If Elijiah Wood's Beck is the soul of the uprising in Disney XD's animated TRON: Uprising, then his friend and fellow mechanic-turned-rebel Mara is its heart. And that seems to be precisely what drew singer and actress Mandy Moore to the role. Moore, who in recent years has been lending her voice to both big screen (Tangled) animated projects, films, and even got to take a stab at being Lois Lane one time, joins Wood in the Grid as TRON: Uprising makes its debut this week.
We spoke to Ms. Moore about her character, finding her voice in the role... and being a singing cowgirl?
MTV Geek: Tell us a little about TRON: Uprising. What attracted you to the show?
Mandy Moore: I was actually attracted to the series not knowing much about the whole TRON universe. But my husband was a huge fan and I selfishly wanted to earn brownie points at home, not necessarily thinking that I would be cast.
But when I went to in to audition and meet with Charlie [Bean, director of the series], and the writers, and the producers and whatnot, and I was really just struck by the overall aesthetic of the show. To me, the animation and the universe that they were going to create was just unlike anything I had ever seen before—it’s out of this world. I thought it was beautiful and so different, and I was just super-excited to be involved and felt lucky to be cast.
Geek: And your character, Mara?
Moore: The thing that I love about Mara is that she’s a really inspiring young woman. She’s definitely somebody to look up to, she’s cool. She’s spirited, she’s confident, she’s spunky, she’s one of the guys but she has a big heart. She’s a loyal friend and as the series develops, you see her grow more and more comfortable in her own skin, and more and more comfortable in this new leadership role.
And she’s overall just a good egg, you know?
Geek: Uprising seems pretty concerned with the concept of people become infected with ideas or spreading ideas. Where does Mara fit into that?
Moore: I think when you meet the characters at the start of the series and General Kessler’s army has kind of taken over our city—I think beyond the fact that everyone’s kind of confused and bewildered, I think that as the story starts to develop you see that Mara’s not one to compromise. She really becomes taken with the idea of this renegade—“vigilante,” if you will. And she’s all for standing up for the right thing and standing up for her city [like] this new masked do-gooder.
So I think that she’s sort of an uncompromising person when it comes to having a good moral compass, and not being infected by the ideas being spread by this new regime.
Geek: What kinds of conversations did you have with the show’s writers or even the other voice actors about your characters prior to starting work on the show?
Moore: There wasn’t too much conversation prior to starting the show. We just kind of jumped right in. With animation, there’s really no point of reference, so it’s not like I was brought into this world and able to watch as the story unfolded. It kind of had to unfold in my imagination.
But that’s why it’s key to work with a great group of people, and this is no exception. I mean Charlie was fantastic—before each session he was sort of describing and setting the scene really well, because I’m not really well-versed in the world and this vocabulary, and he was really able to break it down for me. And that was incredibly helpful.
But a lot of it is on the page as well and in the writing, and to be able to watch this character’s arc as the series progresses. So it was pretty self-explanatory.
Geek: What does it mean to you that your character and the other characters in the series are programs? Does it inform your take on the character
Moore: I just looked at her as another type of person. She has a function, she has a job, she has a purpose that she serves, but I view her as this person, living in this town, sort of like any other young person. She has to be good at what she does. She has this group of friends and they work together and play together and they seem to have a pretty good life in spite of what’s happening at the beginning of the story.
I didn’t really think of it as a sort of computer grid and this, you know, endless abyss of a universe. And I kind of liked simplifying it a little bit because at the end of the day, that’s who I feel like these characters really are.
Geek: So you were trying to find Mara’s humanity, then.
Moore: Absolutely. Otherwise, I’d be completely lost. I think it has to have some sense of humanity to it. It has to be a bit relatable to people.
Geek: What about the TRON universe has piqued your interest the most? Anything that’s led you to seek out and catch up with the movies or comics, or games?
Moore: I think I’ll be inspired after watching the series when it’s finished. You know, not so long ago got to see the prologue, the first episode (“Beck’s Beginning”), and it’s amazing. If you work on something on and off for a year and a half, to finally see the finished product is always inspiring.
And it really sort of connects all of the dots as well, so I think I’ll be a little more well-versed in the world of TRON seeing the series completely.
Geek: You mentioned earlier that with Uprising, having to rely on what’s on the page to figure out your character. Do you find it’s the same with other VO roles you’ve taken—figuring your character out based on the script and maybe some character art?
Moore: Sure. I think that’s all you can really rely on in this line of work. I really like it. I really like the challenge of relying solely on your imagination and then sort of the guidance of the director or the writers. I like it. I’m all for that kind of challenge.
Geek: Now we see a lot of action from Beck in the prologue as he takes on the mantle of TRON—does Mara get to be an action heroine?
Moore: She does get in on the action. She does—a couple of episodes down the line, she’s appointed the leader by Able. And things run amuck a little bit, but she manages to keep people in line. I think she realizes that she has the heart of a leader and she has this natural leadership quality in her, which is kind of cool to watch a character find that about themselves.
Geek: Beck has a little bit of a Batman thing going on in the prologue with the dual identities. Does that play out in his relationship with Mara throughout the rest of the series?
Moore: It does. Mara falls in love with the renegade, not realizing that it’s actually Beck, her best friend. Which makes for an interesting reveal in the end.
Geek: What other voice work do you have coming up that you can talk about?
Moore: Yeah, I have another Disney thing that’s called Sheriff Callie’s Wild West. The name has changed a number of times, but I’m sure it’s called Sheriff Callie’s Wild West. It’s a show for Disney Jr., and I get to sing on that, which is quite fun—lots of adorable little fun songs in every episode, obviously with a little country twinge to it.
So I’ve been working on that kind of simultaneously with TRON: Uprising. From Untangled, to TRON: Uprising, to Sheriff Callie’s Wild West.
Geek: So Disney’s been treating you pretty well, then?
Moore: [laughs] Yes! Needless to say, I’m a fan.
TRON: Uprising premieres Thursday, June 7th at 9 ET on Disney XD.