The animated series TRON: Uprising, debuting with a special preview on the Disney Channel on May 18th before premiering on Disney XD on June 7th, takes place after the 1982 feature film and before the events in TRON: Legacy. Produced in CG animation with a 2D aesthetic, the series follows the heroic journey of a new character named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood), a young program who becomes the unlikely leader of a revolution inside the computer world of The Grid. You can watch the first episode here.
At the press day for this highly anticipated new show, actress/singer Mandy Moore, who voices Mara, the lone voice of reason and Beck’s loyal best friend and fellow mechanic, talked about how her character fits into the TRON universe, what she thought when she saw how her character would look, what a big TRON fan her husband (singer/songwriter Ryan Adams) is, how excited she is about how cool the show has turned out, and that she’s more of a girl’s girl than her tomboy character. She also talked about writing songs for a new album, doing voice-over work and singing on another Disney animated show, called Sheriff Callie’s Wild West (for Disney Junior), what she looks for in a role now, and that she would definitely be up for a Tangled sequel. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: What can you say about your character, Mara?
MANDY MOORE: Mara is a mechanic in Able’s garage, along with Elijah Wood’s character, Beck, and Nate Corddry’s character, Zed. They are this little trifecta – this trio – of best friends. They work together and they play together, but Mara is one of the guys. She is confident and spunky and the voice of reason, I like to think, especially as the series progresses. As the series does progress, she finds herself falling in love with this masked vigilante – The Renegade. She doesn’t realize that, in fact, it is her best friend, Beck. She is in love with his moral compass and what he stands for, and she is right behind him. She is great at what she does, too. She specializes in vintage technology and older Light Cycles. She has a real affinity for the older technology, in a geeky way, unlike anybody else in the garage. But, she also works on some of the more bad-ass, harder, scary bits and pieces of machinery. She really knows her way around that garage. She is a much cooler girl than I am. The blue hair is her trademark.
What did you think, when you saw how she would look?
MOORE: I thought it was very hip and very cool. When they first described her to me, I was like, “Oh, okay.” Not being someone who is particularly well-versed in the TRON universe, I didn’t really know what to expect, but it fits well within that world.
Since you weren’t familiar with the TRON universe before this, what made you want to play this character?
MOORE: My husband (Ryan Adams) is a big TRON fan, and I thought it would earn me Brownie points. I found out they were doing the series and I got the word about auditioning and I took it upon myself to do that. Then, when I was lucky enough to get cast, I was able to go home and share the good news, and he was very excited. They gave us a bunch of toys and action figures – from TRON: Legacy, not from the series – and I was able to bring those home to him and he has them in his office. He is all excited. We have a TRON video game at home, too. That is how much of a TRON fan he is. This is pretty cool for him, so he is pretty excited. That is what drew me in, initially, but when I went in for the audition and they showed me the schematics of what the landscape was going to be and what the whole aesthetic of the show was and what the different characters were going to look like, it was animation unlike anything I had seen before. I thought it was beautiful and just so super-cool. That is what made me excited about it.
Did you work out a backstory before you went in to record the voice, or was that something that is given to you?
MOORE: There is not too much of a backstory. When you meet these characters, you take it for what it is. I think it is more about watching their story progress, based on what happens to them at the beginning of the story, with this take-over of their city and how they all individually react to it. I don’t think it necessarily matters where they are coming from, or who they are. You have to understand the fact that they are friends and they are bonded together. These programs don’t really have families, so friendships are like families. The fact that they are so close is what bonds them together and makes them family.
So, I didn’t really work on much of the backstory, and nobody told me to. Nobody told me to do anything different with my voice. A lot of it was really on the page. With any animated project, you really rely a lot on the directors and writers to give you guidance because there is no point of reference. There is nothing to look at. It is not as if there is a monitor and you are watching the animated sequences already. A lot of it just comes from your imagination, and a good description from the powers that be. They really had to start at square one with me. I was like, “A program, like a computer program?” The vocabulary was so overwhelming to me. It still is.
