Monday, February 11, 2019

Isabela Moner Talks 'Dora the Explorer', Future Plans and More

Collider has named Instant Family star Isabela Moner is the publication's Up-and-Comer of the Month but to be honest, it’s a bit of a cheat. See, Moner has been up-and-coming for a while. In fact, she has already arrived, having caught her big break in 2014 with the Nickelodeon show 100 Things to Do Before High School, followed by her made-for-TV movie debut in Nickelodeon's Legends of the Hidden Temple, then her big screen break when Michael Bay hand-picked her to star in last year’s blockbuster Transformers: The Last Knight, for which she earned a Teen Choice Award nomination. Since then, Moner hasn’t looked back. She starred opposite Benicio Del Toro in this summer’s acclaimed sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado, and a month after that she was on her way to Australia to shoot Paramount Players and Nickelodeon Movies' live-action Dora the Explorer movie (her third for Paramount) in which she plays the adventurous lead. So, you’ve probably seen Moner already, and if not then I assure you, you’re definitely going to be seeing a lot more of her in the future.

Collider got the chance to talk to Isabela from the movie set of Dora the Explorer, in which the young actor talks about her brand-new movie Instant Family and the up-and-coming Dora the Explorer. Check out the bits in which Isabela talks about Dora the Explorer below, and make sure to head to to read Isabela's awesome interview in full!:

Congrats on being named Collider’s Up-and-Comer of the Month for November!

I appreciate [all] of this. I’m still confused as to like, if I’m relevant or not. I don’t know, and personally I’d rather not be, because I like the place where I’m at right now. I feel like I really like my career and where it is at right now. I love it. I’m still able to do some crazy stuff in public and no one cares about me or what I’m doing, and it’s awesome.

That anonymity may not last much longer, given how well your career is going.

I know, I know. That’s the only thing I regret about signing up for Dora.


Do you feel like homegrown talent at Paramount, having started your career at Nickelodeon? You did this film after Transformers, and now you’re shooting a third Paramount movie, Dora the Explorer, where they’re entrusting you with another huge IP. Do you feel like you’re a part of the family over there, in a sense?

Yeah, I feel like I know the marketing team and the lawyers. They’ve taken me in and entrusted me with so much, and for that I’m really grateful. And I’m really grateful that they choose to represent my culture as well. They’ve always been advocates for that, in my experience, at least. I’ve had nothing but ‘yes’s’ from them as far as like, speaking in Spanish during some scenes, or even just speaking Spanish during interviews. They’ve always been such advocates for that, and for that I’m grateful, because that’s one of my main priorities, too. They even have me in the Christmas cards this year, so I got to sing part of the “Jingle Bells” song with John Krasinski and all the people who are in their movies. I thought it was awesome.

I’ve got to talk to Paramount and get on their Christmas card list!

Yeah! Right?


What has been the biggest pinch me-moment of your career so far?

Oh God, every day! Every single day there’s something new. If I think about it too much, I feel kind of anxious. There’s a lot going on that I somehow just happen to deal with. I’m surprised by the same thing. But I do have knitting on my side, and i have my dog that I just adopted. His name is Pluto and he has three legs. He’s the cutest little boy. He’s the goodest boy ever.


Can you give us a taste of the adventure we’ll see in Dora the Explorer and the kinds of things James Bobin has you doing on set?

The thing is, I know that I can’t really say much about it, but I’ll talk about it as much as I can. Basically, this experience I joined for the fact that I really think it’s going to be a big movement, politically-wise, because it’s an all-Latino cast. Instead of like… you know how they have token black guys or token Latino guys in movies? We have one token white guy in the main cast. I’m working with Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Michael Pena and Jeffrey Wahlberg, who’s amazing. He’s half-Dominican. It’s been a great experience and I’ve worked so hard at this. My motto is, if you put 100 percent of you and your energy and everything that you’ve got into something, there’s no way that at least you can fail. So I am very proud of this and we only have one week left. I never thought that at 17, I’d be waking up at 5 a.m. every day, working six-day weeks until they very last minute that they can legally work me for, and still remain sane. Like, I’m surprised I did it, because back in the day I really had trouble getting up for school and doing homework and actually submitting it. Either way, if this movie [Dora] is a flop, which I doubt it will be, but if it is, I’m going to be so happy that I did this and it’s out there. I can say, ‘I did that shit. Like, I did that!’ I hope I inspire all the little Hispanic girls and boys out there. That’s who I’m doing this for. We had a bunch of kids visit the set, some of them are Make-A-Wish kids, some of them are crew members’ kids who visit, and when they freak out about meeting Dora, I’m like, ‘damn, this is it. This is what I do this for.’ Kids are my favorite because they’re so pure. They’re really mean sometimes because they’re super honest, but I trust them as a good judge of character. And they’re always so nice to me, so I feel really awesome. You just have to talk to them like adults. You can’t baby them. They’re smart, You’ve gotta address them with some authority, some respect. Put some respect on it!

