Teri Hatcher stars in Disney’s new 3D animated comedy, Planes, voicing the character of Dottie, the forklift who co-owns and operates Chug and Dottie’s Fill ‘n Fly service station. Dottie is rookie racer Dusty’s (Dane Cook) pragmatic friend and ace mechanic who always has his back and tries to keep his high-flying hopes grounded in reality. Opening August 9th, the action-packed adventure from Disneytoon Studios is directed by Klay Hall and features an exciting voice cast that includes Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad and Gabriel Iglesias.
At the recent press day held at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying, Hatcher talked about how much fun she had voicing her character, why Dottie is a role model for girls, how voice work compares to the demands of a series, why she’s grateful to be able to slow down and spend quality time with her daughter and learn something new in cooking school, how she’s passionate about telling women’s stories, her fun two-week road trip adventure, her hopes for a bigger part in Planes 2, and her biggest takeaway from being part of a Disney animated movie. Check out the interview after the jump.
Question: The hero of this is a female character. Normally, in an animated film, it would be a male character that comes to the aid. Did you know going in that your character would be such a pivotal part of it?
TERI HATCHER: I don’t think I put that together so much until I actually saw almost the whole movie together. I went in and I did my little sections, and I knew what was important to the director and John Lasseter. I knew they wanted an earnest, honest, compassionate person who could truly move Dusty’s character, so that was my goal. But I didn’t until I stepped back and went, “Huh. She could’ve been a boy.” And then, I started to imagine little girls leaving the theater with a little plastic screwdriver and pretending to make an engine. And then, I thought, okay, maybe we’ve just taken a tiny pebble into the pond of girls can be mechanics, too. It’s an animated movie. It’s not like curing brain cancer, but anytime you can have these little messages where women are being seen as the person who’s capable of fixing things, building things, and inspiring things, it’s a good message, but it was a little bit by accident on my part anyway.
For your own daughter, is that something that you try to instill in her?
HATCHER: When it comes to my household, it’s just because I’ve been single for such a long time. I’m the breadwinner. I kill the spiders. Actually I don’t kill them. I put them in a plastic bag and take them outside. I take out the trash cans. I change the light bulbs. I lug the 50 lbs. suitcases down the stairs. So there’s a level of something needs to be done. The garage needs to be cleaned or whatever. I’m doing it. And that has been seen. My daughter has probably gotten some benefit of being inspired by a woman who is willing to take on things. We travel. We travel to exotic places. I’m the first person to jump in the ocean with a whale. Even if I’m scared, I’ll do it anyway, because I never wanted her to see fear, especially when she was younger. In Australia, we would go up in a little glider plane or we’d go white water rafting. I never wanted her to have the mom that went, “Oh that’s scary. Let’s not do that.” I paddleboard, anything that I can do so that she can in an unconscious way think, “Oh I guess I could probably do that, too.” But that said, I don’t build anything mechanical. I’m not the electronic [expert]. I wish I was. We girls should have to change a tire or take a ‘change your oil’ class in high school instead of taking home economics, because we’d benefit from that.
Apart from not doing the mechanical stuff, Dottie and you seem to share a lot of the same qualities. How much freedom did they give you in building this character?
HATCHER: It was a very well written script. That said, I can’t remember exactly what they were, but I know Klay was very open to us playing, but I wouldn’t claim to have had any structure with the storytelling. That was all there in the script and they did a great job writing it.
HATCHER: It’s like you’re by yourself, but not really, because right on the other side of the glass are 12 or 14 producers, writers and sound guys, and there’s constant feedback. So you’re not alone. I never went through hours of hair and make-up anyway. Yes, it’s nice to be free from that, but at the same time, it’s a different kind of effort. You don’t realize how much you get away with, with a wink of your eye or a little upward twinge of your lip. To have to get it all into the sound of your voice and just have somebody be able to sit there, not looking at you, and hear it, it’s special. It’s fun.
After spending so much time on a series and dealing with the demands of that, is voice work something that you’ve wanted to do for a while? I know it’s hard work, but still it’s not having to be on the set every day?
HATCHER: This is not hard work. This was like you can’t even believe you get paid to go do this job. When it was availed to me that I had free time, I chose to go to cooking school every day, six hours a day, like a diploma program. I wanted to learn something new. I wanted to be in a different kind of structure than I’d been in for years and years and years. I was very grateful to have the luxury to be able to do that, and it still allowed me to be there to get my daughter after school. I have said a lot that it’s very important to me to make time for my child and make her the priority. I made sacrifices so that I’m around and not traveling for that. But I’m also very slowly and very quietly creating different things. Hopefully, some of those things will turn into something at some point. Mostly, I’m grateful that I can just be slow right now.
