During my time in Anaheim, CA last week I had the chance to interview the cast of Cars 3. First up to interview was Owen Wilson (voice of “Lightning McQueen”), Kerry Washington (voice of “Natalie Certain”), Cristela Alonzo (voice of “Cruz Ramirez”), Armie Hammer (voice of “Jackson Storm”). This group of the cast was a fun bunch as there was lots of laughs and cracking jokes between each other.
When asked how they became involved with the roles and why they wanted to be a part of the film some of them agreed it was much easier than others but yet they would all agree that it was an honor to work with Pixar and happy to be a part of the franchise. There was also a joke between the cast that Owen Wilson was just passing the dinner rolls at John Lasseter’s table and got the part. No matter how they got the part, Disney Pixar chose the right role for each character making the film fantastic.
Q: Share how you became involved with the roles and why you wanted to be a part of this film?
Cristela Alonzo – I’ll tell you that I actually got a call. I was on my way to do a stand up tour in Canada, and I got a call from my agent asking me if I wanted to go to Pixar. They didn’t tell me anything. They’re just like do you want to go to Pixar. I’m like well that’s a random question, but yes. They flew me up to Pixar. I had no idea I was being considered for anything. I didn’t know anything until I got there, and then they made me sign papers like, and I’m like what am I doing?
And it wasn’t until they gave me a tour and then they sat me down in an office and broke down this Cruz character, and immediately I thought wait a minute, this is a job interview, like I would have dressed up better for you. I mean, I’m wearing my target vest, but still, you know, like who, what where, right guys? So you know, so I became involved with it and I working with the film in November of 2015. And I had no idea, and honestly I’m glad no one told me because I would have been very nervous. So it allowed me the chance to be myself and not have any time to work on fake me. And I ended up getting it, and it was, I mean, who ever thinks that you’re ever gonna be part of the Pixar world. I mean, it’s incredible.
Kerry Washington – I got a call much, much later. There was a role to play, like a super know it all, bossy pants character, super arrogant, so would I be willing to go way against type. I said yeah, and I just, honestly I’ve been a fan of this franchise from a long time, and just was honored to be a part of it and excited to do something that my kids could watch.
Owen Wilson – How I became involved? Well, it was, I met John Lasseter, who was sitting next to me. He had a dinner and he was telling me that, about the sort of idea, and I didn’t think, you know, necessarily anything would come of it. I didn’t know who he was or anything, and then, you know, it all sort of fell together and now I have this little guy (pointing to the Lightning McQueen toy car).
Armie Hammer – I wish I had a really good story. They called me, they said do you want to be in the movie? And I was like yup.
“Dream small or not at all.” – Cruiz Ramirez
One of my favorite part of the interviews was talking with Cristela Alonzo and her sharing a real life story that was added into the film. She is quite an inspiring person and really wanted to show in the film that girls can fulfill any dreams of theirs and be whoever they want to be. Having a daughter of my own this really touched my heart and I passed that story onto my daughter to help inspire her to be whatever she wants to be in life.
What message do you want to convey with Cruz’ character?
Cristela Alonzo : You know, this is actually a really good story that Brian Fee, the director, told. They screened the movie in Arizona, and they were telling me that the little girls that were at the screening couldn’t understand that Cruz would be a racer. And there were moments where they had to ask their mothers, if they had understood the story correctly. And for me that story is something that I carry now with me because it’s such a simple story.
But it’s such a weird thing that we’re so accustomed to not have that story, that experience that when little girls see it, they don’t even believe their eyes. And it’s that story like that moment, when I heard that story, it’s just that’s what I wanted kids to get out of it, especially girls, you know. If you’re the best, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. You just have to be the best and try hard, and that’s the best take away from this story.
I will tell you that the Cruz character started out as a boy, and they decided to make it into a female, a girl car. And John Lasseter actually came into the sound booth when I was recording one day, and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to be part of a Pixar movie. And I was just telling Kerry like every time a talk about anything, I try to talk about where I come from, how I grew up, blah, blah, blah, get very personal very quick. And I started telling him how I just never thought I was going to be a possibility, you know.
