I samarbejde med FOX Paramount Warner Home Entertainment. / Pr Nordic.
When you were approached to play Dora’s mum, was it a bit of a no-brainer to say yes?
“Oh, absolutely! I thought, ‘Why hasn’t this been done before?’ Because it feels like Tomb Raider, it feels like a big movie. Also, the fact that we’re not talking about a six-year-old Dora but a 16-year-old Dora. That also helps. Her navigating the jungle of High School as well as the real jungle, that just blew her world right open.”
Talking of High School, what are your memories of being there?
“Similar to hers! Fitting in. Standing out. Not fitting in… I think it’s worse today, with social media and bullying. There were bullies in our school, but I just remember wanting to fit in, not wanting to be different. And the great thing about the lesson in Dora is that you don’t have to do that – you can just authentically be yourself. People will love you or people won’t, but so long as you’re true to yourself, that’s all that matters. But, yeah, a lot of what happens in this movie is a reflection of High School for me, too. Cliques and people who want you to be somebody else, want you to change to fit in. They definitely nailed it.”
Being authentic to yourself is a great message, especially in the world we live in now. Is this a case of the perfect movie at the perfect time?
“Yes. I think Dora represents a load of beautiful qualities that we should all inherently possess. Compassion and kindness – I think the world is missing a little bit of that right now. The level of intolerance globally, for people who are different to you, is insane. So, it’s definitely nice to see a movie that speaks to that acceptance of who you are and how you are. Our Dora is like it in the jungle. She’s like, ‘Oh, look at this beautiful poisonous spider!’ She’s kind to it. She doesn’t kill it. She doesn’t try to put it in a tank and capture it. She just goes, ‘Let it be.’ She sees some wonderful alligators and she’s like, ‘You guys are amazing!’ It’s fun but it’s also, obviously, a metaphor. There are different people and cultures and races in the world, and we should respect all of them.”
How would you describe Isabela Merced (formerly Moner) as Dora?
“Oh. My. Gosh. She is Dora! Her positivity, her magnetic personality. She just is Dora. She’s so kind and sweet and innocent – and yet wise beyond her years. Just like Dora. Isabela is going places. In fact, I think she took a step down, working with us! She’s brilliant and her work ethic is amazing to watch. For being a young lady on the set, all day every day, carrying a movie on your back, going to dance rehearsals and singing rehearsals because there’s a big dance number [in the movie] and having to go to school in the middle of all that? She’s brilliant and she has delivered a performance that will just blow you away. It’s like, ‘Wow. That’s a girl who has her head on straight.’ She’s got a really long career ahead of her.”
It must be a lot of pressure. Did you give her any tips?
“It’s so much pressure. So much pressure. I was speaking to ‘bela about it before we started. I said, ‘You have fun! This is supposed to be fun! Don’t feel the pressure of bringing this character to life. It’s your version. It’s nobody else’s version of it – it’s yours.’ And she really delivered.”
How did you find James Bobin as a director? He’s got a very leftfield sense of humour, hasn’t he?
“Oh yes. He’s the Flight of the Conchords guy, you know? That is who he is. And that’s the hands I want to be in. He just had such a strong hold of what the movie should be – what it should look like and what it has to deliver. It was nice for me too because I direct and produce a lot. I get on sets where I’m directing and producing myself. I see the contingencies all the time. I’m like, ‘Why is the camera over there?’ It’s hard for me to not do that. So, it was nice for me to be on a set where it was like, ‘Oh, okay! I am in good hands! He knows exactly what he is doing.’ And, he lives in Bath [in England]. I love Bath. I did a series in Wales, called Decline and Fall, with Jack Whitehall. At the weekend we’d always go somewhere. The only thing I didn’t like was the limited vegetable options. It was just peas, peas, peas… I’d be in a restaurant and I’d say, ‘Can I have something green?’ They’d be like, ‘Here, have some peas!’ I mean, come on! Kale? Spinach? Asparagus? Something other than peas! I did have a really good pizza, though…”
Where did you have the good pizza?
