Newcomer Rosalie Chiang has become a household name virtually overnight after the premiere of her first feature film, Turning Red, on the streaming platform Disney+. The Pixar Animation Studios movie about Mei Lee, a Chinese-Canadian middle school girl who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets excited or agitated, is propelling the 16-year-old voice actress into Hollywood — and now she has shared what it’s really like to be a voice actor!
Rosalie Chiang had only done some short films and TV appearances as an actress when she auditioned to be a “scratch voice” for the character Mei Lee. According to Buzzfeed, “animation studios often recruit temporary voices to assist the director, and their team develop the character as they go through script revisions, visual renderings, and other steps in the process”.
A temporary role for a rough draft of an animated character is still important, so the young actress Rosalie Chiang did have to audition for the Pixar film as if it were a more permanent voice acting role, but Turning Red director Domee Shi was impressed anyway.
“As soon as we heard her voice on the audition tape she sent — it was a little bit imperfect, she didn’t enunciate everything perfectly — but there was such a natural, dorky appeal to her voice, it made us feel ‘Oh my gosh! That is Mei,’” director Domee Shi said to The Chronicle.
“When it was time to cast it for real, we listened to a bunch of audition tapes, and all of us were like, ‘Nobody came close.’ The role of Mei and Rosalie had become way too intertwined. She had just infused herself into the role,” producer Lindsey Collins added.
Rosalie Chiang also has a refreshing attitude when it comes to the acting industry, since it is an unfortunate reality that acting is a famously fickle business.
“During the break of one of my recording sessions, [Domee Shi] and I were chitchatting about our dreams before Pixar,” Rosalie wrote in an Instagram post. “I was talking about how the acting business is such a ruthless, risky, and unforgiving, business, so I am really really lucky that I booked this once in a lifetime Pixar role. And that even though I’m still pursuing acting, I still study as much as I can, just in case it doesn’t work out”.
Since the Pixar film Turning Red was being made during the pandemic, Rosalie had to establish a recording studio in her house too! “We turned my dad’s room into this makeshift recording booth. It was really hot in there. My dad would give me a bowl of ice to cool it down,” Chiang reminisced. A similar setup was used for Kelly Marie Tran while creating Raya and the Last Dragon in 2021, and many voice actors have their own home studios regardless of pandemics!
Voice actors usually need to warm up before auditions or before recording dialogue, and Rosalie also revealed her typical voice actor warm-ups. “If I don’t receive the script beforehand, then I just excessively talk before the session and recite a few tongue twisters. If I do receive the script, then I’ll just practice my lines and try to figure out what’s going on in the scene,” Rosalie said. “Really take voice-over seriously because it’s an art,'” Rosalie added, mentioning Nancy Cartwright as her inspiration.
Turning Red also stars Killing Eve actress Sandra Oh as Ming Lee. Do you like learning about the voices and actors behind the scenes of animated films like this Pixar film?