I was far from Scotland, in the 21st century, and in a real, non-animated environment. But yet, Brave’s Merida was speaking to me. If I closed my eyes as I sat in my chair in the stark conference room at the Loew’s Hotel off of Hollywood Blvd, I could envision her flowing red hair, mischievous smirk, and wide eyes as actress Kelly MacDonald spoke. Why? Because the actress known for her work in Boardwalk Empire, Nanny McPhee, and Gosford Park lent her voice to the newest Disney/Pixar princess Merida. I, in some odd way, was sitting in the presence of royalty.
Thirty-six-year-old Scottish born Kelly MacDonald, who has a four-year-old son at home, has a twinkle in her eye and a youthful voice that can easily tackle playing a girl twenty years her junior. Again, in my very active imagination, I was transported into being in Merida’s presence as she answered our questions about being the first Pixar princess, Scottish pride and seeing her son in Merida’s face.
On Channeling Her Inner Teenager:
To be honest I didn’t. I didn’t really think about it when I first went in. I hadn’t really thought about the fact she was a teenager. I think the dialogue really helped because most of her dialogue is directed to her mom in a very obnoxious teenage way. As soon as I started saying the word “mom” I was like right back to being a teenager. Which is what happens when I go home as well. I’m looking forward to my mother seeing the film. I think she’ll be a nervous wreck when she comes out.
On Whether She Was Filled with Scottish Pride:
After the fact I am. I didn’t think about it while I was working. You know, when I was watching the film I kind of - despite myself - had a sort of swelling of national pride, you know. You can’t help it. It’s like all those movies set in Scotland’s like “Highlander” and “Braveheart” and all these things. They’ve got the music right. And I think the soundtrack really helps you to sort of feel things.
On Playing the First Pixar Female Lead:
I didn’t think about it very much. And, no, I didn’t know about it. I was just working on a movie. And then – someway into it – someone mentioned, “Oh yeah, she’s the first female Pixar protagonist.” And so it was a bit of a surprise, but it didn’t alter anything for me and the way I felt about the project, it slightly took me aback … for a second I felt a bit of pressure. Like, “Oh no, am I gonna ruin the whole franchise! They just do such a good job. And I’m just really lucky to be a part anything that they do.
On Merida Being a Princess
I don’t think about Merida as being a princess particularly. I think that she just happens to be a princess. It’s not who she is. And I think the biggest thing is that Merida’s a teenage girl who makes some bad choices. She doesn’t need a prince to come in and rescue her and make it all better. She acknowledges she’s made mistakes. And then she sets out to try and repair the damage she’s done. And she apologizes. It’s a big thing, apologizing. I think that’s the real message.
On Seeing Her Son in Merida
(They tape the audio sessions) so that they can send the tapes to the animators. And then the animators will maybe be inspired by a facial expression or a way that you say a certain line. Or a hand gesture that you might make. Or anything physical that you might do for the camera. And so when I watched the film it was really funny ‘cause I recognized my son in (Merida’s) face, like frowns and things. And like and then I realized that that’s — that’s me. My son’s like a Viking child. He doesn’t look like me. He’s big and blonde and blue-eyed. And he looks very like my husband. But my husband says he’s got his face, but I’m using it.