Rosalie Chiang of Pixar’s Turning Red Interview | CRX 2022

Rosalie Chiang Voices Mei Lee in Turning Red

LIFE IS GOOD – In Disney and Pixar’s all-new original feature film “Turning Red,” 13-year-old Meilin Lee is happy with her friends, school and, well, most of the time her family—until the day when she begins to “poof” into a giant red panda at decidedly inconvenient times. Featuring Rosalie Chiang as the voice of Meilin, “Turning Red” will debut exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) on March 11, 2022. © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

For a young actress, Rosalie Chiang, the opportunity to voice the main protagonist Meilin in Pixar’s Turning Red was an opportunity of a lifetime.

It was like the Chinese gods created a destined fate for this young breakout star.

Turning Red launched on the streaming network Disney+ earlier this year to critical reviews and strong recommendations amongst the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

With nearly an all-Asian voice cast, the animated film set a mark with Asian leads for the first time in Pixar’s history. Not to mention, Academy Award-winner Domee Shi was at the helm of the animated film, which she won for her short animated film Bao.

Chiang was joined by Sandra Oh, who voiced Mei Lee’s mother, Ming. Other voice cast members included Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, and Tristan Allerick Chen.

Here is the official synopsis:

Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red introduces Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing, mother, Ming (Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships, and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS), she “poofs” into a giant red panda!

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LRM Online’s Gig Patta caught up with actress Rosalie Chiang at the Crunchyroll Expo 2022 this past weekend. She attended the anime convention to meet fans and host a panel about her experience in voiceover animation work.

Turning Red is currently streaming on Disney+

Read the full interview transcript below.

Gig Patta: Thanks for being here at Crunchyroll Expo. How does it feel being here?

Rosalie Chiang: It’s an incredible honor to be here. I told one person that I liked anime. And here I am, seeing this is my first convention in general. So seeing all these other fellow anime fans gather in this one place, it’s like, “Wow! We all have something in common, no matter our background. That’s cool.”

Gig Patta: Have you always been an anime fan your entire life?

Rosalie Chiang: I would say not my entire life. Maybe in elementary school or first grade, I was quite annoyed by anime. Every single boy I knew was into Pokémon. Okay, fine, Pokémon. Then every single girl I knew was into Hello Kitty. Ugh, Hello, Kitty.

As time went on, I eventually started watching Maid Sama! and Death Note, which I know are two completely different anime. They are my gateways into anime. And my dad is an anime fan too. He introduced me to a lot of vintage ones. Now I’m a big anime fan, but when I was younger–it was mostly just like one or two Studio Ghibli films.

Gig Patta: From your perspective, this being your first convention, what is it like to be a guest and yet a fan simultaneously?

Rosalie Chiang: It’s an incredible experience. I’m here to do a job, do a panel and do some signings. At the same time, I’m just fascinated by everything. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh! Chainsaw Man.” I see all the other fan art stuff. And I see all the cool anime figures. I want to buy the entire store. Just seeing everything and being fascinated by all the anime stuff. It’s, it’s an anime fan’s dream.

Gig Patta: [Laughs] What do you like about anime so much that drew you into this?

Rosalie Chiang: There’s nothing else like it. Before anime, it was mostly Western cartoons. The animation styles are completely different in Western cartoons. It’s more realistic. It’s more flowy. There’s no like sudden movements and weird arm extensions.

With anime, it’s the complete opposite, where it’s a sharp turn here and there. Oh, random screens change all of a sudden. I would recommend anime to everyone because not only that, it’s a different style.

As a genre, there are so many sub-genres. There are psychological thrillers. There are the horror ones. There is the rom-com. Even there are comedies and sports ones. There’s something for everyone in anime.

Gig Patta: And which sub-genre do you gravitate towards?

Rosalie Chiang: I’m into psychological thrillers and romcoms. I know they’re completely different. I love the thrill and nail-biting scenes in psychological thrillers. All while just wanting a little break and watching rom coms just thinking, “Oh my God! These teenagers fall in love. It’s so sweet.”

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Turning Red
Turning Red

Gig Patta: I’m curious when you stepped into this building, what was the first thing you visited or wanted to visit?

Rosalie Chiang: It was vegetable cutting. [Laughs] There was a sushi chef there who was, who was able to carve these intricate details on vegetables. It wasn’t something I was very familiar with. I’ve seen a lot of videos of just these chefs who learned years, years, and years of just doing one little skill. Each chef has a unique understanding of a subject that no one else can really know. Some people just spend years perfecting red beans, for example. That is very inspirational, and honing your craft in is something I’m trying to do with acting.

