awards, for “The Tap Dance Kid” in 1984 and “The Lion King” in 1998 – he originated the role of Mufasa in the stage version of the Disney animated classic. In the 1988 movie “Bird,” Wright played Dizzy Gillespie (1917–1993). He starred on the TV show “Enos” and in the TV adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” as well as appearing on “The Cosby Show” and “Law & Order.” In a Fruit of the Loom commercial, Wright played a dancing bunch of grapes.

Notable quote

“Maybe not every actor would say this, but if I didn’t want to be immortal I wouldn’t be acting. I do want to make my little mark on the world. An actor’s worst nightmare is to hear, 10 years from now, ‘Sam Wright? Who was Sam Wright?’ If you have that kind of attitude, you tend to take each role and make it the best role you’ve done. You don’t know what people are going to judge you by. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cartoon, Dizzy Gillespie or Othello, I’m going to play it with the same fervor – just in case anybody’s watching.” —from a 1991 interview for the Los Angeles Times

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Tributes to Samuel E. Wright

Full obituary: CNN

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