Stars Michael Peña and Eva Longoria take great pride in playing Dora’s parents in Dora and the Lost City of Gold, which arrives in theaters August 9. Transforming rarely seen animated characters into the larger-than-life couple from the film was a fun process for them both. They shared some stories from behind the scenes with Screen Rant, and also explained the significant the movie has to the Latino community.
First of all, congratulations on the film. Dora’s been around for like 20 years. I took my stepdaughter see it with us last night, and she literally had an ear-to-ear a smile. She's four. This is gonna be her version of Indiana Jones. But how important is Dora and getting it now on screen to the Latino community?
Michael Peña: Really important. I'm proud to be in this movie, but it's awesome that it's a Latin-led movie and it's a big budget movie. Hopefully it just becomes the norm in 10 years, but it's really special.
Eva Longoria: It's so funny because we knew Dora you know in our zeitgeist, being Hispanic, and I thought she was our icon. And when I got cast, my girlfriend from London called me and my girlfriend from Germany called me, and I was like, “How do you guys know who she is?”
I didn't realize she was a global icon, and her fame stretched further than I thought. That made me really proud that this young, little brown girl meant something to so many little girls all over the world. Especially in today's climate, being Latina, we need to see these positive portrayals and our community needs to see it.
My stepdaughter, she's half-Ecuadorian. She turned to me in the middle of movie and goes, “Do you know Spanish?” I was like, “No, but I need to know it now.”
Michael Peña: I will now.
I will now. You play her parents, right? How much of what was on the page is in the film? And how much is you?
Eva Longoria: Nothing. Nothing is on the page. Can you imagine?
Michael Peña: There's some exposition that we definitely said and needed to say, but the rest is just kind of –
Eva Longoria: Improv. But it was great, because we got to create these characters. You didn't see them in the cartoon version very much. And so when you saw her parents in flesh and blood, we were like, “Oh, what do they sound like? What do they feel like? What do they look like? What do they say?” And we ran with that creativity, and the director let us do that. Which was great.
Michael Peña: Yeah.
Can you guys talk to me about the parents’ relationship with Dora at this stage of her life? She's a little bit older than she was in the animated cartoon.
Michael Peña: Right. Well, she's 16 years old. And, obviously, she’s entering into adulthood. We try to guide her as best we could, but all of our knowledge of life and how life is in the outside world is kind of dated.
Eva Longoria: Our perspective isn't hip.
Michael Peña: At least by, like, 20 years. So, we try to give her good advice, but at the end of the day, it's not the most practical.
You guys assembled such an all-star cast for this too. And also, Isabela, she knocked it out of the park.
Michael Peña: She's great. She fully committed. She was 100% and didn’t back. It was awesome to see
Eva Longoria: She’s beautiful. Every time she's on the screen, you can't take her your eyes off her.
Michael Peña: She’s gorgeous.
Eva Longoria: But, like, her energy. She, Isabella, has the endless positivity that Dora has.
Michael Peña: Yeah! She’s just a good person, too. She’s really cool.
Eva Longoria: And really, every time she's on the screen, your eyes just go and stay with her. “What is she gonna say next? What is she going to do next?”
People keep asking why wasn't Dora done sooner, this movie? It was, like, because we had to wait for Isabela to be born. Because nobody could have played this role except her.
She was perfect. And you're right, she's so magnetic on the screen. She’s a star. She has a great dance sequence.
Eva Longoria: Oh, it’s probably my favorite part of the movie. I mean, not so much our dancing, but the kids dancing.
Michael Peña: Yeah, the kids dancing. We should focus on them.
Did you guys teach her any moves on set?
Michael Peña: I would say that's a no.
Eva Longoria: That would be a strong no. She’s a danger and singer.
Michael Peña: She’s a good dancer, she’s a singer. Yeah, she's like the triple threat.
Eva Longoria: Yeah, that was all her.
I hope Dora continues on for a long time. Where would you like to see your characters go next in the universe of Dora? There's a lot of story to tell, I feel, even with your characters.
Eva Longoria: Ohh, so much story to tell. Yeah.
Michael Peña: Probably Cabo San Lucas. Because there's so much there.
Eva Longoria: We could explore the Mayans, for sure.
Michael Peña: We can explore the Mayans. That’d be really cool. Yeah. And oh, wow. That actually would be cool.
You're almost pitching the idea now.
Michael Peña: Yeah. I mean, that's a great idea.
Eva Longoria: I think the movie does set up for a sequel, which is really cool.
What's your advice for high school Dora?
Eva Longoria: High school Dora? I think the advice that we gave her in the movie.
I mean, you guys personally. That's the same advice, you would say?
Eva Longoria: Yeah. Be yourself.
Michael Peña: Be yourself, but also know that there's some people that don't like difference. They don't like something different, and they're like, “Oh, what's that?” And it probably stems from some kind of insecurity, so don't pay any mind.
There are so many things that you can learn from this movie, even as an adult. I mean, there's inclusion, there's be who you are. What are you hoping young kids and even adults can take away from this film?
Michael Peña: Which is that; it's “Be who you are.” And be true to yourself. You know, when somebody says, “Be true to yourself,” like… If you like something, you know what I mean? It's okay for you to like it, as long as you’re not being destructive. Be yourself. It's all good.
Eva Longoria: Yeah. There are so many messages the movie gives, but I love that Dora represents endless optimism and endless positivity. And I think we lack that. We're such cynics now, and we kind of doubt everything. And fake news. There's so much of that in the world right now, and Dora really contradicts that in a beautiful way. In a way that's needed.
I completely agree. Well, you guys did an excellent job. Thank you so much. My little girl wishes she was here with you guys.
Eva Longoria: She would love to meet Isabela.