Despicable Me 2 is full of many adorable creatures – of course in the form of those silly yellow minions — but we’re also talking about the three young girls ex-villain Gru has adopted.
The sequel to 2010 animation hit Despicable Me features Gru’s new daughters — Margo, Edith, and Agnes getting in on the action as Gru takes on a formidable new criminal alongside the Anti-Villain League. Dana Gaier, the New Jersey-based 15-year-old who voices mischievous tomboy Edith, chatted with EW about voice recording for both movies, why she thinks the minions are so popular, and what inspired her to create the anti-bullying website Got Your Back.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you remember about when you found out you got the part of Edith for Despicable Me?
DANA GAIER: I flew out to L.A. for the call back. I was 11 then, in sixth grade. After I did Edith’s lines, I was in the kitchen, got something to eat, and one of the producers came in and said, “We have some really bad news.” And I was like, “Oh my God,” and I was about to be heartbroken, and they were like, “You’re gonna have to stay here all day, ’cause we want you to record the role!” And I started jumping up and down. I was freaking out.
When you did voice recording for Despicable Me 2, was there any issue of your voice having changed?
It actually was a big issue for me because I was in sixth grade [when I began recording Despicable Me], and I’m in 10th grade now, and I recorded this movie this year. So what’s funny about that is they called me and they were like, “We just want to have you read some lines.” A guy at my agency said, “Let’s try a five-year-old tape.” He found it, and it was me with my voice so high. I was so scared that there would be no way I could get my voice up that high cause my voice had significantly dropped since then. They would play a line for me [on the tape], and I’d have to repeat it back the same exact way I’d heard it, and I finally got it to exactly where it was. After that happened, I wasn’t so nervous about whether it would be an issue of them thinking my voice had changed.
What was it like to record non-dialog sounds for the movie?
They actually love when I do exertions, like panting, for some reason. Sometimes they had me come in to just do exertions. In the second movie Edith is going through this ninja stage, and for half of a recording session I was just going, “high-yah! Ha!” and just screaming karate noises. I have this piercing loud scream. It’s really, really high-pitched. They were like, “Just step back from the microphone a little bit…”
Has it surprised you how popular the minions have become?
At first, when I read the script, I had no idea what they would be, and then I saw a screening for the first time in L.A., and I was like, “Oh my God, what are those things?” And they were so funny, and I think people love them because you don’t know what they’re saying but you kind of know what they mean, and it’s fun to try to decipher what they mean. They’re these little cute guys just bopping around. I’m sitting on my bed right now, and I have three [stuffed animal] minions. They’re fuzzy and really comfortable.
Why did you decide to start the anti-bullying website Got Your Back? Why is that an important issue to you?
In middle school, I definitely saw a lot of that. I was one of those girls that did the shows, and I was really into acting and theater, and some people made fun of me for that. Some people made fun of me for other things, like the way I dressed. And at first I got really down about it, but I eventually realized that what I really needed to do was help other people, because it definitely would have helped me if my best friends would have stuck up for me or if someone else would have helped me through it, but I didn’t really have anybody but my family that would do that for me. And I think it’s really important nowadays that everybody is nice to each other. You can always say something to somebody that could either set them off or that could make their day amazing.
What is it like for you in school now? Are you known as the girl from Despicable Me?
I was very involved before the movie. I would run for class president and vice president, and I’m very friendly and personable with most people in my grade, so I think i was familiar to most of the people in my grade, but then when they found out I was in Despicable Me, sometimes they’d ask about it, and sometimes I’d get into conversations with people who are curious about things, but for the most part, I’m just Dana to them.
What are some of your long-term goals now?
I’ve always wanted to have a career in either music or acting, and I love doing voiceover work, and I would love to do more of it, but I think that I really want to do something on screen sometime soon because I think that would be a really cool opportunity, and I want some different experiences. I definitely want to be involved in the business somehow.
Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me 2 opened in theaters July 3 and also features the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, and Miranda Cosgrove.