Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl

Monkeying Around: Rosario Dawson and Michael Cera Riff on The LEGO Batman Movie

March 21, 2017
We caught up with Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon/Batgirl) and Michael Cera (Robin/Dick Grayson) to talk about The LEGO Batman Movie and got that and change.

Rosario Dawson: Hi, how’s it been?

Michael Cera: (to Rosario) I had a Waldorf salad. They put chicken in it. Don’t ever have a Waldorf salad at the Montage. I don’t know, maybe they were resentful that I ordered another hotel’s namesake.

RD: I like that they had a kale Caesar salad, I like that they had two options of Caesar salad. Like you get the kale version, or the regular. Apparently we have kale in our lives because of the tobacco industry – because apparently they were losing so many sales from people smoking less, so they had all this farmland from tobacco, and so the soil is very hardy, and can grow very thick-leafed things, so they started growing kale in those farmlands. I didn’t grow up having kale as like a thing that everyone talked about, and the reason why it’s become this thing is because they had all this kale to sell, and like this is the new trendy food.

You have a lot of knowledge there.

RD: I’m just really curious about a lot of stuff. I think it’s because I grew up with Reading Rainbow. Nobody reads anything! After enough twitter arguments that I’ve had over the years, and it’s like – ‘I just sent you the link that completely defines it, you’re not reading this!’

Moving on from kale, you are very politically active; did you want to make Barbara much stronger?

RD: Even stronger than she already is? My gosh! She’s pretty boss. It’s actually really interesting because we did everything separately, and because we weren’t playing off of each other, I wasn’t really sure what was going to stay in or not, because they were like ‘try this, try this, try this’. So we had so many different versions and tones, and energies and places that she went. She was really tough at one point. I remember we started improvising, we were all laughing, we thought it was really funny, but I was like, ‘no, no Batman, put that – no!’ Like I was constantly, not berating him, but really tough with him, and it was weird, because I was like, ‘I love Batman’. And the reason why she’s doing so much of what she’s doing is because she’s inspired by him, so it felt very much like we were playing the angle of, don’t ever meet your heroes, because they’ll disappoint you…

MC: You’ll have to dress them down.

RD: Yeah, and I was like, ‘oh, I don’t like that so much,’ but we kind of did need someone to hit at Batman, because it’s fun to make fun of his ego a little bit, and not cut him down, but give him a little dose of reality, so it was nice that they did that through Alfred instead. I’m glad that it’s not about her being tough or strong because she’s controlling against anybody else, but more like, she’s just really great at what she does, and she’s so patient and collaborative that she eventually wins people over to her perspective. Which I think is really, really beautiful, and very empowering in a way that you don’t normally see, especially in this glorifying of bullying world that we live in right now, and have been for many years. Growing up with Jeopardy where we said ‘you’re smart, congratulations’, and now it’s like, ‘you’re The Weakest Link’, ‘you’re The Biggest Loser’. You survived, you’re good enough, you’re better than the worst. That’s not great.

MC: I feel a little like they want to rub your face in how smart you’re not.

Michael, did you have any favourite Robins growing up?

MC: I guess I would say the old Burt Ward Robin, just because that was the one I would watch when I was a kid. I loved that show, that and The Monkees were my favourite show. They were replaying The Monkees, and they were my favourite band, and I remember when I was nine years old, my best friend looking me in the eye and saying, ‘it’s not their time’. Like, ouch! Harsh!

RD: Kids are so mean.

MC: Harry Nilsson wrote a lot of their songs.

RD: I like that we’re in the remix generation version, like everybody wants to have really good music to karaoke, so now everything’s back again.

Did you have a desire with the rise of the superhero movie, like ‘ooh, when am I going to get in on that action?’

MC: No, I mean, I liked the first LEGO Movie, I was really a big fan of what they were doing, which did have these superhero elements, and Batman obviously, but I really just liked what they were doing with the humour, and what their take on that was. And it just never occurred to me before that you could make this kind of movie, an animated LEGO movie, and LEGO has had this crazy revival in the last few years, where kids are like just going nuts for it. But yeah, the superhero thing was something I never cared too much about.

Michael Cera as Robin

Michael Cera and Robin

Rosario’s already in that world [Netflix’s Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the voice of Wonder Woman in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis]. Did director Chris McKay say to you that was what made him think of you for the role?

RD: When I talked to Chris about it, it was my activism and the different organisations I work with, because it was an angle that they wanted to explore with Barbara, and as a way of kind of bringing her into this world, and what she could contribute to both her father, and to Batman, as people she was emulating and she loved so much. But she took what she loved about them and what she was inspired by and added to it, and brought a whole other level. Which is also kind of honouring their relationship, they worked collaboratively together, but somehow it didn’t have that distinction, and she brought that distinction to it and made it really, really clear. I thought that was just really cool.

And why does Barbara have purple hair?

RD: Well, she has red hair, and a purple outfit, and I thought that was really – [to Michael] wait, did you get, it was an interesting thing when they got announced, are you on social media?

MC: What, with the movie?

RD: Yeah, when it was announced I was doing the role, did you – do you have any social media?

MC: I don’t have any social media. What happens?

