Interviews with The Star’s Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi & Patricia Heaton

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Interviews with The Star’s Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi & Patricia Heaton
Posted by Blackfilm com correspondent Annabel Iwegbue

November 15, 2017

Very recently, correspondent Annabel Iwegbue spoke with cast members Gina Rodriguz, Zachary Levi & Patricia Heaton of Sony Pictures Animation’s anticipated faith-and-family film The Star.

Premiering Nov. 17th, 2017, THE STAR tells the story of the first Christmas through the eyes of the animals who witnessed it.

The voice cast already included Gina Rodriguez (Mary), Zachary Levi (Joseph) and Oprah Winfrey (Deborah) and Tyler Perry (Cyrus) and Tracy Morgan (Felix) as the three camels, Steven Yeun (Bo the donkey), Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse), Aidy Bryant (Ruth the sheep), Keegan-Michael Key (Dave the dove), Kristin Chenoweth (Mouse), Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat), Gabriel Iglesias (Rufus the dog), Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog), national radio personality Delilah Rene (Elizabeth), Patricia Heaton (Edith the cow), Kris Kristofferson (Old Donkey), and Christopher Plummer (King Herod

“THE STAR brilliantly tells the story of the first Christmas from the perspective of the adventurous animals who contributed to the journey and bore witness to the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ,” said Executive Producer DeVon Franklin. “The entire family will laugh and be inspired as they experience the power of faith, friends and courage through the eyes of these brave, heroic animals.”

A small but brave donkey named Bo (The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun) yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth (Aidy Bryant), a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.

Mariah Carey co-wrote and sang a new song for the film.


THE STAR is directed by Academy Award® nominated writer/director Timothy Reckart (HEAD OVER HEELS); executive-produced by DeVon Franklin (MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN), Lisa Henson and Brian Henson (The Jim Henson Company) Ben Waisbren; produced by Jennifer Magee-Cook; with a story by Simon Moore and Carlos Kotkin; and screenplay by Carlos Kotkin.  Digital animation by Cinesite Studios. COLUMBIA PICTURES and AFFIRM Films present in association with Walden Films/LStar Capital in association with Franklin Entertainment/The Jim Henson Company. A SONY PICTURES ANIMATION Film.


What was it like taking on a character that’s so well known? Was it intimidating?

You know what’s really interesting? As well-known as Mary is, what do you know about her? I’ve thought about that because everybody’s asked me how intimidating it is. The truth is it is intimidating to play a biographical character; if you’re playing Abraham Lincoln, if you’re playing Mother Teresa that’s terrifying obviously, especially with people that we know, we have a grasp on who they are. Then you’re constantly comparing. But for the Virgin Mary, no, because I don’t ever talk about her. Why doesn’t the Virgin Mary get any love? She’s the one that threw down!

So that’s what I love about The Star is that they show her as this pillar of strength, and this woman that is steadfast and is going to go after what she wants, and has a mission, and has a service, and she’s going to do it. I think that that’s pretty kickass. At the same time, I feel like its every woman that’s around me. My mom, my grandmother, my siblings. Those women are incredible, they’re super women. I see them with their kids and I’m like ‘I hope one day I could be like that’ So that’s who Mary is. Mary is my sister Rebecca.

So that’s how you made the character your own?

Yeah! I made her my own because I know these women, I know my Marys, and we’re all Mary.

You haven’t done much voice acting before?

I have! But everything is kind of rolling out now, because animation takes forever.

When you did start what about it surprised you the most versus acting on screen?

How conscientos you have to be of your emotions, of everything! You can’t tap anything, heavy breathing, the work with microphone entirely, popping of ‘Ps.’ You have to be so much more crafted, and your imagination to the hundredth degree, because you’re by yourself! There is nothing, it’s just you and your mind, so it is a challenge. A really dope challenge.

What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

I get to direct my first episode of Jane the Virgin right after the holidays, I’m going to be preparing the entire holidays to just be a badass female director.


With this project, when you first got the script, what stood out and made you think ‘I have to get involved’

Well, you know working is always a good motivator, so you can pay the bills. But I got a call that said, ‘ Hey you got an offer to play Joseph in this Sony animated movie called The Star’ and I read just the logline and I was like ‘oh, the star like the nativity!’ Then I read the script and I thought it was just so good. It was so clever, it had so much heart, and it was a brilliant way to retell a story that we all know to death. We’ve heard it, we’ve seen, its been done. And it’s a very important story, so how do you do that justice while reskinning it, and that its done through the perspective of the animals I think is just so clever.

It really does break down some barriers for younger audiences to understand and digest what the story is in a very entertaining and new way, also entertain the parents along with them and all the adults. And I love the idea that, as a person of faith, that I got to bring Joseph to life. I know as much about Joseph as anybody else does, which is very little, but it also gave me a lot of leeway to kind of create the character. And being apart of a holiday movie that could theoretically play every Christmas, thats fun! All my friend’s kids will be like ‘oh thats uncle Zach!’ so it was just gangbusters all the way around.

Was it intimidating? How do you prepare playing Joseph?

Lots of prayer! No, it was a great script and I just tried to do justice to the script and the authenticity of the character. As an actor you’re just always trying to be honest, for whatever the character is you’re bringing to life. For Joseph, I can’t even imagine what that’s gotta be like. No one else as far as I know in the history of mankind has ever had their significant other come up to them and say ‘I have a baby, its not yours, but it’s also not another dudes! It’s God’s’ So that’s super weird and whatever that must’ve been like for him. And I love that we had the levity of the movie because otherwise you could go real dark and heavy with it, and instead he’s gobsmacked but he’s still trusting because he loves Mary. Just the journey and the struggle of the journey, getting to where they are in the manger, and the struggle of his own faith, crying out to God and saying what is this? I think that’s all of our lives everyday when we’re in the good and in the bad. Faith is ultimately all about trust, so I just try to make that as honest as I could.


So first I wanted to ask you how did you get involved in this project?

Fortunately my representation brought me this offer to do the part of Edith the cow and when I saw the amazing cast that was involved I was so excited. Also just to be apart of a faith based movie at Christmastime, particular the nativity story, that’s never been told as a Christmas movie and the story’s been around for 2000 years. I think it’s about time we did it, so i was happy to be apart of it!

Do you do a lot of animation?

No I haven’t done a lot of animation so I was really excited to do this and I’d love to do more!

What was your favorite part about playing a voiceover versus playing a character on screen?

I can just roll in in my pajamas! But it’s a different kind of skill set, and as an actor you’re always learning, and you’re always trying to improve your craft and enlarge your skill set. So I love working with only your voice, and I think you have to push it a bit more than you would normally when you’re just on camera as yourself. It’s a really interesting sort of trust exercise with your director and with the animator and with the actor.

You play Edith in the nativity scene, was there any room to play around with that character because she’s so fun.

You do kind of play around with your voices a little bit! I think at the beginning Edith sounded a little more like me, and I can go into sort of a Midwestern twang, and we found that to be a lot of fun, so we kind of went in that direction.

What were some of your favorite Christmas movies growing up?

I love Elf, and I just recently watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with John Candy and Steve Martin, and it really hold up well! And of course It’s a Wonderful Life is a terrific movie, it’s a classic, so I’m hoping that The Star also becomes a classic.

What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

I work very very long hours on The Middle so I’m looking to get a nice 3 week break over the Christmas holidays. I’m very much looking forward to having all my boys come home, my 4 sons, and doing some skiing with them.

Vignette – Meet Mary & Joseph

Interviews with Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi and Patricia Heaton

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