It’s like so many people tell you, especially in the kind of hood that I grew up with, they always tell you that you can’t do anything, you know. And everybody in the neighborhood is very quick to knock you down a peg. So John Lasseter took that story and actually ran with it. So there’s a speech where I get upset at Lightning, and one of the lines is dream small, he told me. And that was actually a line that I told Lasseter about my family. My family always told me to dream small, and it was that thing were they told me to dream small because they didn’t want my heart-broken.
So, you know, it was that thing where they always said you can’t have big dreams because big dreams don’t happen for people like us. So it’s that story where that speech and these stories that I started telling Pixar evolved into Cruz. So I always tell people what I like about Cruz, yet at the same time it’s very heartbreaking, is that Cruz gets to win in the story, and I don’t know if I get to win in my story. So it’s that thing where like, you know, it’s that thing where I try to bring that part of me into Cruz, and I think that that’s when they realized that a lot of the heart of the story came from that.
If you’re a huge Scandalous fan, you probably already know Kerry Washington. She plays Natalie Certain in the movie. She talks about how in their household she teaches to own your own voice. She showed the Cars 3 movie to her daughter and being that Kerry Washington is a voice in the film, her daughter said, “That car has your voice. That’s weird. She should have her own voice.” There is something Kerry has learned from her character in the movie and talks about it.
Q : I have a question from a reader, actually for Kerry. She wanted to know if there’s something about this character that you learned from?
Kerry Washington : This is probably gonna seem like a stretch, because it’s such a supporting character, but one of the things it’s made me think a lot about is sort of this disposable society that we live in, because Natalie Certain is so sure that Storm in going to win, because of the numbers, you know. She’s just so sure, and she’s certain that you can kind of discount everybody else because of the hot, new thing is the way to go. And I think we have to be really careful about that as a society, not just in our business but in general.
I mean, I heard a story recently, it’s so random but I heard a story recently about how Rutgers University paid more money than they’d ever paid to any visiting adjust speaker person ever the year that Snooki came to teach. That’s not, there’s no judgment on that, but she’s a reality star and that was the same year that Mia Angelo spoke at their commencement. And it just made me realize that we can sometimes, I think, prioritize hot and new more than we prioritize wise and creative. And as a society, we need to be careful about that. Again, no judgment about her.
Having a mentor takes a huge role in the movie Cars 3 and each cast member was asked who their mentor was. Of course there were some jokes aside that Owen Wilson was a requirement to be a mentor for all of them but aside from joking Cristela Alonzo really had a mentor she looked up to.
Cars has such a mentor-mentee thread running through it. Who are your mentors, either personally or professionally?
Kerry Washington : To be in the movie, we’ve all agreed to say that Owen is our mentor.
Armie Hammer : That’s was a requirement for being in the movie.
Owen Wilson : It just feels good to be a mentor.
Cristela Alonzo : Everyday I wake up in my bedroom and I see every movie poster Owen done.
Armie Hammer : He sent them to all of us.
Cristela Alonzo : He signed every one with, “what’s your face, I love you.”
Armie Hammer : Signed, Your Mentor.
Cristela Alonzo : My mentor is my mother, who passed away years ago, and my drama teachers in school. And I went to public high school at a very, you know, small town, and these teachers saw something in me. I will tell you my high school was 99% Mexican, and we used to do plays. My freshman year, we did the Diary of Anne Frank, all Mexicans. And, I know, and it was like so weird because we didn’t think it was weird.
And, you know, we just did the show and I think that doing something like that actually taught me that you couldn’t limit yourself into doing things, you know. We wanted to do the Diary of Anne Frank, and we did it, because realistically how many plays do you have for Latinos? Hamilton wasn’t around back then, you know. I had a teacher in college tell me that, as a Latina, I could do West Side Story and Chorus Line, and I did West Side Story and I did Chorus Line, and then I thought, well, I guess I have to retire from theater. You know what I mean? You know, it’s like I’m done, but having, I don’t even think my teachers realized what a great lesson they were giving me by telling me yeah, you can actually do a play about the holocaust and be in it, and actually do it. And I think that’s something, without them even knowing, in such a subtle way taught me so much.