MANDY: [excitedly] I just met Donna Murphy for the first time! She's so cool!
MEDIA: We're told that you both recorded your lines at different times, but you still never had the chance to meet her before now?
No. It took the press junket--it took the magical world of Disneyland to bring us together! [laughs] Wow, she's so sweet. I love her. I want her to be my real mom!
Donna said that she would imagine you and your responses as she was recording Mother Gothel...
Oooh! That's cool.
You didn't do the same thing while recording Rapunzel?
[jokes] Apparently I'm not as involved as an actress. I'm not as professional. [laughs] No, I mean, we were both just briefly talking about how it was initially hard to get past the point that we all weren't going to be working together. But once I sort of realized that that wasn't the process for this particular project, I really relied a lot on [directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard] to just guide me. Because clearly they were at the helm and they knew what they wanted, and they knew how to get what they needed from me, because they had been in all the other sessions with Donna and Zach, etc.
What was your initial reaction to Rapunzel as a character, and how her story is told?
You know, the biggest thing that jumped out to me, and probably to everyone else, is just the idea that her entire life, she was told that it was her seventy feet of magical, long hair that made her special and separated her from everyone else. And really, it was something she had within herself the entire time--it had nothing to do with her hair. I love that. I love having the opportunity to portray a young woman who is so fearless and confident. And she's not a victim, she's not naive, and she's open and warm and engaged and spirited and ready to embrace the unknown, whatever comes her way. I feel lucky. I think those parts are so few and far between. It's really cool. And what I knew about Rapunzel was the damsel in distress and the tower, letting down her hair for the prince to save her. And our story sort of flips that on its head, and she's the one that ends up saving "the prince," if you will. She ends up saving the guy! She needs him to help her get out of the tower and sort of escort her on this adventure, but she's definitely in the lead. I like that. For the idea of girl power, too.
Despite your extensive background as a singer, is it at all difficult to sing in a different voice? In this case, as Rapunzel?
Well, yeah. I mean, I think just the approach of singing as a character, in character, as opposed to the choices you would make for yourself...? That was difficult. And I didn't really expect that. Because I just thought, "Oh my God, I love musical theatre..." [laughs] And you know, I'm a huge Alan Menken fan, and to be a Disney princess in a Disney film...You know, it really has been a total dream come true. But it wasn't until I actually had gotten to the studio and realized how there was just so much to fit in, specifically the first song in the film. I was like, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to get through this?" But luckily we had Alan there, and he was very specific about what he needed, and his idea for how he heard the song. And he was very good about coaching me to get out what he needed. Because I was just sort of like, "Wow, I don't necessarily know how to approach this." And I couldn't just be Mandy. I couldn't just sing it the way that I wanted to sing it. I knew there had to be a specific take on it.
We've heard stories of over-eager parents inadvertently destroying their young children's fantasies by introducing them to actors who voice their favorite animated characters. What would you do if a parent put you in that situation?
I'll disguise my voice. No, I don't know. I mean, I wouldn't want to shatter the illusion, because I was excited last night at Disneyland myself when I saw Ariel and Prince Eric on a boat with all the other characters. I was waving like an excited kid! So I don't want to be a part of crushing anyone's dreams. I think it's about figuring it out in the moment. [laughs] I'm just excited. I don't know what is around the corner. It's pretty cool, though. All of this. It's still mind-boggling to think, like, "Wow, you're really a part of this lineage and this part of Disney history." It's a big deal.
You should get a free pass to Disneyland for the rest of your life...
Oh, I hope so! I have to put that out there. I was thinking that, because we went to the park last night after work, and I was like, "I hope that this entails a free pass with a guided tour forever." Who knows?
What did you think when you came face-to-face with the performers playing Flynn and Rapunzel at Disneyland?
We saw the Flynn and Rapunzel the other day and we took pictures with them. And it was bizarre to shake hands with Rapunzel. And I'm like, "Hi, I'm Mandy!" She said, "Hi, I'm Rapunzel!" And I wanted to be like [defensively], "No you're not! I am Rapunzel!" [laughs]
Growing up, who was your favorite Disney princess?
Oh, Ariel, without question. From The Little Mermaid. She was always my favorite.
Ariel and Rapunzel have a lot of similarities, actually...
Yeah! They're both longing for a world outside of their own. I didn't realize that until another fancy-schmancy reporter brought it up. [laughs] I was like, "Oh, yeah, that does make sense!" Yeah, I can definitely see the parallels.
What are some of your favorite Rapunzel moments in the film?
[laughs] I loved the whole sequence where she's torn when she first leaves the tower. Like, "I'm a horrible daughter!" Just the extreme emotions. I loved that. [pauses] Oh, goodness...I'm trying to think of what else...She's a little wacky!
Being locked in a tower for 17 years will do that to you...
Yeah! It makes you a little crazy. But you know, she did use her time wisely, which I appreciate, too. But being a romantic girl, I loved the lantern scene, too. I loved that whole sequence. I thought that was a lot of fun to watch.
Did you ever learn to wield a frying pan, Rapunzel's weapon of choice?
[laughs] No. Nobody wants to see me with, like, any kitchen appliances and utensils. I have no skills. [laughs]
Have you been recording more lines as Rapunzel for video games and other tie-in products?
We did the voice for the video game and stuff...I think there's a Wii game coming out. We did that. We did some e-reader books for kids. That kind of stuff. Which was so crazy because when I went in to do some of that stuff, they were telling me that [Jodi Benson], the woman who plays Ariel, [is] still coming in. They were like, "Oh, she was just here two weeks ago recording something for us." Twenty years later, still doing the voice of Ariel! I was like, "Wow!" Like I had no idea when I signed up for this job that it's a lifelong commitment if you choose it to be. [laughs] That's pretty cool, you know?
Now that you're associated with Rapunzel, do you think it will be hard to transition from the wholesomeness of this project to edgier material going forward?
No, I don't think so. I mean, you kind of can't get any more classic than being a part of a Disney animated film. To me, that's something that I can now have in my back pocket for the rest of my life. And I feel so honored, so lucky--you know, to think that this project and this film will be around long after I'm gone. [laughs] I'll be able to show it to my kids. And there are plenty of projects that I have been a part of that I wish would disappear, that I could sweep under the rug somehow. [laughs] So, no, I think it's about variety. That's the key for me, is to keep continuing to find ways to challenge myself and to grow. And this was something that I had never tackled before. And it definitely was so much fun. But it was a challenge, like we were talking about with the music. So, oh, gosh no...I don't think it'll be difficult to navigate from here on out.
Thanks for your time.
Thanks, guys. Have a good one!