The Emoji Movie star Anna Faris discusses her character, the hacker emoji Jailbreak, and the film’s message. When it was announced that Sony Pictures was developing an emoji movie, many wondered how the studio would take a concept like emojis – which don’t have a built-in narrative – and craft an animated feature. Since then, the first trailer for The Emoji Movie has shed some light on what moviegoers can expect. The film follows Gene (T.J. Miller) a young emoji who doesn’t feel like he fits into the world of Textopolis and its rigid rules about what emojis can and cannot be. So, he goes on an adventure with fellow emojis Hi-5 (James Corden) and Jailbreak (Faris) to figure out where he belongs.
Directed by Tony Leondis, The Emoji Movie has a coming-of-age theme about learning to express yourself and be true to yourself. While that’s evidenced by the three main characters, Jailbreak additionally contends with the idea of what it means to be a female emoji – especially considering the limited options that were provided for women in the early days of emojis. Now, we discuss The Emoji Movie with one of its main stars.
During the recent press junket for The Emoji Movie, Screen Rant had a chance to interview Faris about Jailbreak’s journey in the film, how it may or may not be different from the journeys of Gene and Hi-5, and what she hopes viewers take away from the movie.
What was your initial reaction to hearing they were making an emoji movie?
Faris: My initial reaction was: I don’t use emojis. But you have to understand though, it took me a long time to text. Now of course I use them all the time because they are the easiest most efficient way to express – hopefully something funny. I also love doing voice work, I love doing animated projects. So at first I thought, before I read the script, I thought ‘Man, that’s silly. That’s a silly thing.’ But I think the movie is really sort of elevates the idea of where we’re at with communication and technology and I’m really proud of it. That was like a lofty, annoying answer, wasn’t it? But I mean it, it was sincere.
So was it the script that drew you to the project?
Faris: Well, I will take like any animated job that’s offered my way – well, that’s not true, I sound a little bit like a prostitute, but I was offered it and I was excited because I really do love doing animated work because it’s such a specific challenge and then I was so thrilled when the script was really good. The messaging is fantastic and then the project is really good. You never know with these kids – well, family movies, I should say – if they’re going to be entertaining for adults and I know there’s that old line that everyone says that all like actors say that like, ‘It’s fun for parents, too!’ But in this case I really think it is and I’m really proud of it.
So can you talk a little bit about Jailbreak’s journey in The Emoji Movie?
Faris: She’s angry in a way that totally taps into my 16-year-old-self. I don’t get to play that many angry characters, because I don’t cast normally as like tougher characters so I was really thrilled to be cast as somebody who’s tough and brave and kind of leading the way – leading the emoji boys.
Speaking of Gene and Hi-5, they all kind of help each other out throughout this journey, can you talk about how their relationships affect Jailbreak throughout the movie?
Faris: I think that she – her heart sort of softens as they sort of try to navigate the cellphone waters, the smartphone waters. So she becomes a little less guarded and she has sort of a deep secret. She’s probably the most independent character I’ve played, which sounds ridiculous.
She is stubbornly independent, in a way.
Faris: Yeah, but for me it’s really fun to just create a character using only one instrument – and I know that’s probably not what we’re supposed to talk about, we’re supposed to talk about plot and stuff like that, but those are the feelings that I have.
How did you work with director Tony Leondis to shape the character of Jailbreak?
Faris: Tony, he’s the most lovely director. He would really guide me. We would grind it out, which was really fun, like we would do line after line – maybe like 30, 40 times, which is what you do in the animated process and we would try all different kinds of things. Y’know, in The Emoji Movie, you have to be emotive.
So do you have a favorite emoji casting, someone who really fits their emoji character?
Faris: I guess I would say, James Corden, but the thing with emojis is what’s wonderful about them is their simplicity, but what’s difficult about them is their simplicity. So, y’know what, probably T.J. Miller being ‘meh’ because I’ve known him for a long time and he is so not that, which is perfect because Gene is not meh, he’s a complicated person like we all are.
Speaking of simplicity of emojis, how did you tackle that in developing the character of Jailbreak?
Faris: Well, I think that she’s incredibly complicated and I just tried to use the tools that I have to create a full character and for me it’s always important to represent women well and complicated and with depth.
Technology’s always changing, so if one day emojis become irrelevant – somehow – how do you think the themes of The Emoji Movie will hold up over time?
Faris: I think the theme is sort of being true to yourself and appreciating who you are attempting to take into consideration what other people think of you but not to make that your life goal.
The Emoji Movie unlocks the never-before-seen secret world inside your smartphone. Hidden within the messaging app is Textopolis, a bustling city where all your favorite emojis live, hoping to be selected by the phone’s user. In this world, each emoji has only one facial expression – except for Gene (T.J. Miller), an exuberant emoji who was born without a filter and is bursting with multiple expressions. Determined to become “normal” like the other emojis, Gene enlists the help of his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and the notorious code breaker emoji Jailbreak (Anna Faris). Together, they embark on an epic “app-venture” through the apps on the phone, each its own wild and fun world, to find the Code that will fix Gene. But when a greater danger threatens the phone, the fate of all emojis depends on these three unlikely friends who must save their world before it’s deleted forever.
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