Gig Patta: But you’re not Japanese yourself. You seem to enjoy some of this cultural aspect.

Rosalie Chiang: Yeah, for sure. I’m always trying to broaden my horizons to different cultures. I watch videos on Taiwanese stuff and Singaporean stuff because my mom’s Taiwanese and my dad’s Singaporean. It’s all while seeing videos of Korean stuff, Japanese stuff, and more, maybe other Asian cultures like Filipino.

Gig Patta: Wow. Now you had your breakout role in Turning Red. Tell us how that changed your life.

Rosalie Chiang: It changed my life in ways that I can’t imagine and can’t imagine my life without it. I’m so grateful that Pixar has given me this opportunity. At that time, I was struggling and about to quit acting. At that point, I was facing rejection after rejection. My friends were booking. I was barely getting any auditions. I was barely getting chances to show my work. I thought, “Oh, maybe this business isn’t for me. Maybe I should just quit.”

By getting this Pixar role and not officially booking it at first when I was 12, it was just for a temporary voice. They could fire me anytime. I told my parents, “I might not even book this.” If I don’t have this and then I have nothing. They just told me, “Just do it. Try your best.” At that point, there’s nothing else you can do. Don’t give them a reason to fire you.

Now I just forgot about the whole idea of booking it. I was there to experience the opportunity of working for Pixar. I went ahead and did it.

Then two years later, I officially booked it. It was such a shock because I wasn’t anticipating it at all. It made the experience so much better. I’m only here because I got the Turning Red job, booking more, doing more voiceover, and more live-action acting. I can’t believe it. It’s a dream to this day.

Gig Patta: [Laughs] Tell me how you got the news that you became permanent on Turning Red. You were elated about it.

Rosalie Chiang: For sure. It was just a normal recording session. After the four-hour session, I’m like, “All right, done!” Then Domee [Shi], the director, said, “We just have a little thing. We just need to bring in a documentary camera to do some behind-the-scenes thing.” In the middle, they started recording, Domee brought me a sheet of paper. I said to myself, “Oh, crap! It’s a script. I didn’t practice. Why didn’t you give me this? I want to be prepared for the documentary.”

I have this thing that when I get a page, I quickly like glance through to get the gist of it. When I did it, I was, “Hold on. I didn’t get that. Wait a minute. I saw my name on it. What’s going on?” Then as we’re going through the script, it comes to this long monologue where Domee says, “We love you as Mei. Please say yes to being Mei.” And I said yes. It was just a shocking and wonderful experience that I will never forget in my life.

Gig Patta: Wow. That is a terrific story. It’s a very good experience for you.

Rosalie Chiang: Absolutely. [Laughs]

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Rosalie Chiang in Turning Red
Rosalie Chiang in Turning Red

Gig Patta: Since you got the role of Turning Red, do you realize how big Turning Red was? And how do you represent the AAPI?

Rosalie Chiang: I never really realized the impact. When I first got the audition, I knew it was for an Asian girl and a Pixar film. It never registered that it could be a lead in the Pixar film. It hasn’t happened before. I believe there was Russell in [Pixar’s] Up, but he was just a supporting character.

When I found out that this is for a potentially potential upcoming feature film for Pixar with an Asian lead. And I thought, “Oh my gosh. Wow, that’s pretty cool.” At that time, I wasn’t thinking about what other people will think. It meant a lot to me at the time.

When Turning Red was officially released with my family, it was a big deal. Outside of my family, I never knew how big it was. I have people coming up to me saying, Turning Red is huge! What do you mean?” It touches my heart. Seeing people, in general, coming up to me saying how much they related to Mei and Turning Red, I’m really glad this film touched people’s hearts.

Gig Patta: How are you going to take advantage of your experience for your career? Are you going to like live action or gear towards more voiceover?

Rosalie Chiang: In the acting business, you can’t really, “I’m just gonna do this.” You have to wait for the right opportunity to come. I wasn’t into voiceover before. I was just into live action. Then when I got into voiceover, I started honing my craft. I was like, “Forget about live-action acting.” Then when I recently booked a little live-action thing–I had so much fun. I love this as well. I’m pretty much 50/50 voiceover and live-action acting. I’m open to anything that comes my way.

Gig Patta: Excellent. Thank you very much, Rosalie.

Rosalie Chiang: Thank you for your questions.

Turning Red is currently streaming on Disney+.

For interviews and news pitches, contact Gig Patta at [email protected].

Source: LRM Online Exclusive, Pixar

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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