Sarah Vowell Interview: Incredibles 2

Sarah Vowell is an American historian, author, journalist, essayist, and actress. She has written several nonfiction books on American history and culture. Vowell was also a contributing editor for Public Radio International’s This American Life radio program. Most recently she reprised her role of Violet in Pixar’s Incredibles 2.

Screen Rant sat down with her to talk about her thoughts on the sequel, how she originally got the role, where she would like to see Violet go next.

When asked about her response to production of an Incredibles’ sequel, Vowell said, “I was like, finally! I was just really happy. I really, I like [Incredibles 2 director Brad] Brad. I like being inside of his head. I love John Walker, the producer. I just, he's just a wonderful person to work with and be around. So mainly I was just happy to see everybody, you know, to be totally unprofessional. I just really liked them. And I would just have lunch with them or I could work on a movie with them. It doesn't really matter.”

Vowell continued with, “Even though there was such a lag in between movies, I mean, once you are one of these characters, you are that for the rest of your life. I'm like that old lady who once was Snow White.  I'm always going to be Violet and therefore I'm always going to be talking to people who love Violet and which is, the last few years, I don't think a week has gone by when someone hasn't wanted to talk about that to me. So, yeah, I was just really excited about going back into that world and being her. Because I do, I do love her as a character.”

Violet is Sarah Vowell’s first credited role. Explaining how she got the job, Vowell said:

“I was a journalist for public radio and I think Brad Bird heard one of my documentaries, for public radio program called 'This American Life.' And for whatever reason, he heard me, and he heard this character, he heard Violet. As you can tell, I am a grownup, I don't sound completely grown up. So, there's that. That's how I got the job. And that just shows what, like Brad's vision and also his sense of humor I think a little bit too. Because, you know, “Hey everybody, let's get this public radio reporter to be a teenage superhero.” Like I'm sure there is something kind of amusing about pitching that, I'm sure, you know.”

The Incredibles 2

It has been over a decade since Sarah Vowell last worked with Pixar. Beyond the technological advancements, she is thrilled by their investment in people.  She talked about the director of Bao, the animated short film before Incredibles 2, and said, “So, I think they are taking way more seriously, nurturing, especially women or people of color. And I really loved that. The director of Bao, she started as an intern and worked her way up.”  

Vowell continued with, “And so, there is definitely more care going into that mentoring process. And it's like starting to kind of pay off, you know. So that's exciting. But in some ways, it's still the same place, you know, Pete Docter is still, you know, often where whatever world he lives in there. There's still that sense of play and wonder. It's just this curious combination of extremely hard, dedicated work. Like beyond puritanical work ethic and just a sense of, yeah, almost childlike wonder.”

The Incredibles 2 takes place immediately after the original film. Vowell talked about Violet’s development in both and said:

“Oh well, in the first film, that she really liked, was allowed to use her powers, develop her powers. You know, her force fields got bigger. I guess, she just became so much more competent and also started enjoying using these powers. Like she definitely has a blast when she's using them. And so, in the new film she wants to do more of that. And eventually she gets to. But as her mother leaves the home to go work solo for a while, Violet kind of has to help her dad pull in the slack with taking care of her younger siblings. And she's a little, uh, I felt like she could handle that better and she, you know, she could be a little more magnanimous about that. I mean, I think one of her first lines in the movie is, “You're not sticking me with babysitting!” And so, she doesn't quite appreciate how that is as valuable as some of the hero work. So, she's a little, she does have that in common with her father. And I think it's sort of interesting how she is so much like her dad. Because even though Mr. incredible is supportive of his wife going out there and working outside the home, it’s kind of killing him to be supportive. Like he really has to put an effort in because he's so jealous. And I think that is really human, but it's also hilarious. Because it's part of his character. Like, “Oh, I'm Mr. Incredible. I got this.” And it's like, “not math though.”

Violet’s powers are invisibility and creating force fields.  As a teenager she can literally disappear or put up walls between herself and everyone else.  When talking about Violet’s powers and emotions Vowell said, “Oh yeah. I mean that, her character is that psychology. I think, there’s like a really hilarious key girl moment in the new film where she’s like invisible but she's in her street clothes. And so, you can tell she's simultaneously invisible, but you can tell this invisible kid is just moping. And so, that is like played up for humor, I think, and empathy. But, I think, the powers become less about her personal failings and more about the way she asserts herself into the world. Like she uses her visibility to thwart bad guys. Not to hide from a boy she likes.  She puts up her force fields to help, stave off the apocalypse and not to keep her family from emotionally engaging with her. So, I think, while they derive from her age and her station in life, she starts really using them as powers.”

When talking about the 14 years between films and her thoughts on Violet, Vowell explained:

"I mean, I am a middle-aged person. So, 14 years, like I maybe have had these shoes that long. So, like 14 years starts going, that kind of time goes by quicker I think when you get older. But I guess, I mean I have so much affection for her. Not just my own, but other people's reflected affection.  just all these years of hearing, like basically at this point, hundreds of people talking about how much they love her and care about her and are amused by her and identify with her. It makes me love her more. Just because it's not, it's not just about me. Like she belongs to everyone, mostly young girls, but not entirely. Like she's just kind of this archetype of this sarcastic, insecure teenager. And there is a definite subset of teenagers like that, or former teenagers who were like that, who glom onto her. And it doesn't really have anything to do with gender as much, I think.”

With Incredibles 2's record breaking opening, fans are already speculating on another sequel. Vowell has some thoughts on how Violet should grow, saying “Oh, I would like to see her get a friend. I mean, it's such a big part of being a kid and especially being a teenager, is wanting to be around your friends, and caring about your friends, and having your friends to rely on. I mean, so much of the first two films are about the family, and, I mean, she has friendly feelings sometimes for her little brothers. Not always. I would like to see just what she's like as a friend.”

Key Release Dates
  • Incredibles 2 (2018) release date: Jun 15, 2018
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