Movies

Interview: Raini Rodriguez & Simon Otto Talk A Tale Dark


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Based on the hit book series by Adam Gidwitz, A Take Dark & Grimm is now streaming on Netflix. The animated series follows Hansel and Gretel on a memorable adventure. The show is led by director Simon Otto and stars Andre Robinson and Raini Rodriguez in the main roles.

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with showrunner Simon Otto and star Raini Rodriguez about the Netflix animated series.

Tyler Treese: Raini, this whole series is a really fun twist on a lot of familiar fairy tales. So I was curious if you had a favorite fairy tale and if you knew a lot of the darker side to these stories before you entered this series>

Raini Rodriguez: I was definitely familiar with the Brothers Grimm, the darker side of the fairy tales. I can’t say necessarily read all about them until I really sign on for A Tale Dark & Grimm. Once I started getting the scripts and reading them. In particular, I remember in the first episode when Hansel and Gretel literally got their [heads] chopped off, I was like, “Oh, so I really must have missed this part of the original story. So let me, let me really do some research on this one.” I think it’s really fun. I think the whole atmosphere of it is fun. It’s really cool to get a whole new perspective on something that a lot of people are very familiar with, which is like the tale of Hansel and Gretel, which is something that I’m probably the most familiar with and not to be biased, but it probably will be my favorite fairy tale from here on out. Getting to play Gretel, a very iconic role with the two braids and the pigtail, that’s so cool. So that’s probably my favorite one for sure. But to kind of get a whole new perspective on things, a sort of more Grimm telling of it. I like it a lot. It’s really, really cool. Especially for spooky season, October, and it kind of just makes everything come alive a little bit more. I like it.

Simon, what did you see in Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark & Grimm, the original books and the potential for a series there?

Simon Otto: I was given the book by a producer, Chris Henderson, who actually is at the root of this project, who actually figured out that this is available and swooped it up and handed it to me. I should tell you the origin of these books in the first place. He was a sub substitute teacher and was asked to take care of a class and read a few books. All you do is just read to the kids and he said, “Well, what are you gonna read? Fairy tales, right? Grab the Grimms’ fairy tales book and start reading it.

As he was reading it, being some semi-familiar with it, he started realizing that the kids were looking with really big, wide-open eyes and he started kind of undercutting it and explaining it. He was a really funny man, so he naturally made it humorous. That tone comes through in the books. I think for me, having done a lot of feature animation in my career, we’ve talked about adapting fairy tales and Grimms’ fairy tales, in particular, many times, but what you oftentimes struggle with is that to bring it into a 70, 80, 90-minute feature and tell one single story because some of the Grimms’ fairy tales are short stories. Some of them have odd beginnings and endings, or sort of are hard to tell in the feature-length story.

In this world that we live in, where all of a sudden limited series become a real opportunity in animation. You see the reemergence of stories that are really hard to tell as features or as episodic television, where you basically come back to the same kind of setup every time. To me, A Tale Dark & Grimm, the novel, was a perfect source material for this kind of show.

Raini, you’ve done a couple of voice acting roles here. You’re so great as Sammy in the Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous series. Has your approach changed to voice acting over time or did you find your footing rather quickly?

A little bit of both, I’m a very expressive person. So on the microphone, I’m, I’m really great at just kind of going a little bit extra when it comes to things like that of really just going for it. Speaking for A Tale Dark & Grimm specifically, I remember when we first did the first episode and I was speaking with Simon about the characters and how Gretel should evolve and where she should go from here I remember in the first episode we had talked about how her voice is very innocent. It’s very light. I mean, she has no cares in the world until essentially her parents chop her head off. And then that’s where her sort of dynamic kind of changes. Then she’s always been this protective older sister to Hansel, but now that they’re going on this journey together, she’s gotten hardened.

So as episodes would come about and I would get new scripts, I would kind of adapt to that with my voice and kind of change it up a little bit. She would be sassier and harder and she wouldn’t quickly accept everybody the way that she would in the first or second. So when she was a bit more naive, I was definitely quicker at thinking things through. And so for voice acting, I just kind of approached it like that. It’s funny because a lot of people ask the similarities and the differences between on-camera acting and voice acting, but for voice acting, you kind of just have to go a little bit more above and beyond because when you’re going through a journey… In animation, obviously, we can see the journey, but for the voice acting, you wanna add a little bit more to that.

It can even be as simple as the actions of running in a booth by yourself, running from something or when I’m climbing or I’m rowing a boat or I’m fighting whoever I’m fighting in the show, it’s a lot of getting to add that extra, that extra oomph to add to the character of Gretel and her little nuances and her little things that she does. I got to sing in this show as well, which was really cool. So to be able to kind of add all that into the voice packaging was great. I mean, this show is like a dream come true. It has a little bit of everything as an actor.

Otto: You really were able to show your huge range in this and really go to all these different places. I mean, the show is not only funny and scary, but it actually has real emotional depth. And I don’t know how many episodes you had a chance to see Tyler, but it goes into a pretty big arc. It’s not only episodic, every episode, we experience a different kind of, sort of Grimm fairy tale. I mean, that’s, that’s basically the idea, right? It’s the Hansel and Gretel experience, a multitude of Grimms’ fairy tales. We just really make them the protagonists of all these stories, but there is a giant overarching story that we hope makes it perfect for co-viewing between kids and their parents because ultimately the theme of the film has a lot to do with kids understanding their parents and parents understanding their kids and having kind of this understanding of the other person’s perspective. I mean, Raini was so amazing that she really created this character and the energy that you brought to the story, which inspired the animates to just be more truthful, to be broader, and to bring life to the character that’s stood beyond what the, what the words are that they say.

