Mandy Moore: 'TRON: Uprising looks beautiful and edgy'
Mandy Moore taks about her new role in the animated series TRON: Uprising.
With film credits that include Tangled, Southland Tales, Chasing Liberty, How To Deal and A Walk To Remember, and television credits that include Entourage, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother, Mandy Moore is no stranger to television and movie audiences around the world.
She is an award-winning actress and a critically acclaimed recording artist who now lends her voice to the role of Mara in the upcoming animated series TRON: Uprising.
With the exciting new show about to premiere on Disney XD, we caught up with Mandy to find out more. How did she get involved with the project? What's it like to work in a sound booth? And how has the actress grasped the complicated mythology of the TRON universe? We quiz the talented actress on all this and much, much more...
What attracted you to TRON: Uprising?
The main reason I decided to audition for the show was because my husband is a huge fan of all things TRON. He's always been interested in the movies. In fact, we even have a TRON arcade game at home!
How did your husband react when you told him you were auditioning for a new TRON project?
I didn't tell him that I was auditioning for this, but I let the cat out of the bag when I was told I'd won the role because I thought it would earn me some brownie points at home, which it has. When I was offered the role, I didn't know what the show was going to look like - but I've been blown away by the level of sophistication with the animation.
It looks beautiful and edgy - and the stories are intense and thrilling. I've discovered there's a whole new world of vocabulary that comes along when you sign up for a show like this. The whole TRON universe is something that a lot of people take very seriously and I take seriously venturing into this particular project.
Did your husband explain the TRON lingo to you?
He tried to explain various aspects of the TRON universe to me after I got cast, but I'm lucky because I don't need to know too much about it. The great thing about this series is the fact that the show is set in a time frame that exists between the two TRON movies.
It's set on The Grid with all the programs, but's it's not necessarily about people finding themselves stuck on The Grid. I took solace in the fact that I didn't have to be super educated about The Grid because it was a little overwhelming. It's a whole different vocabulary that I'm still trying to understand - and I'm not the only person in the cast who's struggling. There are some other actors that are equally confused.
What confuses you about the TRON universe?
It took me a while to understand The Grid. I would question things like: Do you live on The Grid or do you live in The Grid? Literally, I would show up to work and the director would say to me, "Let me set up the scene for you: There is a program over here..."
I'd reply, "Wait! What are you talking about? A computer program?" He'd say to me, "Remember... Programs are like people. They are the inhabitants of The Grid." That concept had to be explained to me a number of times.
Who else is having trouble with the concept?
I'm not naming names! But I will say that I am not the only person who struggled. Honest.
You voiced the lead in the hugely popular Disney animation, Tangled. Did you really have to audition for this role in another Disney project, TRON: Uprising?
I did, but that's the life of an actor. You audition for a lot of things. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't - but I like auditioning. I find auditions fun.
Your character in TRON: Uprising is a program called Mara. Do you play her as a program or as a real person?
I play her as a person, which is the approach we've all taken with our characters. Essentially, that's what she is. Each of the characters has to have a bit of humanity to make them relatable.
Mandy busy at work in the studio.
Does Mara get involved in any of the rebellious battles and conflict?
I don't think Mara goes looking for the action, but she's certainly not opposed to it. She's definitely one to stand up for what's right - and she's certainly willing to protect her friends as well. She's not shy about things like that.
How does she fit into the Uprising in the show's title?
Mara factors into the revolution in her own way. As the story progresses, she starts to find herself more and more comfortable in a leadership role. It's like she has the heart of a leader, which is something that we explore in the first series - but I don't want to give too much away, so that's all I'm going to say.
How long have you been working on the project?
I had my first recording session about two years ago, so it's nice to finally see everything come together. I was so overwhelmed by the final product because it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. This project has such a huge scale and I love all the nuances of this world they've created. I think it's amazing. I'm really proud to be part of it.
What's it like to work in a sound booth on a show like TRON: Uprising?
I really enjoy voice work like this. It feels like second nature to be in the vocal booth and I really like the challenge of immersing my imagination in a completely new world. At times it's emotionally taxing, but it's fun.
I start to feel crazy at the end of the day because you get drained from pretending to run away from things, or from fighting and jumping around. You feel like you're going insane because you've spent hours talking to yourself - but it's completely enjoyable at the same time.
Did you do all of your voice sessions on your own?
Most of the time, I was on my own in the sound booth - but there were times when Nate Corddry [who plays Zed] and Elijah Wood [who plays Beck] would join me for a session or two.
Our characters have a lot of rapport and it's much easier to show that when you're playing off each other's performance in the same room. It's probably a lot easier to edit as well.
Do you have to make a conscious effort to not speak over each other when you're working in the sound booth alongside other actors?
You learn that soon enough. You know not to step on other people's lines, but it's much easier to read the script when you've got other people with you.
It feels pretty foreign to look at a page of dialogue where you skip over big chunks where your character says nothing. It's disjointed and weird. It's much nicer when you've got the rest of the cast alongside you.
Is there any room for improvisation in the sound booth?
I think there is always a little room for improvisation, as long as you don't go too far away from where the script is heading. You can do that much more with Nate's character, Zed. Nate is very comfortable riffing and heading away from the script.
How many voice sessions have you attended over the past two years?
I've probably had about a dozen sessions in total. Sometimes you work on multiple episodes in one session, so you can get a lot done in one recording - but these are all spaced out over the last two years.
There are often huge chunks of time between your recording sessions on the show. How difficult is it to come back after six months and pick up the voice again?
Luckily, I use my own voice for Mara, so it's not too difficult to get into character - even if I've been away from the project for a few months. I just have to focus on the direction I'm given and go for it. Sometimes it takes me a second to put myself back into this high-tech world, but it doesn't take me too long.
What went through your mind when you saw your character animated for the first time?
When I first saw Mara for the first time, I thought she looked really cool. She seemed a little bit more rebellious than I took her to be when I read the script, but I thought the animation was amazing. I'm not rebellious, cool or hip like Mara, so I guess I was a little surprised because I couldn't see myself in her - but now I'm used to it. She's a great character, and she's a lot of fun to play.
TRON: Uprising premieres on Disney XD on Monday 10 September