“[Laughs] I thought I had discovered a real hole in the wall. I tweeted about it, I Instagrammed about it… I was like, ‘You guys! You have to come to this place!’ It was right outside my hotel, so I ate there four times a week. It was the best pizza that I had ever had. I was like, ‘Forget about it. We’re eating pizzas every day. And, no, I’m not sharing my pizza with you.’ Like I say, I thought I’d discovered a real hole in the wall. Then I told everyone it was called Pizza Express [one of the UK’s biggest restaurant chains, that launched in 1965]. I guess they didn’t need the exposure.”
You mention how you’re directing and producing now, as well as acting. How do you balance those multiple skillsets?
“Well, luckily [on Dora], I had just given birth. My son was seven weeks old when we went to Australia. So, I was deliriously tired and breast-feeding. I had to just not think of things like that, of directing and producing, at that moment in time. So, it was nice to be like, ‘I’m so tired. Where do I stand? What’s my line?’ I was so tired. I’m 30 pounds heavier in the movie – 30 pounds! I had just given birth, my boobs were this big [makes exaggerated hand gesture], and even throughout the movie you see me go [makes shrinking down sound] because it was over two months, so I was still losing the baby weight. But it was actually beautiful to play a mom, being a mom. That was the first time I had ever done that. There’s a scene where me, Michael [Pena, who plays Dora’s father] and Isabela [Merced (fomerly Moner)], we’re all running out of this crumbling temple. We run out and Dora runs back in. Me and Michael go, ‘No!’ But we don’t run back in. Michael and I were both like [shouting], ‘We would both go after her! As parents, we would not let our child go into the crumbling temple by herself!’ James [Bobin] was like, ‘Yeah, but you can’t, because Dora has to save the movie.’ We were like, ‘Right… But just so we’re clear, we should be right behind her, making sure, as parents, that she doesn’t get crushed by a boulder.’ He was like, ‘Okay…’ That was our instinct. But, you know, this is a movie about Dora. She’s got to save the day, not her parents.”
You’ve worked with Michael before. What’s the dynamic like between you now?
“You know what I love about this movie? It’s that it’s the origin story of Dora. It’s the first time we’re ever going to see this story be told this way. And you can’t tell the origin story without showing where she came from, which is her parents. And, once you meet her parents you go, ‘Oh, that’s why she’s the way she is!’ We’re super-nerdy, all about exploring, obviously. We impose that knowledge onto her – make her passionate and excited about it. We taught her everything she knows. And Michael and I, we have a great shorthand. We created these characters that were like Dora on steroids.”
One of the key elements of Dora is that kids also learn something when they watch her. Is that still here, in her big screen debut?
“Absolutely. I think that’s in the DNA of Dora. Being educated and smart is in the DNA of who she is. And I love that there’s going to be a character for young girls to see on the screen who is smart and intelligent and adventurous and unapologetic and authentic to herself. Kids need that. Young ladies, specifically, need to see that and be like, ‘Oh, okay… It is cool to be smart. Not just that, it is so cool to be smart!’”
Who were your heroes when you were growing up?
“My family. My mom, my sisters. I didn’t grow up with the whole ‘celeb’ thing. That whole culture is very new. I didn’t grow up with social media. I grew up with three channels in my house. We didn’t have cable. We never went to the movies. I think the first movie I saw was maybe when I was 16. It wasn’t in our culture. In Hispanic culture, our entertainment is our family [laughs]. You know, barbecues and weddings and baptisms. I grew up on a ranch too, so that was entertaining. Growing up, my role models were my mum, my aunts and my sisters. I wanted to be just like them.”
In many ways, given how passionately you’re talking about it, this would seem to be a bit of a dream movie for you. Is that fair?
“Oh, 100 percent. Not just because of Dora being an iconic character, but because it was the chance to take one of our most beloved, iconic characters from the Hispanic community and make her a multi-dimensional, real-life person. The opportunity to see that for the first time on film was really cool. But also because of this cast. I feel like it was cast colour-blind, but authentically to the world. It wasn’t like, ‘We’ve got to have Latinos in this!’ Obviously, Dora’s parents would be Hispanic and of course Dora is going to be. That was just authentic to the world.”
One of the key pieces of iconography in Dora has always been her backpack. If you were to get stranded in the jungle, what three things would you insist were in yours?
“Hmm. Cell phone – I only say cell phone because it has Google Maps, not because I want to be on my cell phone, because you probably wouldn’t have WiFi all the way out there. And Iodine drops, so I can turn any water into drinking water. And sunblock, obviously.”