With Incredibles 2 out this weekend, Sarah Vowell returns to voice the sassy teenage girl, Violet Parr, who has the superpowers of invisibility and force fields.
Incredibles 2 reunites the original voice cast members Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson. They are joined by new voices of Huck Milner, Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk. Brad Bird returns to the helm the project.
The story immediately follows the first film, in which the government still has laws against superheroes. A mysterious wealthy man proposes to perform a PR campaign with Elastigirl in the forefront to spin superheroes in a positive light. Unbeknownst to the Parr family, something else is sinister brewing in the background.
LRM sat down with Sara Vowell for a one-on-one exclusive interview. We talked about his start on voicing Violet and how Brad Bird discovered her. We also talked about Steve Jobs and her love of American history.
Incredibles 2 will be in theaters tomorrow.
Read our interview transcript below.
LRM: So how does it feel to be back in the Incredibles 2?
Sarah Vowell: That’s a really obvious question. What is my answer to that? I always have Violet kind of with me. Certainly, she’s a lot like me. She sounds quite a bit like me. It was not that hard to just get back into the swing of hanging out with Brad Bird and his studio and trying to be a teenage girl.
LRM: Did you expect the Incredibles 2 to ever happen? It’s been quite awhile.
Sarah Vowell: I wasn’t sure. It was all on Brad on whether he had a story he wanted to tell and space in his ambitious schedule. He had some films in a system and wanting to go do live action. I support him as a coworker and friend. If he had a story he wanted to do, I was up for it. The first movie was a pretty perfect experience for me. So I was fine leaving that alone too.
LRM: Now I know you probably told your story hundreds of times, but how did Brad discover you in the first place? Or were you friends before?
Sarah Vowell: No, we were not friends before. I used to work in public radio. I worked on a show called this American Life. Brad, I think, was driving around listening to the radio and heard one of my documentaries on public radio. I think that particular story was when I made about me and my father. It’s me interacting with my father. I’m a little bit of a wise guy, especially talking to my dad. As you can tell, I sound much younger than I am. And so there’s that. There was something in the attitude, because Violet pushes a lot of buttons. Especially, she pushes her father’s buttons. She’s always questioning him and commenting way to truthfully on whatever’s happening at any given moment. I think there was something in the way I talked to my father that sort of clicked with him trying to find this teenage wise guy.
LRM: Back then, when he asked you to voice Violet, was that actually a surprise for you? This is probably something that you’ve never done.
Sarah Vowell: It was something I’d never done before. I hadn’t been asked to do animation before, because I guess apparently I sound kind of cartoonish. Nothing ever really floated my boat in terms of wanting to be part of something. I’m pretty happy being a writer. Also, I had some legitimate self doubt, because I had never acted before. It seems to me it’s an actual profession. I like to think I’m pretty good at my job and I respect other people who are good at their jobs. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fail in public., But, I loved Pixar films. I had loved Brad’s first film, Iron Giant. I went and met with them. I went to Pixar. It’s such a magical, strange workplace.
I immediately took a cotton to Brad and the producer John Walker. They showed me the models of the characters and explained to me what the story was and who violet was. I still wasn’t quite sure I can do it. The journalist in me wanted to find out more about their world. I immediately wanted to know more about how they made these movies. I thought, “Well, if I fail, at least I’ll learn something.”
I just really got along with them so well right away. So then, I really wanted it. We had to wait a few weeks for Steve Jobs to sign off on my audition tape, because Steve Jobs was a very busy person. [Laughs] That was actually excruciating, because I didn’t know if I could do it. I went straight from really wanting to do it and then having to wait around. I guess Steve Jobs was okay with me.
LRM: As a journalist, that would have been awesome. Did you get to meet Steve Jobs?
Sarah Vowell: I did meet Steve Jobs. He was very Jobsian.
LRM: Jobsian? [Chuckles]
Sarah Vowell: He was very centered presence.
LRM: How did you overcome your self doubts and fear on doing this?
Sarah Vowell: I never really did on that first movie, but Brad is a really good director. I think he might have enjoyed the extra challenge of an unformed performer. I really took a lot of direction. [Chuckles] I think he enjoyed that. He and I got to be pretty close friends. I don’t know if my session took longer, because I was less experienced. Right from the beginning, I could tell like he was rooting for me. My success was his success. He would just try everything. A lot of the things came really naturally, especially Violet’s wise cracks and sarcasm.
She has to go through some kind of emotional experiences in both the films. That was where it kind of harder I think to do in public. He was just always on my side. He figured out a way to draw things out of me.
There’s a scene in this new film where Violet is crying. I had to cry in front of the sound guys in a studio at Disney. That’s really hard for me, because I like to keep it together in public. I’m fairly confident, happy go lucky person. To have to be really emotional and cry in front of other people, it was difficult for me. They were just all on my side and Brad especially. When it was over I was like, let’s never talk about this again. And here I am talking about it. [Laughs]
LRM: One more thing that I do want to mention, because you, yourself, said that this wasn’t your primary profession. Your primary profession, is a historian, right?
Sarah Vowell: Yeah.
LRM: You love writing books. Could you talk about some of those future projects and why you love that side of career?
Sarah Vowell: I don’t really want to talk about any future projects. One thing I try to do in my books about American history is it kind of what Brad does in his movies. I don’t want them to be any one thing. I’ve written books about the Revolutionary War or the New England Puritans, who are hilarious. There’s always like something in people from the past and trying to bring them to life there. If you’re telling you someone’s whole life, they’re like funny parts in there and the tragedies. Then some things are just about ideas about freedom or religion. I try to vary the mood of the books and go extremes. Like if something funny happens, then we’ll be joking around and then it gets serious. I immediately grasped that part of what the first Incredibles movie was like. It was going to be about five different movies. It’s the same thing with the new film. It’s an action film. It’s a comedy. It’s a family drama. It’s a coming of age tale. you know. I like stories that are more than one thing with more than one mood.
LRM: Terrific. Thank you very much.
Sarah Vowell: Thank you.
Source: LRM Online Exclusive