Your character has a lot of guy friends, and is a bit of a tomboy. Are you more of a girl’s girl?
MOORE: I have more girlfriends, absolutely. I like being a girl’s girl. I like being friends with other women, who are supportive of women. I think that is important. We live in a world where it’s difficult to be a woman who is strong and confident, so I like to surround myself with friends that embody that same principle and idea.
Are you working on a new album?
MOORE: I am writing right now. I am all about animation, right now. I am doing another animated show for Disney Junior, called Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, and I get to sing in that. I play a sheriff cowboy cat. She has a cowboy hat and she sings lots of songs. It’s fun to do a combination of both.
A lot of your contemporaries are doing these music and singing reality shows as judges. Would you ever consider doing something like that?
MOORE: I don’t know if that is really my cup of tea, but I do watch them, occasionally. I don’t think I would be a very good judge. I try not to be particularly judgmental. I think it would be terrifying to be in that position, as a contestant. Those people have to get on stage and deliver. I could never do that. I wouldn’t want to put myself in the position, of judging people like that, because I am in awe that anybody could get up there and get through that sort of scrutiny.
What’s it like to see kids react to Tangled now, the same way that kids reacted to The Little Mermaid when it was released?
MOORE: That is nice for me. I am glad to be a part of their childhood. The Little Mermaid was a touchstone for me. All of the Disney animated films were, definitely. It’s super-cool, but it’s different. It’s not as if I have 30-feet of long, blonde hair, so nobody knows who I am. Occasionally, friends of mine, who have kids, will be like, “It’s Rapunzel,” and it just doesn’t make any sense to them. They’re like, “No, it’s not!” Even when I speak, it doesn’t translate.
In your live-action work, you’ve played some mean girls and some nice girls, and you’ve done a lot of slice-of-life stories. Have you ever thought of doing sci-fi or fantasy?
MOORE: I would love to! I don’t think that world tends to think of me for those sorts of roles, but I would love to. I am up for any kind of challenge like that, that is outside of my comfort zone, and that certainly is not something I would immediately think of doing myself, either. But, I am up for it. Why not?
MOORE: I think it is a multitude of things, as it has always been. There has to be a challenging element to it, I want to work with good people, and I’d like to do something that, hopefully, I can be proud of, at the end of the day. I definitely am getting pickier, as time goes on. You start to realize that it’s not worth compromising. The few things we all have done, that we have had little doubts about, manifest themselves, in some way. I have always looked back on those particular decisions and gone, “I really should have listened to my gut.” Anytime I listen to my gut and I don’t do something, or I do, it always tends to work out in my favor. I am trying to be as picky as possible, and do things that I know I am going to enjoy and be proud of and are challenging.
MOORE: I haven’t thought about writing so much as potentially producing, and finding my own projects to get into production. I want to be able to buy the rights to a story that I have read, or a book that I have read. That seems to be more in line with what I am projecting to be the next facet of the business that I want to get involved in. But, maybe I’ll get into writing, somewhere down the line. I don’t know.
What gets you excited, personally? Are there stories or things that you like where you go, “That’s me! That’s what I love to watch or do”?
MOORE: I like to laugh, so at this point in my life, I would love to do more comedy. I think that would be fun. I don’t know in what respect because there are no qualifications as to what kind of comedy, but that seems like something that would be really fun, right now.
Is there any talk of a Tangled sequel?
MOORE: I have heard things from various people, but nobody has officially said anything to me. I would love to do it. I had the best time working with everyone on that project. I would be 150% behind that.
In the early Disney films, all the women needed to be rescued, but Rapunzel takes care of herself and is more kick-ass. Was that important to you?
MOORE: Sure, absolutely! I think that is a product of our ever-changing environment and world, and the fact that women are assuming that role, more and more. I am happy to embody characters that are independent and fierce, can take care of themselves, and are not waiting to be rescued. I do like that element. I think it is certainly a fun characteristic to get to play up.