If anyone firmly believes in Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is America Ferrera. Not only did the stunningly attractive Latina actress make herself look relatively unattractive for four years in ABC’s Ugly Betty, she also found it related to her character in How to Train Your Dragon with relative ease.
Indeed, Ferrera told Buzzine there were two ways in which she connected with Asterid, and both were related to her mental and physical training as a child.
“As a kid, I really related to wanting to be great in someway,” Ferrera thoughtfully shared with Buzzine about her mental relation and connection to Asterid, adding that the desire to achieve greatness is a trait all young ones possess in their early days. “It was not just about being a Viking but being the greatest Viking.”
Then there is the physical aspect of Asterid being the sole female in an almost all-male cast. Just how did Ferrera relate to that side of her character?
“When I was growing up, I would play baseball with the boys. I did not play softball,” she told Buzzine, her voice raising in confidence and passion with each passing word. “I didn’t want to play softball — I wanted nothing to do with it, but I wanted to play baseball with the guys and I wanted to be just as good as them. So I definitely believe I related to Asterid.”
Of course, even with her personal experiences of playing baseball with the boys and trying to achieve greatness like all young kids, Ferrera did confess she did have her apprehensions of Asterid. Despite the just-stated connections, Ferrera also said Asterid was independent enough to be her own person, and the character really did not need any help from the Ugly Betty star.
“What was very fun about it was that she (Asterid) really wasn’t a bit of me or a version of me,” Ferrera said. “She was her own thing, and I got to be one small part of creating her, and I had so much fun with it.”
Relationship and connection aside, Ferrera also stated how she was not sure of her character at first, mostly because Asterid was not well-defined when she first joined the DreamWorks production three years ago.
“It took a while for the filmmakers and myself to figure out, at least for my character, what she was and who she was, how tomboyish was she, did we want her to be softer, did we want her to be rougher, and how much did she like Hiccup (Jay Baruchel),” the young actress humbly confessed. “The story has really changed since I started on it three years ago. Over the course of three years, we really played with that, and I don’t think I really figured out my character until I got into the booth with Jay.”
It was when her lonely days in the booth during the initial stages of producing How to Train Your Dragon, before Baruchel came aboard, where Ferrera was most concerned about how she would rely upon her own real-life experiences in order to connect to Asterid.
“I was terrified. I’d just done one animated film before, but it was just one small thing, so this was kind of my first feature animated film,” she compassionately confessed to Buzzine. “Getting to work with (Jay) made it easier for me.”
Her lack of experience in voice-over work definitely added an extra layer of frustration, especially because she was unable to see just how the film was panning out during her time in the booth. Most of the time, it was just reading from a script and talking into a microphone, with the animated scenes usually incomplete or not even conceived in time for her dialogue sessions.
Accordingly, Ferrera said it was rather difficult to create an emotional bond with Asterid early in the productions.
“I saw a version of the movie where, like, one-third of it was animated and the other scenes were in different stages,” she said. “I felt, in the scenes where it wasn’t fully animated and it was just our voice to a stick figure, there wasn’t an emotional connection as when the animators do their work and create the humanity in the characters through their animation. (The animators) were half of the performance.”
In the end, however, everything came together and Ferrera finally was able to give Asterid some life, thanks to the cooperation of the film’s writers and directors, and the actress believes the real payoff will be with female audiences who trek out to watch How to Train Your Dragon.
“They really gave her a purpose,” Ferrera exclaimed. “She had much more of a back-story than she was given earlier in the production. Now girls can go watch this film and say, ‘I can train a (expletive) dragon!’”
Fittingly, Ferrera almost used that same expletive in describing her reaction to the time when she was offered a leading voice-over role in How to Train Your Dragon a few years ago.
“I didn’t really care what the movie was about, when DreamWorks called and said ‘Do you want to be in a DreamWorks animated film?’ I said yes,” Ferrera not-so-humbly told Buzzine. “They told me what the character was going to be and showed me the world, and I could have said yes to any of it. This was just wishful filming for me — getting to play and getting to show up in a booth.”
Whether she truly cared about her role or not, Ferrera definitely feels that just about all of her wishes were granted. Now that How to Train Your Dragon is hitting theaters this weekend and Ugly Betty is wrapping up its season finale shortly thereafter, Ferrera is seeking her next wish to be granted – a few days to ponder her recent successes.
“I just want to sleep and rest,” she said with a wide smile on her face.
Indeed, there is no better way to take a restful time-out than to do so with all one’s wishes granted and their dragons trained.
Also starring Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson, DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon glistens movie theaters across the United States on March 26th.