'Abominable does not abide by Hollywood trends'
...says Chloe Bennet of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.S-fame who has lent her voice to the lead character of Yi in the upcoming animation film
Chloe Bennet, known for playing Daisy 'Skye' Johnson/Quake in the hit TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., feels that becoming a part of Abominable, in which she voices a character named Yi, was an "organic process". The actor says she had a fun session discussing the film with the heads of DreamWorks. "I felt like I’d known the character a long time, and so, it was effortless," adds Bennet.
What did you want to bring to Yi?
I wanted everything to be as authentic as possible, including the reactions. There’s an element of heightened emotion with animation, the extreme circumstances of the movie and the whimsical elements, but I really wanted it to be as grounded as possible. I wanted stutter when speaking, to have that air of clumsiness that I feel every teenager has and even adults. There was a grittiness I wanted to bring.
Was it important for the movie to be representative of Chinese culture and at the same time for the characters to be people not defined solely by their location or culture?
It was everything. From the beginning of my journey through this industry and as an Asian-American woman, you are told that you are supposed to be this or that, and the narrative changes with each person that you’re around. It’s really important for me to see characters that are Asian and that we are represented both on and off-screen. But the heart of the movie is about people. What’s special about this film is that everyone can see themselves in an Asian character, because we are all people. It highlights the human experience so much more than anything else, and that’s what is important.
This brings a layer of texture that is unique and will change the way young kids view Chinese culture, but it’s also a relatable story in every way. You have Yi the dreamer, Peng, and Jin and everyone who has a different outlook in the story. And that’s what makes this film dynamic. I don’t want to be defined by one thing, even if it’s a huge part of who I am. I don’t want to be a trend. Hollywood tends to make trends out of everything, and what this movie does is not play to a trend. It happens to feature Chinese characters, and it happens to be created, produced, written and directed by women who are just really good at their jobs.
Did you draw on your own experience with animals for Yi’s relationship with Everest?
I grew up in the South Side of Chicago, which was a concrete jungle, and I dreamt of living on a farm. We had these three huge dogs that we had no room for. I loved animals and rescuing animals, and would go and look for cats in the alleyway. I had a pet squirrel hidden in my closet for two months. He became one of my best friends... Sneeps. I related to having the urge to rescue animals and connecting with them. There’s an unspoken bond for anyone who loves animals. This film is actually a quiet film in some moments, it’s very still and that comes from the relationship between a human and an animal. It’s a very magical thing to get to connect with something and to take care of it. This film sits in nature in a really beautiful way and for all the elements that are whimsical and magical, they’re all really rooted in nature. The waves of the canola field are still waves, they just happen to be flowers. The dandelions we fly on, they’re still a flower, it’s all very organic. It has this really authentic quality.
Yetis are having a moment. Why are they suddenly in the spotlight?
I have no idea! I loved Jill’s idea when she explained what Everest is and what he can do. They wanted something that was identifiable as a yeti but also a version of it you’ve never seen before, so he’s on all fours, he can go on two legs and he’s animalistic. And even just the title ‘Abominable’, you think negatively about this creature and it’s emblematic of the film that you don’t know what something really is until you get to know it. You might have this version of what something is like, but it turns out you don’t really know. I love their version of this yeti.
How has your experience with the Marvel world prepared you for this scale of the project?
I was new to the world of animation buffs. I have friends who tell me they are fans of animation, and have a secret love for it. But with Marvel, I was generally shooting with them on green screen. A lot of the physical attributes of my powers were not there, and learning how to work with very little resources was useful. I don’t have superhero powers. So, when I’m in a room with Jill and it’s just me and a microphone, I’m a little conscious of imagining the environment with nothing physically there. It’s rooted in character.