Do you want to open a restaurant?
HATCHER: I do not want to open a restaurant. It’s so funny because people in our society tend to think that everything is with some goal at the end. You couldn’t just want to go to cooking school because you want to go to cooking school. It’s because you want to do something. I understand that, but at this point, no, I don’t want to open a restaurant. I like being able to cook even better than I could before. I make some pretty great meals at my house.
What are your specialties now?
HATCHER: Oh my Gosh! I have gotten very good at meat temperature, which sounds stupid, but I did a 17-pound prime rib for Christmas for 30 people, which is like a $500 piece of meat. I encrusted it in a salt crust. You can’t be piercing it all over the place, and you have to wait for it, because if you cook it too much, then it will rise. And then, once you take it out, it has all this resting time. There are all these mathematical things to evaluate. I am telling you, I have got the meat down along with a lot of other things. It’s been fun. I was always a very good recipe follower, and now I feel like I am just at the beginning of understanding the basis of how to pull foods together. It’s fun. It’s just a new craft.
HATCHER: I don’t know. I’m not putting a label on anything. I know in my heart the stuff that I’m passionate about. Honestly, if that ended up manifesting itself in a TV show or a film or a talk show or a book, I still feel like there’s a great need to want to go more vulnerable, more honest, more funny when it comes to women’s issues. I still feel like I’m not seeing it out there yet. I know what it is in my head. And so, for women my age, the story of the comraderie of getting to be us and what it is like to be a woman and have children and have them go away and age and get divorced and get remarried and date and all of those things, I still feel like there’s a big, giant well of stuff to mine in that subject matter. I’m working on quite a few different avenues that could go anywhere from a book to a scripted show, but it all feels like it’s in that zone, which is something I feel like I’m capable of telling and passionate about telling. I don’t know if I’m going to end up telling it, or if I’m going to get somebody to write it, or if somebody is going to come to me and somehow that we’ll pair up, or I’ll never get another job again. They’re all options.
Equal pay would be nice.
HATCHER: Equal pay, that’s an interesting one, too. That’s a general thing to say. In Hollywood, it seems to me it’s based on box office, even though that seems unfair. I mean, that’s why people get paid. It’s less about if you’re a female or a male, and it’s more about who delivers the sales. It’s pretty cut and dry that way. If you’re a person that gets somebody to turn on the television and gets somebody to go to the movies, then you’re going to get that bigger paycheck. I’m not sure that it’s primarily sex-driven. I mean, it ends up seeming like it’s the men, but it’s like the chicken or the egg. I don’t know. But certainly, if we were both plumbing a house, yes, we should be paid the same. If we were both putting in your new oven, we should be paid the same. It’s complicated.
Your character is not a plane, but as far as flying is concerned, are you a good flyer or do you hate to fly?
HATCHER: I’m a pretty good flyer. My approach to flying is that it’s a means to an end. And I love travel. There’s nothing more beneficial than getting to travel, to see different cultures, to see different environments and expose your children to that. And so, it’s a means to an end. It’s always an out of control feeling, but it doesn’t cause me so much anxiety that I’m paralyzed by it or I have to drink. (laughs) I normally don’t. But I’m a big hydrater, a big water drinker on planes.
Do you spend a lot of time away from Hollywood just to decompress or is it more fun to stay in town and be around people you know?
HATCHER: When you’re a mom, you’re pretty much driven by your school schedule. I have been for the last eight years, even when I was doing Desperate Housewives. It was still drive to school, work, pick up from school. The times that I had custody, that’s all what it was. And so, I’m still on that schedule. From September to June, I’m in L.A. being a mother. During the summer, she goes off with her dad or she’ll go off with me. She’ll go do some of her own things. So there’s a little more time. I took a two-week road trip by myself through Pennsylvania in late June, early July. She went to a college summer camp outside of Columbus, Ohio. It was for two weeks, so I dropped her off. Then I wanted to see some people in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and then go back. So basically, I just rented a car and I had my GPS and my little Sirius and I drove, and it was amazing. I got stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy for ten minutes on a single lane where you can’t pass because it’s going up and down a hill. I was like, “Oh, there’s no rule book for this. I don’t want to bother them.” So I was just going two miles an hour. You forget when you’re in these big cities that go at this pace, and this media, and then you get out there and it’s just hundreds of miles of farmland. When I got tired, I’d say to Sirius, “Is there a hotel that doesn’t have bedbugs around my area?” and she would give me five options, and I would find the nearest one and I would just pull in there. And then, I got to go to New York. I actually got to see Vanessa Williams in The Trip to Bountiful. She was phenomenal along with Cicely Tyson. Oh my God, they’re just breathtaking, both of them. And then, I got to visit my friends in New Jersey and in Philadelphia, and then I drove back to get my daughter. It was terrific. It was like dropping off the map which I love. I do enjoy that.