You’ve gotta ask to keep the costume!

I know, I know! I probably will. I’m already slowly taking stuff. I’ll subtly ask for it and they’ll be like, ‘you can take it.’ I know they’re not telling me that I can, but I still take it because they have so many doubles, and hey, they have a big budget.

Is college in your plans at all?

I’m done with high school, so right now I’m taking a lot of college classes online and just trying to keep up with that, because I don’t just want to stop. It’s actually surprisingly easy to get work done between shot setups, but if I don’t want to do this next year and want to take a half a year break, I’m just going to go to college. I study psychology. That’s my main thing, I think. I like the human mind and how messed up it is. If I do one more full semester I would have my Associate’s Degree, so I’m really trying to work towards that.

I think that’s awesome. Congrats. You have a huge social media presence right now. Do you ever worry about it getting you into trouble? Do you think you’ll ever outgrow it. How do you like to use it?

It’s so weird. Social media is so weird. I hate it to be honest, but I feel like we all need it in order to get our voices out there and really speak on things that we care about. That’s the only time I use it. But I know people just want the selfies. They just want the vacation pics. So I have to find a [happy] medium there. I have to trick them, like, I’ll post some selfies, but then I’ll post something I really care about. And it’ll just throw them off. You’ve just got to keep a balance there. It’s weird, I feel like half the time I’m selling my soul just to keep people entertained on social media, but it also has been very beneficial, especially in my work with UNICEF. I’ve been working with them a lot, and the more I continue to support them on social media, the more they want to be involved with my work. It’s just like, a way of fundraising. It’s social media. It’s its own beast. But everyone needs it, I guess, nowadays.

What’s next for you, Isabela? Do you have any aspirations to write or direct, or to make more music? [Broadway Records released her album, Stopping Time, in 2015.]

I feel like my goal is bigger than acting. I already write, and I’m not saying it’s good, but I wrote this song for the end of Instant Family. It’s called “I’ll Stay,” and that alone was so nerve-racking for me to get out there, so I think it’s going to take a while for me to even write, like, a screenplay or something, let alone show anyone. But I definitely want to direct. Sean Anders inspired me on this one, because he made it seem so effortless even though obviously it’s a lot of work. He was just so passionate about it.

Anything lined up after Dora?

Other than time with my family? No. I’m very, very, very excited to get back home and be with my brothers. And also, writing. I’ve been having weird dreams about being locked out of a recording studio, so that’s a thing. And I haven’t touched a piano in so long, and there’s this old piano at my house that I just miss so much, and I refuse to play keyboard. I can’t just rent one. So I can’t wait to play that piano. That’s my main thing.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Congrats on Instant Family and good luck with the rest of the Dora shoot.

Thank you so much, and rest in peace, Stan Lee! Love you, man. Oh my God, there’s a guy who just passed by who looked just like Stan Lee. Whoa! I just saw the ghost of Stan Lee. No, he’s definitely real and a little bit chubbier, but he’s still cute. Like Stan.


Click here to read Collider's fantastic interview with Isabela in full!

Update (2/11/2019): Isabela Moner recently spoke to Female First to celebrate the UK release of Instant Family. During the interview, the actor also talked about her upcoming movie, Dora the Explorer. Check out what Isabela had to say about the film below, and read her interview in full on!

As one of three siblings in real life, did you draw on any personal family experiences to prepare for some of the chaos of Instant Family?

Oh yes… I definitely drew from personal experience. There are a few examples: on some aspects I personally can relate to Lizzy but I feel like I have a little bit of each sibling in me. I have Lizzy’s motherly care for my younger brother, Gyo. I have Juan’s emotional side of me who just cries in any tense situation, and also his clumsy side. And then I have a little bit of Lita’s character in me where I’m just a crazy coocoo-head who plays with boxes and uses her imagination, and prefers a cardboard box over a fancy dollhouse for a Christmas gift. The chaos came very easily. The yelling in Spanish also came very easily – that’s my family’s favourite method of arguing, it’s just more fun [laughs].

But also, when I was auditioning for this, I couldn’t be there in LA because I had to be in Cleveland. I [had to] self-tape but it was at night so I spent hours setting up the lights and I put the camera on the tripod and I was getting ready to do the FaceTime audition. It was a huge risk they were taking because Mark and I were already in a movie together [Transformers: The Last Knight] and it was sort of the same kind of chemistry, and I don’t think they wanted to see me initially for that reason. But eventually they came around. Of course, as soon as we started that FaceTime call, my brother started getting ready for basketball. I don’t know why this guy thought it was a good idea. He knew I was auditioning but he decided to bounce the basketball around our home. And I was so irritated, I wanted to just bite his head off! But damn, I really miss him now. I’ve been in Australia [shooting her lead role in Dora The Explorer] and I wish he was here bouncing his basketball, annoying the hell out of me.

