Ekslusivt interview med “Dora”, Isabela Merced (tidligere Moner)

Filmnet.dk har eksklusivt fået dette lille interview med “Dora and The Lost City of Gold” lead, Isabela Merced (tidligere Moner). Interviewet foregår på engelsk.

Did you watch Dora on TV, growing up? 

“Oh yeah! And I really related to her, I guess in the sense that she spoke both English and Spanish. She had an American accent, but she spoke Spanish with her family. It was cool. And then, growing up, I had this exact same haircut, at a young age, so everyone called me Dora! When they said they were doing the movie, I was like, ‘I have to do this! My whole life I’ve been called Dora!’”

Do you and Dora have a lot in common, do you think?

“I feel like we have a bit in common. I mean, you can tell she’s kinda got this childlike complex where she hasn’t been able to socialise very well and she’s kind of stuck in that eight-year-old mentality and that mindset where she doesn’t really get social cues yet. She’s had friends, but they’re all imaginary or are, like, a monkey, who doesn’t actually talk to her! And her parents are concerned for her, but she’s not aware. But I relate to her in the sense that she’s super-positive. I guess I like to see the best in people. That’s not always a great thing but it has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.”

How did you feel when you first put on the costume?

“It was so funny. Obviously, [that costume] went through a lot of processes, changes and everything, but overall it was a really awesome moment, looking in the mirror for the first time. It was crazy. It was like, ‘This is meant to be… This is it. This is Dora!’ I had a few other friends there because I always have friends around and we were having a great time, cracking up.” 

Obviously, this is a massive adventure movie. But what’s it about underneath the action?

“Dora doesn’t have a cell phone, you know? She doesn’t know vines or memes. There’s so much to be said that this movie addresses. The jungle and the rainforest and how it’s dying, Dora is so conscious about these things that are super-important that many people just don’t care about in everyday life, because they’re not surrounded by it. You know, that attitude that unless it directly affects you, you’re not gonna start changing your habits to start saving the environment. It has to directly affect you. For Dora, it’s her life, so it does directly affect her. She knows what’s up. I just think that’s wonderful. It’s also empowering of young women because Dora is so smart and educated. It’s shown in a positive light, especially the fact that she’s Latina too and that’s something that is amazing.”

As a character, she also doesn’t ever seem to change to become someone else just because that’s what’s expected of her… 

“And that’s a great thing, right? Humans’ basic instinct is to just join the herd, be part of the herd because you’ll survive more in numbers. But Dora doesn’t think that way. And that’s how it should be. I just think it’s a waste of time to be anyone other than who you are. It’s a waste of energy. I love the message of this movie.”

In her original incarnation in her animated TV show, Dora was literally 2D. Were you surprised by the way James Bobin was planning to bring her to life? 

“Yeah. When I first heard about it, I was wondering how it was going to work as a movie. But the way he goes about it is really funny. He uses a comedic approach to Dora and her energy that’s just out of this world. And he places her in the modern world, in the worst place, which is High School! It’s just a cool dynamic. What’s interesting is that I thought it was clear as day what Dora needed to be, but when I met him James said he’d never seen anyone do that take. He just thought that I was Dora.”

How did you find working with James? He’s got a very leftfield sense of humour, hasn’t he?

“I loved it. Right off the bat we got each other. Right off the bat we got that Dora isn’t weird, she’s just unique. She’s not a tomboy, she’s just herself. He is brilliant and very, very funny, and musically he’s very inclined, so he gets the beats of comedy and humour, which all come together [at the end of the movie] for a musical number where we’re all singing and dancing together in unison. That’s my favourite scene ever. It was really, really fun and the joy in that scene is just infectious.”

You’re a musician yourself. Did your musicality help you on this movie?

“Oh, 100%. For the song [that Merced (formerly Moner) recorded for the movie], they actually did a full-on recording with me in the studio. A bunch of takes on the verse. You’ll hear it – it’s me singing the song. It’s a great opportunity. James loves karaoke. I think he found out I can sing from that.” 

What’s his go-to karaoke track, and what’s yours?

“He loves Cher. I mean, he loves Cher. Also, George Michael. I fluctuate. He had a karaoke machine on set, so we could bring it anywhere. At the wrap party, we all went over to his house and we all did karaoke. That was super-fun.”

How did Michael Pena and Eva Longoria measure up as on-screen parents?

“Oh, amazing! I couldn’t have asked for better ones. Eva is incredible. I’m just happy they thought I even look related. She is gorgeous! Ad she’s also a dedicated actress and director. And Michael is hilarious – his improv is amazing. He makes such great jokes. And I love watching his movies.” 

Is Eva quite an inspiration to you? You mention her acting and directing… 

“I think seeing women like that, particularly Latinas, in the industry is super-inspiring. I just feel like I can learn so much from them. It’s weird if you’re like, ‘Teach me things!’ So, I just listen and watch. Just being around people like that you can learn from them.”

It sounds like you enjoyed your time shooting in Australia?

“I loved it. I went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, I went to this amazing zoo and animal hospital and met one of the prettiest koalas I’ve ever seen in my life. So perfect. I got to see X-rays of the turtles. One of them had a broken flipper. Then, afterwards, I was like, ‘Wow, I really am like Dora the Explorer!’”

How did you find the action sequences?

“I just had to jump into them. Literally! The thing is, I think Dora is an action hero, so I couldn’t exactly not do some stunts, right? And I was always a bit like that as a kid, physical. In all honesty, it’s because my whole life I’ve grown up with brothers and a dad and if they ever did anything I had to do it too, and do it better. I’m super-competitive because of them. And my mom didn’t like shopping, so I always grew up wearing my older brothers’ clothes. I didn’t really think it was that bad. I didn’t really notice. I didn’t know how to dress, really, up until I got into this industry and realised you have to look presentable!”

Presumably it was also refreshing to be one a movie with people more your own age, after the likes of Transformers: The Last Knight and, in particular, Sicario 2: Soldado?

“Yeah, it has! They are super-nice and super-friendly. And I haven’t gotten to work with kids my age for a while, so this has been great. Really awesome to have normal kids. Because getting into this I was worried that they would be, I don’t know… it’s just been a while! But they were lovely to work with, and super-funny too. And we got to hang out a lot off the set too, which really helped. You know, in the movie all these characters are just kind of thrown together on this adventure, and we were all on a bit of an adventure too, so the dynamic kinda worked.” 

What’s the main message you want audiences to get out of Dora And The Lost City Of Gold?

“This is a movie about growing up and not conforming to what people tell you to do. Dora is made fun of throughout the script because she is so out-there and people can’t conceive of someone who can be this positive and upbeat and happy and loving all of the time. It’s a great message, actually. And that’s also why I gravitated towards the script. It’s important that people, especially kids, feel that way, I think. Growing up I was always really confused, being half Hispanic and half white because the two sides of my family were so different. I couldn’t find out where I fit in because I didn’t fit in with my community in Cleveland Ohio, where most people were Irish. And then when I went to Peru I felt like I fit in, so I’m just hoping that people will realise it’s okay to have a mixed heritage, and feel out of place, because as long as you embrace who you are inside you can’t go wrong, because there are people out there like you.”

Lastly, 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?

“Ah… Dora’s backpack! It’s like Mary Poppins’ handbag, that thing! Okay, so it would be: Pluto, my dog, who I got in Australia, I’d put him in the backpack. I would love to have – other than basic essentials – I would probably want music, something to do with music. An instrument, maybe. And then I guess my favourite dessert, which is chocolate covered strawberries. Dark chocolate and white chocolate – you just switch it up for each strawberry, so it’s all good…” 

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