HATCHER: This is one of my Sirius stories. Ohio, for all of its farmland, does not have a lot of food to eat. I don’t understand how you could go so many miles without being able to find a restaurant. Speaking of gas stations, I did end up in this little place that had a pump and then behind it was a little home style Ma and Pa restaurant. It was the only restaurant in a hundred miles. And it said it was supposed to be good. They had good pie apparently, so I went in. It was a Friday night and I sat by myself. It was pretty crowded with locals. I was in the middle of nowhere. I was hungry because I had been driving eight hours. I ordered prime rib, fried ochre, cream spinach and something pickled. The waitress was looking at me. It seemed like a lot of food. And I said, “I’m not going to eat it all. I just wanted to try everything.” She brings all the food and I’m eating. And then, inevitably at one point, she came over with a little piece of English china that must have been a hundred years old, and I collect china so I knew. I guess this place had been there that long. And she says, “My parents were the owners.” She was probably 50-something herself. She asked me, “This is one of the original pieces of china from the restaurant. Would you autograph it? We’re going to put it up on our wall.” And then, she said, “Would you take a picture with me?” and I did. It’s like they don’t notice, and then they suddenly notice, and then they go, “Oh my God! You’re eating so much!” (laughs) People are always surprised by how much I love to eat. I guess I don’t look like I eat that much, but I can put it away.
What do you do to stay in shape?
HATCHER: I do Pilates. I run almost every day. I take SoulCycle classes. I like to be active. I hike with my dog. I do exercise a lot.
What do you eat on your cheat day?
HATCHER: I don’t think of it like cheating. I just eat what I like, but it’s good food. I eat everything – meat, fish, all that stuff. What I don’t eat is processed food. I try to eliminate processed food completely out of my diet. That’s bad for you. I eat wheat. Again, wheat is going to be a processed food, so I probably don’t eat a ton of it, but I’ll have a sandwich or I’ll eat pasta.
Have you seen your Planes character?
HATCHER: I haven’t actually seen it yet, but she’s a little forklift mechanic. She’s so cute. I didn’t realize when we were making it that she was going to buzz around. I thought she was going to be a little more (husky voice) “Oh I’m a forklift…” And then she’s able to [move around]. I love the scene with her arms where she’s just so cute.
HATCHER: That was funny. We had fun. That was my favorite. We had fun doing that in the booth because that was one of the ones where it just becomes like they had the orphanage. “Oh my God, there’s the orphanage!” That was their line, but then the whole (high pitched voice) “Watch out! Oh my God!” I can go really high and I can go really low, so we just did all kinds of crazy stuff. It was fun.
Does Dottie return in the sequel?
HATCHER: I have done a little bit of work on the sequel. I’ve said these things that go over a year so I forget. I don’t think I’m in it very much because it takes place out of… I can’t remember at this point. Maybe I’ll be a big hit and they’ll rewrite the sequel so that I’ll have a bigger part.
You’re going to be a huge hit. All the little girls are going to go, “I want to be just like Dottie.” You’ll be Planes 2 Dottie.
HATCHER: Do you know what I realized, too? One of my favorite movies of all time is Tootsie with [the character of] Dorothy Michaels. And that’s Dottie. I was just thinking, “Oh my Gosh, how weird it is that came around for me like thirty years later.” I’d been obsessed with that character forever. So there you go.
Did you see Dustin Hoffman’s reaction recently when somebody asked him about the role?
HATCHER: I did. It was so interesting and beautiful and insightful and amazing. Somebody did ask me recently if there was anybody I wanted to work with. It’s not that there’s only one person, because clearly there are so many amazing people, but maybe it was because I had just heard that, he is on my list. I just saw Quartet again which I love. I mean, those are the kind of stories that I hope more and more people keep telling. There’s another interesting, vacant area which is between 60 and 80. You seem to have some women’s glamor and grace that starts to happen around 75. And then, before 60, you’ve got a lot of women that are still holding it together to be still considered sexy. But between 60 and 75, there’s got to be some stories in there for women, so maybe that’s what I’m going to get passionate about. I’ve got a few years, but I want to get passionate about those stories.
What’s going to be your biggest takeaway from this project?
HATCHER: (Laughs) I’m taking all the toys they can give me. My takeaway is that I can check off at least one Disney animated movie on my bucket list, and that maybe it’s a movie I’ll get to see with my grandchildren, and a movie that families will enjoy for decades to come.