Having been an animator all my life, when you have a voice like that, that inspires you because what we basically work with some storyboards and just the life that’s in the voice, we don’t look at what the actors necessarily we do. We wanna imagine the character in the, and when the voice has so much energy, it just makes our work so much easier. It’s naturally more lively and exciting to watch.

Raini: Thank you.

Raini, your character just goes through quite the journey. It starts with her head getting chopped off and she gets very disillusioned about the parental role after a while. What about that journey, and this version of Gretel, did you find the most compelling about the character?

Raini: I love, first and foremost, just the relationship between Hansel and Gretel. I’m an only girl in a family of all boys. I do have a younger brother, so I can relate to wanting to, no matter what, protect your siblings and for Gretel that means protect Hansel no matter what. If it’s from their own parents, she’s going to protect him in any way, shape, and form. I think for her, all of a sudden her world literally being rocked [made her go], wait a minute, my parents have always done this for me and this for me. Now all of a sudden they’re chopping my head off and acting like it’s normal. What am I supposed to do? She essentially goes on this journey to create her own destiny. She wants to find her own happily ever after with Hansel, she wants Hansel to feel safe.

She wants to be in a safe and loving home. She goes on this whole journey of trying to find that. Like I mentioned earlier, like with the voicing and the different episodes of like she does, she kind of grows this hard shell around her heart of not knowing who to trust and who to love and who really does love her. What is it that she wants. In some of the episodes and some of the other fairy tales that we dip our toes in, she gets caught up in that fairytale life that character is from of wanting children and welcoming them right away or even going to the lady’s cottage before she tries to cook ’em in the oven.

Even in the trailer, which I love, Gretel always says, “This is fine. This is fine. This is fine. I’ll adjust.” Because in her mind, it can’t be any worse than what they’ve already experienced back home in her mind, little does the audience know it? It’s always gonna get worse for her because this is a little bit of a different fairytale that doesn’t have it happily ever after, after every story, you know? And so, but she doesn’t know that yet. She has to go through that. I feel like as a kid we go through those journeys where we think we know something, but we don’t and we, until we experience it, and then we’re like, “Oh, so that’s what they were talking about at this moment.” But at the end of the day, I just love the brother-sister dynamic. I love that brother, sister relationship, and I love that Gretel is not afraid to take charge, even if her ideas are wrong.

Sometimes she’s not afraid to just jump headfirst into something and go, I mean, she’s very meticulous with her details and planning everything out and the pros and cons and what’s the best route for us. I love that. I love that aspect of her of being a strong girl and ready to just kind of hold her brother’s hand and say, “Are you with me? Let’s go, let’s do this, and let’s go on this journey together.” I love that so much. Because you kind of go through everything. We have warlocks and dragons and fighting scenes. Like you said, normally when you start something off with someone getting their head chopped off, you would think, well that’s as high as it goes, but no, we go higher, and we go bigger in A Tale Dark & Grimm. So that’s only level one for them. So these kids go through a lot. But at the end of the day, like Simon said about understanding, these children are wanting to create their own destiny and their own happily ever after.

Raini, I have to ask since I used to be a pro wrestling reporter and I know you’re a big pro wrestling fan, you got to present at the Slammy Awards with your brother, which is really cool. How long have you been a fan and how cool was it to get to leave your mark on this great industry?

Raini: Amazing. I’ve been a fan since the 90s since I was born really. Growing up, watching The Rock and “Stone Cold,” Steve Austin, and all those great fighters. Watching all these amazing matches on TV and pay-per-views with my family and whatnot. So that was always really cool to kind of get in that sort of zone. Like I said, I have a younger brother and so then as we got older, obviously our older brothers and me, we would still watch it and then Rico, my youngest, he just kind of walked right in and was like. “Wrestling [and] WWE, I’m into it.” Then he started watching it and then it kind of throws us all back into it. And then I have 10 nieces and nephews, so then they got into it as well. It was a whole thing.

Getting to do the Slammy’s was really cool. Then we got to go to SmackDown Live when it was at the Staples Center in LA, and that was really cool. We got to meet Rey Mysterio, Triple H, Shane McMahon, and Stephanie McMahon, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. Getting to meet all these cool people that I love because coming from the entertainment world, it’s pure fun to me. The athleticism that these athletes portray is just phenomenal to get to do that. So to be kind of in that atmosphere was really cool. I totally became a fangirl immediately. That’s the thing. I’m an actor, I’ve been an actor for 16 years. I’ve been around the block and it’s amazing. But then there are times when I’ll get involved in a situation where I’m just like [ahh], I know that was definitely one of them for sure.

I know you were so excited about Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair at WrestleMania, which was an incredible match. Who were you rooting for?

Raini: Well, Bianca is my girl straight up. Sasha Banks is amazing. I could talk for hours about this, the female roster right now that WWE has is phenomenal. Bianca Belair and Sasha’s match, just what a groundbreaking history-making match right there. I think that’s so great for young girls at home to watch that and go, “I can do that too,” and “I can set records and I can do whatever I want do in my in my world.” I love that so much.

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