Your performance in Instant Family feels like a massive moment for you. And then you're following that as none other than the world-famous Dora the Explorer. Is it fair to say you're having something of a 'moment'?

You never know when the moment is going to be the ‘moment’, you usually don’t realise it until after. I’m not projecting anything, things just happen at the right time and the right place and I’ve been really blessed. Even if it was a moment, I don’t think I’d be able to really realise. I have a hard time knowing how popular I am – do people actually know who I am, or are they like [it’s] ‘that chick from Nickelodeon’ or ‘that chick from Transformers’? [Laughs] I don’t really know, I’m not very aware of these things.

Overall, I’m really lucky to have acting as well as singing. Within acting you’re always being told what to do. You are being creative, but you’re also always being told to do something by someone. Whereas with writing and singing I find that to be my most creative outlet. At the end of the day it’s these projects and these moments that give me more material to work with and write music with.

The experience I had on Instant Family alone allowed me to write a song that I really was passionate about and poured my heart and soul into. I was very happy, honoured and appreciative to Sean for seeing the opportunity for him to put one of my songs in the soundtrack. I mean, that’s crazy! I was like, ‘Are you sure you’re not doing a charity thing? You know you don’t have to do this out of pity?’ [Laughs] I don’t know, it’s just really crazy that this is all happening. It’s so nice to be decent at something you love to do. That’s how I’m feeling about this ‘moment’ you say I’m having. That’s why choosing to do the movie after this, Dora [The Explorer], was also a huge risk for me, because I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But as soon as I got into character and studied it, it was quite easy. It’s all about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable! That’s the only way we’ll ever improve...


Check out Matt Hunter and Isabela Moner's brand-new single, "Lista De Espera" here! The track is a bit like a Dora the Explorer reunion, as Matt voiced Diego in Dora the Explorer and spin-off Go, Diego, Go!, and Isabela voiced Kate in Dora and Friends and is playing Dora in the upcoming live-action movie!

Dora the Explorer stars Isabela Moner (100 Things to Do Before High School, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Sicario: Day of the Soldado) will star as the titular teen, who heads out on an adventure with her best friend, Boots the monkey, and her cousin Diego.

11-time Emmy and four-time BAFTA nominee director James Bobin (Alice Through the Looking Glass) has assembled a cast of diverse superstars such as: Isabela Moner (100 Things to Do Before High School, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Transformers: The Last Knight, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Instant Family), who portrays the teen adventurer; Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives, Overboard) and Michael Peña, who play the parents of the titular character; Eugenio Derbez (Overboard, Instructions Not Included; How to Be A Latin Lover), who plays Alejandro, a mysterious jungle inhabitant who tries to protect the teenagers from the marauders; Jeffrey Wahlberg (Future World, Ballers, Counterpart, Reefa) in the role of cousin Diego; Nicholas Coombe (Spy Kids: Mission Control, Midnight Sun) as Randy, a fellow high schooler who develops an immediate crush on Dora; Madeleine Madden (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Tidelands) as the school’s snooty class president, Sammy; and Academy Award nominee Adriana Barraza (Babel, Amores Perros, Thor, The 33) as Dora’s grandma, Abuelita Valerie; Temuera Morrison (Green Lantern, Moana), who will play the role of Powell; Q’orianka Kilcher (The Alienist), will play Inca Princess Kawillaka; Pia Miller (Home and Away) as Dora's aunt Mami; Madelyn Miranda, who portrays Young Dora; and Benicio del Toro as the voice of Swiper the fox.

The movie will tell the story of Dora, a girl who has spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents, but now must navigate her most dangerous adventure yet: high school. Always the explorer, Dora quickly finds herself leading Boots (her best friend, a monkey), Diego, and a rag tag group of teens on a live-action adventure to save her parents and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost Inca civilization.

Nicholas Stoller and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel wrote the script, and Walden Media is co-financing and co-producing the film with Paramount, which is slated to release Dora the Explorer on Aug. 2, 2019.

Dora the Explorer is based on the popular Nickelodeon children’s show, and Paramount Players has a mandate to leverage Viacom-owned properties for the big screen treatment. The studio is also developing a feature adaptation of the beloved Nick series Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

Dora the Explorer is produced by Christopher Robin producer Kristin Burr, who is joined by longtime Bobin associate, executive producer John G. Scotti (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted, Alice Through the Looking Glass) as well as executive producers Julia Pistor (The Spiderwick Chronicles, A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Eugenio Derbez.

The production marks the lovable Latina character’s big screen debut (and first live-action adaptation on any platform) after fourteen seasons (2000-2014) and 172 episodes on Nickelodeon.

Dora the Explorer is a Paramount Players and Nickelodeon production in association with Walden Media.

More Nick: First Look at Isabela Moner in Paramount's 'Dora the Explorer' Movie!

Originally published: Friday, November 16, 2018.
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