By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
GLENDALE, Calif.—Grammy winner Rihanna is no stranger to the recording booth, and yet the world-famous singer reveals she was a little apprehensive about providing the voice of the young human heroine Tip in the DreamWorks animated feature “Home.”
“I’ve never done an animated film,” she recently said about being part of the voice cast for the music-filled fantasy adventure.
She added that director Tim Johnson, who previously directed DreamWorks’ “Over the Hedge” and “Antz,” helped her overcome her anxiety and gave her the confidence she needed to play the determined young girl, who holds the key to saving her planet.
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in the Caribbean nation of Barbados, the talented vocalist previously starred in the action movie “Battleship” and played herself in the comedy “This is The End,” but “Home” marks her first family friendly animated feature.
Wearing a sporty red and white shorts and top ensemble, Rihanna spoke about her first animated outing at DreamWorks headquarters. As Tip, she is a smart and sassy youngster, who teams up with a banished alien creature named Oh (voiced by “Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons) after Earth is invaded by aliens to save mankind. The action-packed fantasy adventure is based on the popular children’s novel “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex. It is adapted for the screen by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. Besides Rihanna and Parsons, the all-star voice cast includes Jennifer Lopez, Steve Martin and Matt Jones.[private]
Q: What is it about “Home” that spoke to each of you, that made you want to be a part of the project?
Rihanna: It was just the story. It spoke to me. It was so real, I found so many parallels in it. I felt like I identified with Tip. She’s essentially a role model. For me, it was very strange to be a character that you could look up to. As I’m reading it right off the page, I was very excited. I’ve never done an animated film. I did the action drama “Battleship” before, but this was different. You learn so much when the camera’s not there. You learn so much, especially for me, being from Barbados. I have an accent, so learning to speak American—there are like 20 different types of American (accents). I was learning all over again, not just the accent, but how to act just with my voice.
Q: What themes attracted you to it? Since you’re working in a recording booth, did it feel a little bit more like singing?
Rihanna: It did not. The mic is the camera, in a way. I was definitely blessed with the opportunity. Tim Johnson is such an incredible director. I have said this to him plenty of times. I can think of a line one way, and he would just put one idea in my head. “Okay, what if you’re eating pizza?” Like something that silly. Right then and there, he knew how to get whatever emotions he’s trying to portray, out of me. We had a lot of emotional moments in this film that I didn’t really expect because it’s an animated film. It’s fun, but I really connected to the characters. I think there’s one specific moment in the movie that really wrecked me. It killed everybody. When I was watching it for the first time it didn’t even get to the point of animation all the way, yet, and I was balling my eyes out. I was like, “Oh my God! I’m so embarrassed right now watching these, literally, stick figures.” But the story is, by the time you get there, you feel every inch of each of our sides. At first, you kind of pick a side, but at the end, it’s so emotional.
Q: You contributed the music to the film. Was that an important aspect, to kind of tie it even more in with your character in the film?
Rihanna: Absolutely. Music is such an important part to an animated film. You can watch “Tom & Jerry,” and there’s no words. You can watch that for hours, but the music dictates the emotion. It dictates where the story is going, how you’re supposed to view the suspense. Everything is in the music. I worked really closely with Tim on this, because I wanted to make sure. I could bring them songs. If they didn’t move them, or they didn’t feel like they made sense in a certain part, we could fix that disparity.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from this?
Rihanna: You see these two individuals from completely different worlds co-existing—human and alien, female and male—whatever you want to call it. They have this really different idea of who the other is, because of the world that they grew up in. You start to see all these ideals being acknowledged, pertaining to the two of them. That’s really the basis of their friendship—when they start to learn more about each other. There’s just this thing we have, as humans, where we judge each other, without even having a conversation, really. By the end of it, you can see that they’re so similar. When you think back to the beginning of the movie, when they first met each other, it really is a 180-degree turn.
Q: Does Tip remind you of yourself? Were you able to share a part of yourself?
Rihanna: Absolutely. I think that’s really what got me to agree to do it. I felt like I identified with her, about the way that she thought, a lot of her flaws, a lot of her ambitions. She’s so much about sass and attitude. When you see the tape playing, with the facial expressions on her, it’s like,”Oh God, there’s something to that!” It’s really cool to watch all that happen.
Q: What does “home” to you?
Rihanna: For me, it’s wherever I feel safest. (Home is) anything that feels familiar, or comfortable. Most of the time that’s just Barbados. It’s warm, it’s beautiful, it’s the beach, it’s my family, it’s the food, the music—everything feels familiar and right and safe.[/private]