RD: Oh, it was hilarious, when people were seeing that I got cast, they were like, ‘she’s Latina, wait a second, Barbara Gordon’s supposed to have red hair!’ And I was like, ‘guys, guys, this is an animated movie, voice over, you’re going to be really shocked to see all the people who voice your favourite characters, they’re black, they’re brown, they’re Asian. A woman does Bart [Simpson]’s voice, sorry to break it for you guys!’ The internet came to my defence, and they were like, ‘oh yeah, I can’t believe her as a Barbara Gordon unless she’s really a Commissioner’s daughter, and really has red hair’, they were mocking this person, like ‘are you serious?’ But I think they’re all going to love it, because she’s an awesome character.

Did any of you go to Australia, to Animal Logic?

RD: I went but I didn’t get to see anything as it was well after Chris had left, but stuff like that would have been awesome. I was just visiting my boyfriend [Eric Andre], and we were on vacation. He was doing a comedy tour there.

MC: Did you stay there long?

RD: A week. I’ve been there several times over the years. I’ve dived in Cairns, I’ve been to Adelaide, I’ve been all over. I love Australia. On this trip it was just Sydney, and then we went to the Blue Mountains, and did that whole thing.

MC: Did you climb the bridge, the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

RD: I did that before, I dived in Sydney Harbour, which was really scary, because like –

MC: There’s sharks in there, right? There’s sharks around.

RD: It’s really cold, and murky, and they had seaweed where we jumped down. I did the trigger fish dive, and the current dive, where it was like, beautiful, and 70 feet down, and it was really nice, and all of a sudden you’re in Sydney like, ‘oh my God, we’re going to die.’

MC: I wouldn’t dive in the safest circumstances you could lay out for me.

RD: Well, it’s not particularly safe in general, the idea of breathing underwater. It’s a pretty remarkable experience, though, and the first time I’ve ever felt like I was in space. You do a current dive, where the current is going so strong, that your body is just pushing, so you don’t have to swim, so it allows you to stay longer under the water because you’re not expending air. So you start floating, and you feel like you’re in a space costume because of how big the helmet is on you.

MC: You won’t run into a shark or something, will you?

RD: The thing, actually, that was so funny, when I came out it was super scary, after we came out of the dive, and had done this trigger fish one, they were like, ‘oh, were so lucky they weren’t mating, trigger fish can like break through your goggles and get into your thing’. Like Jesus!

When you saw the finished The LEGO Batman Movie, were you like, ‘oh, so that’s how it works out’?

 MC: There’s so much I didn’t know would happen story-wise. I didn’t know what was going on with The Joker. I kind of knew what the basic crux was, the Joker is insecure with him. But there was so much of the movie that I was just waiting to see. I was like, ‘I’ll figure out what’s going on when I get to see the movie.’ It’s a fun way to enjoy it actually.

RD: I still felt really safe. There’s definitely been times when I’ve watched movies that I’m in, and like, ‘why didn’t you tell me this was a comedy? I’m, like, really off tone.’ But with this one, Chris was so descriptive, and so present, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been on the first LEGO movie. Because they were creating that tone, it’s really specific. So it was a bit of a cheat, we got in there, there was a safe feeling that I think maybe would have been different if I was on the first one. This one, I felt like I really gave it all to Chris, like ‘I just trust you’, so it was fun, and I just knew. It was fun to explore anything he asked. And there’s so much stuff in there, that I’m watching now, and the physicality that they made her do, for certain things… Also, like when they do the Batfax, I remember doing that and ‘I don’t understand what this is, I’m so confused about what I’m talking about, and what’s happening,’ and then this fax came out of the thing in his head, like ‘ooohhhh’, that makes so much sense.

There’s so many superheroes, and supervillains, in this, do you have a favourite?

MC: John Jones…

RD: The Martian Manhunter?

MC: Yeah, is that what it’s called?

RD: Not Man-Eater.

MC: Manhunter.

RD: Yeah, the Man-Eater would be amazing.

MC: When I was like three I found an action figure of that guy, in a puddle, in the rain, and it was my favourite thing that I ever found. He was my favourite action figure because the joints were all real loose, and I probably still have it somewhere, probably at my folks’ house. I never even knew what he was, where he was from or this character or anything. And then I saw him one time, and I was like, ‘that’s the guy that I found in the puddle! That’s my guy!’

RD: For me it’s so fun because it’s one of those projects where the kids, there’s so much humour and stuff for them, but those types of Easter egg things, like Gremlins, it’s amazing to see that. I didn’t know they were going to be in there. And the kids are just like ‘ew, what are those weird looking, weird alien creatures?’ ‘They’re Gremlins, don’t put water on them!’ So it’s cool, there’s all these funny little, weird things in there for kids, for adults, and definitely, as much as it’s a kids’ movie, this is a movie definitely made by really smart, really engaged adults, because it’s full spectrum, it’s not just DC.

MC: For adults, by adults.

RD: But it’s not just that, the fact that they’re using Voldemort, and all these crossovers, it’s just really fun, and really surprising. It’s kind of more Where’s Waldo-ish, it’s there in the background, and the more you watch it, which parents are going to have to do over and over and over, they’ll definitely catch more.

The LEGO Batman Movie is in cinemas March 30, 2017

Read our review of The LEGO Batman Movie

Read our interview with Zach Galifianakis and Will Arnett

Read our story with Chris McKay and producer Dan Lin about making the film in Australia

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