Published Apr 22, 2020Alessia Cara branded herself a Know-It-All on her debut album back in 2015, and she's continued to prove it. As if being one of Canada's biggest pop stars wasn't enough, she's now entered the movie world with her first major acting role as one of the leads in The Willoughbys, Netflix's new animated children's film, which also stars Martin Short, Will Forte, Terry Crews, Maya Rudolph and Ricky Gervais. In the film, Cara plays Jane Willoughby, one of four precocious children who seek to escape their neglectful parents.
With The Willoughbys out on Netflix today (April 22), we spoke with Cara about her acting debut, and she revealed to us that voice acting isn't the only new skill she's picking up these days — while she's self-isolating due to coronavirus like the rest of us, she's working on adding a few more skills to her never-ending list of talents.
How did you land the role in The Willoughbys?
I got sent an email from Bron Studios in the very early stages. They had some of the cast aligned but they saw my interview with Jimmy Fallon about how I wanted to be in an animated film one day, it was just like an aspirational, random wish, and then they saw it and sent me an email with the character description of Jane and said I would be perfect for it and was wondering if I'd be into it, and I was like,"'A thousand percent. This is so cool." I can't even believe that they saw that interview!
What was the coolest thing you learned from the experience?
The whole process was so cool. We started this three years ago and, at that point, there had been no animation finished. It was very, very early stages. Seeing how it's evolved from a piece of paper into what it is now, these characters have their own personalities, they're their own people. It's just a crazy process to be part of the whole thing.
You have a song in the movie, "I Choose." What was the process behind working on that song?
The song for the end of the movie, which I'm singing on fully, at the very, very end, was the one I got to write on and change up. Mark Mothersbaugh created the a cappella versions of the film that are throughout the whole thing, and they handed it over to me at the end and told me to do what I wanted with it, basically, and figure out a happy medium. So I got to rewrite and re-record and reproduce as well, to make it my own.
This is your first feature film, would you want to move into live action next?
I would love to, I'm a huge fan of movies and in acting, I guess, in school, as a kid, I was in drama club, but being in a full movie is totally different than doing a voice role, but maybe someday! Who knows? I think I'd have to get more comfortable being in front of the camera first.
Which directors would you want to work with?
Definitely Wes Anderson, I think he's my top, for sure. I love his movies. But even just to have a role as an extra in the background of one of his films would be so cool.
And what about voice acting, would you do it again?
For sure. It was just so much fun and so perfect for someone like me who's a little bit camera shy sometimes, but there's no camera! I could just come in dressed in whatever I wanted and didn't have to worry about anything other than my voice, which is perfect. I would love to do that again.
Have you met any of your co-stars?
No, I wish! I really wish. But no, it didn't end up happening. We were all filming from different places, and with the quarantining happening, we didn't get to meet for the premiere either, so unfortunately not.
Of all your co-stars, who's the one you want to meet the most?
Definitely Maya Rudolph. She's so brilliant and hilarious, and her and Kristen Wiig are the greatest duo of all time. I would love to meet her and tell her how great I think she is.
What is your setup right now for quarantining? How are things going for you?
They're going okay! Some days, things are good, other days I feel like I'm just spiraling. I feel like that's the same for all of us, but trying to stay busy. I came back to my family's house to quarantine with them, just because being alone for god knows how long would be a little bit weird, so I'm here. It's cool, we don't get to spend a lot of time together so it's nice.
What are you doing to pass the time and keep yourself entertained?
Oh man, it's so hard. Just trying to let the hours go by. I've been watching a lot of Netflix and trying to learn how to cook more, because I have the time now. Trying to be productive but at the same time, using the time to rest and reflect. I've been touring the entire year so it's nice to chill. I've been watching Money Heist, it's so good. It's overdubbed in English [from Spanish], it's really good.
Are you working on any creative projects in quarantine?
I'm trying not to put too much pressure on creating something because that's when I feel like it's going to be forced, and I don't want to feel defeated if I come out of this with nothing. But at the same time, I am trying to write and learn how to produce. That's something I've always wanted to do, so now that I have the time, I'm learning to be patient with myself and try to create prompts from scratch, and having fun doing it by myself. I'm trying to get into Pro Tools, but I mainly use Logic Pro.
Are you self-teaching?
Yeah, pretty much. I know the basics, I can get around production, but I really just want to make a song and not have it be reproduced by someone better than me. I want to be able to make something that's good enough to be on an album of mine the way that it is. I've produced my own songs in the past, like "A Little More" and "I Don't Want To," but those are all acoustic, but there's not much of a track. I want to produce a full album with drums and other instruments and see how far I can get with that, just doing it by myself.
What material are you working on?
I started writing before quarantining, I have a few songs that I'm trying to work on, and then simultaneously writing brand new ones, which has been weird because when you have no experiences to write about, it's kinda fun to figure out what you're gonna pull from.
Have you picked up any new hobbies or routines in isolation?
I've been trying to learn how to cook, so that's been a fun thing. I kinda did a little bit before this but now I've been trying to do it almost every day and learn a new recipe, and it's been pretty good, actually. I've been making some good dishes!
How do you feel about the ways that coronavirus has impacted your life and career, and the world around you?
It's just so weird. I think we're all in the same boat in terms of not knowing what's going to happen. When you have a job like mine, thankfully, my biggest fear right now and my biggest worry is boredom, which is great, because when the biggest thing to worry about is 'What am I going to do today?' That means you're lucky, if that's the only thing on your mind. I'm very lucky, but at the same time, it is kinda weird because my job is about connecting with people and a big part of my life is touring and travelling so it's a little bit weird to have that up in the air and not be able to do that, but at the end of the day, I'm so lucky because, like I said, the only thing I'm worrying about is "What am I going to cook today?" or "How am I going to pass the time?" which is not the case for a lot of people. I'm very glad to have a job that I know I can go back to and it's gonna be okay.
The Willoughbys is on Netflix now. Watch the lyric video for "I Choose," Alessia Cara's original song for the film, below.