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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Kowalski has met his match.

More like this penguin found his love interest.

The lovable penguins from the “Madagascar” franchise returns in their own stand-alone animated film “Penguins of Madagascar.” In the movie, Kowalski and his penguin crew will team up with the super agents The North Wind to stop a diabolical villain Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world.

Latino-Review had an exclusive interview with Annet Mahendru last week who voiced Eva, the tech savvy owl of The North Wind.

Mahendru discussed the similarities and differences between Eva and the Russian spy she plays on the TV show “The Americans.” She also talked about the experiences to voice in an animated movie.

“Penguins of Madagascar” is currently available in digital formats, Blu-ray and on DVD.

Read the interview below.

Latino-Review: Tell me on why you were attracted to this project.

Annet Mahendru: Because I’m attracted to the espionage thing.

Latino-Review: What’s so special about the espionage thing that you like?

Annet Mahendru: [Giggles] I guess that you really have to use absolutely everything to stay alive and to accomplish a mission. It requires everything of you. It’s fun. It’s a well-rounded business. [Giggles]

Latino-Review: This cartoon character, Eva, in her own way is similar as a spy with the character, Nina Krilova, you played on “The Americans.” Could you explain the differences between these two characters?

Annet Mahendru: They are similar since they’re both Russian. They’re different because Eva is an animal. She is a bird. [Laughter] In a way, they’re both relatable since Eva and Nina are both savvy. Just that Eva can fly for survival.

How are they different? Eva is definitely tech savvy. She has computers. She gets her information instantly. Nina doesn’t even have a cell phone. She’s just running whether it’s in her sweat suit in jail—which is practically all she has. She has no access to anything but herself. Even the Russian accents are different. [Giggles]

Latino-Review: Let’s talk about that Russian accent. You mentioned it’s a little bit different. How did you developed the voice for Eva?

Annet Mahendru: I got a description of Eva. She’s in command. She’s very sure and very outspoken. Unlike Nina, she has to do everything through a veil. You’ll never know who Nina is. Eva is pretty straightforward and she’ll tell the boys on how it is.

Latino-Review: When you came up with the voice, the Russian accent, did you have to tweak it a little bit to distinguish it from the real-life character you portray on TV? Or did you just simply stayed with the same type of voice?

Annet Mahendru: I think it naturally happened, because the worlds are so different. The personality-wise, they’re so different too. So the accents and voice come from that. We played around with that, but never once we thought, “Oh. You sound like Nina right now.” So we played around with Eric [Darnell] and Simon [Smith]. I think [the voice] was just there. I showed up and did my first few lines and [we created] Eva. That’s how it happened.

Latino-Review: When you got the role in “Penguins of Madagascar,” did you think that you were being typecast? Is this Russian accent your specialty?

Annet Mahendru: [Laughter] That is so funny. I was so excited to have a character that has blue eyes and flies. I wasn’t really thinking about anything else. “Oh! I always wanted to have blue eyes. Oh! I always wanted to fly.” So let’s do it.

I think they’re pretty different. It’s like people who play American parts. People don’t think, “Oh, no! I think I’m being American again.” I wasn’t pouting there saying, “Oh, no. It’s the Russian accent again.” It was really fun to be a part of “Penguins of Madagascar” and in that world.

Plus, Russians are the best kind of spies anyways. Why would I want to do a different accent? C’mon.

Latino-Review: Yeah, that’s true. Then again, I don’t know real Russian spies.

Annet Mahendru: The world knows that the Russian has those mysterious spies. No one could really figure them out. Nothing can be cooler than that.

Latino-Review: What was your reaction when you saw Eva for the first time on a photo or a clip?

Annet Mahendru: It was so cool. I saw what the animators did on those clips in motion were just incredible with the turns and the twists. There were her eyes blinking—it was such a trip. They’re really good at what they do.

Latino-Review: This character has a love interest with a penguin. Could you talk about that?

Annet Mahendru: Kowalski is really into her. I like to pronounce the name in the Russian way. People say, “Oh, Kowalski.” He’s the brains of his group. They’re basically made for each other. She wanted him before the mission even started. She gives him that kiss and he deserves it. She is toying with him, but she does appreciate him.

Latino-Review: Are you a big fans of these penguins and the “Madagascar” series?

Annet Mahendru: I am. They’re so cute. It’s so fun. This film has espionage elements in it so adults will like it. It’s not just something that kids are fascinated with. It’s a fun movie for everybody.

Latino-Review: You don’t personally have kids to watch the movie with, right?

Annet Mahendru: I just feel like I had a déjà vu with that question. Nina keeps getting asked, “Do you have any children?” She always respond with “No. No!” No, I don’t have any children yet. I have a ten-year-old sister who I took to the premiere. And she loved it.

Latino-Review: I believe this is the first time for you in a voiceover for an animated movie. Am I correct? Tell me about the overall experience working on this project.

Annet Mahendru: It is. It was really fun. It was really silly, because you’re there by yourself. Simon or Eric will pop in as a reader sometimes. It was a very virtual kind of experience. The whole process was very surreal.

Then you come back to see Eva move and put my voice to it. They brought this inanimate object to life. It was really, really trippy. I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.

Latino-Review: Would you love to do this again?

Annet Mahendru: Oh, absolutely! It was freeing! You get to be silly. You try to do this voice and embody this owl. You act like you can fly. There’s a lot of motion in your voice. It’s just liberating. It’s really goofy.

Latino-Review: Was it easier to do this voiceover than physical acting?

Annet Mahendru: They’re still different. You’re still acting. You’re imagining a character who you’re talking to. You’re still having a conversation and being very human. That’s the truth to acting too. You’re carrying conversations and talking as you would.

Latino-Review: So you didn’t have a chance to have a voiceover with someone else then? Did you interact with anyone else from the cast?

Annet Mahendru: Peter Stromare and I would go back-to-back in our sessions. We talked in between sessions, but you’re literally imagining the world with the explosions in front of you. Then you react to it. You’re literally staring at the wall. And then one of the directors will check in and say, “Okay now. Let’s move on you crazy person.” [Laughter]

Latino-Review: Could you talk about your future projects and any future roles you love to play in the future for your career?

Annet Mahendru: I would love to do an action film. I do karate for a long time. It would be nice to do something physical. It would be really fun. Maybe a female version of “Rocky” or something.

Latino-Review: And what about your future projects?

Annet Mahendru: I have a film now based on a true story that is going in film festivals. It’s waiting for distribution called, “Sally Pacholok.” It’s a completely different experience for me, because it’s a true story film. The person I played wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. She is a real person and a hero in the medical industry. She saved a lot people and I got to tell her story. So that’s out.

And I’m filming something right now that’s top secret, of course. It shall be revealed soon, but not yet. [Giggles]

Latino-Review: You and your secrets. You’re truly a spy.

Annet Mahendru: Right?

Latino-Review: By the way, I did see “Sally Pocholok.” You were great in it. That was the movie about B-12.

Annet Mahendru: Oh, my God! That’s so great. Where did you watch it?

Latino-Review: I actually interviewed the director, Elissa Leonard, a few weeks ago.

Annet Mahendru: Oh, that’s so wonderful. Thank you for shedding light on that story. I appreciate it.

Latino-Review: Thanks for this conversation. Good luck with you and hopefully we will talk again.

Annet Mahendru: Absolutely. Enjoy your day! [Giggles]

“Penguins of Madagascar” is currently available in digital formats, Blu-ray and on DVD. 

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.