Premiering exclusively on Disney Plus on Friday, March 11, 2022, Turning Red is a coming-of-age tale about a 13-year-old girl named Mei Lee who discovers that she turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets excited or upset. Turning Red is directed by Domee Shi and features the voice talents of Sandra Oh (Ming), Rosalie Chiang (Mei Lee), Ava Morse (Miriam), Hyein Park (Abby) and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Priya).
We Live Entertainment recently had the opportunity to sit in on a virtual press conference for the film. We got a little insider info from Sandra Oh and Rosalie Chiang about what it was like to be part of this bold and ambitious feature film.
On their characters:
Sandra Oh: “I play Ming, Mei’s mother, who is a hypervigilant, loving mother. We basically go through this change in our relationship. A natural change between mothers and daughters when daughters have to become their own independent people.”
Rosalie Chiang: “I voice Mei Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese Canadian who’s confident, ambitious, a little dorky, and a bit of an overachiever. She puts so much value in her friendships and her relationship with her mom. And in this movie, she goes through these huge changes and she’s dealing with this. But at the same time, she has all these things in her life, but she doesn’t want to lose herself as well.”
Rosalie’s take on relatable moments from the film:
“Well, after watching the movie, my mom and I kinda looked at each other like, “This is really similar. There are so many odd things that feel like a really weird coincidence. First of all, my mom’s middle name is Ming and there’s no way they could’ve known that. It’s creepy. My favorite animals are actually red pandas way before the whole project even started before I was introduced as this character. But the main thing is that my mom actually calls me Mei-Mei before this project because Mei-Mei means little sister in Chinese. It came to a point where everyone called me Mei-Mei, even the people who are younger than me, which you’re not supposed to do. And when she goes, “I’m perfect little Mei-Mei,” I’m like, hey, that’s literally what I went through that I was like, “I don’t want to be perfect little Mei-Mei either.”
Sandra Oh on her friendships in real life:
“You know, I’m in well into my mid-life. And is my best friend is Margo. I have relationships and friendships that are 40 years old. And so what I love about this film through friendship, and also music, it’s that precious time when you’re starting to figure out who you are when your friends become really important. You know, for me, the girls that I grew up with like Nepean and Ontario, we’re still all friends.”
Rosalie on her first role as an actress:
“I had two moments of finding that I was voicing Mei. The first time was when I was 12. It was for a scratch recording, and that was when they were still figuring out the plot, the characters, and the design. They hadn’t gone to production yet. So they just needed a voice to animate off of. At first, they just sent me an email, just like, “Hey, congrats, you booked it for scratch.” And I was kinda half-crying, half-confused because it’s like, what the hell is scratch? But then I found out, and I was disappointed because I didn’t actually book it. But all I thought was, during my recordings is that I’ll just do my best because, at the end of the day, it’s an incredible experience whether I book it or not. But then two years later, Domee was brought in. She said “we’re just gonna do a few behind-the-scenes things,” and I’m like, “Oh, okay. That’s fine.” Then they gave me a script, and I thought, “Why didn’t you give me this to practice? Come on.” But then we did it and we went through it. And at the end, that’s when Domee said “this whole monologue.” I’m not gonna go into it. But she just said, “We love your voice. Can you please be Mei?” And I said, “Of course.” Imagine if I turned that down? But, I just remember being in shock because I think at that point, I just thought I’m just gonna do my best. I’m not gonna focus on booking or not booking it. And I froze. I didn’t know whether to cry or not. I was just so thankful. And this is the beginning of COVID, so I couldn’t hug anyone. We kind of did that elbow thing. That was our kind of version of a hug. And then about a week later at home, I just start bawling because it just hit me, how incredible this opportunity was”
Sandra Oh on her most memorable tiger mom experience:
“I’m not afraid of that concept of a tiger mom. I love my mom. And she’s a fierce person. Tiny. Tiny. But fierce. I actually do have something that I posted a very long time ago on Instagram because it was such an unbelievable quote that my mom said in the kitchen. I had to write it down on Post-It, and then I put it up on Instagram. And it was basically she said, I’m not joking, I’m not joking, “If only you were neater, I would love you more.” So, I happen to have a really good relationship with my mom, and I know not everyone does. But I do and in the way of, like, I can’t stop her from being herself. I’m not gonna stop her, and I’m gonna enjoy her. I’m not gonna do what she’s gonna say what she wants me to do because that’s just not me. Um, but there, within that is that pull that we are always having, I think, with our mothers and with our Asian mothers that, um, it’s very difficult to satisfy them.
Rosalie shares who she first told when booking the role of Mei:
“It was my mom. It was my mom who was at the recording. But when we got home, I still hadn’t really processed it, but they gave me the script that said that Domee and I read out which is when I booked it. And so I waited till dinner. I’m like, “Oh, when should I give this to my dad?” I said at the end. Oh, we’re about to go to sleep. Like, “Oh, Dad, I have this for you. I got this at Pixar.” And just like, “Oh, okay.” He reads it, and he goes, “Oh my gosh.” He’s like, “What?” And I was just so grateful for Domee Shi and the rest of Pixar.
Sandra Oh on the importance of positive female friendships shown on-screen:
“I think that question is extremely important, because having young women and young girls my life, watching television and films with them over the years, you just realize, I don’t know who sets this up that girls are like this. Because I don’t think it’s very true. And I think this film shows an extremely good representation of deep friendships, and the highs and the lows of those friendships. And all the girls, I will say, I just like the characters, honestly, I love them so much. They are not afraid to be smart and entrepreneurial. They have their eyes on the prize, which is they want to go to 4*Town and they make it happen. Also, with a panda. But, yeah, they make it happen. And I just also appreciated how it’s like all these girls, even in their young womanhood are in charge of their lives and making their decisions.”
Rosalie shares her favorite on-screen friendships:
“I watched the Disney Channel a lot when I was younger and one of my favorite shows was “That’s So Raven.” And it was those three. And even though there was a guy there. Sometimes they have arguments and it was not gonna be completely perfect. But at the end of the day, they truly valued their friendship. And they were like, we will never let go of that throughout the entire show. And it’s something that I resonated with because I have had many friends come and go throughout my life. But the friends that are in my squad right now, I’ve known them my entire life.”
Rosalie on what she hopes audiences will take away from her character:
“I’d say her drive. I feel like she has such a drive that once she sets her mind on something, she goes for it. She doesn’t half-ass it. Like, she puts all her time and energy to make sure she gets her point across, or whatever goal she has. Also, the fact that she goes through change, is something that everyone goes through in their life, especially puberty. It’s such a messy, weird, and awkward time that I literally went through when I was during the duration of recording for Pixar. And I hope people admire what she goes through and how she deals with it. She chooses herself.”
Turning Red will stream exclusively on Disney Plus beginning March 11, 2022