Exclusive Interview: Donna Murphy Chats About Villains and 'Tangled'!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010 11:54 Written by  JimmyO
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Exclusive Interview: Donna Murphy Chats About Villains and 'Tangled'!

JimmyO goes 1:1 in this Exclusive Interview with a cool new Disney villain in'Tangled'!

Donna Murphy is absolutely wonderful as a brand new Disney villain in Tangled. She is unique in the sense that she is simply a woman who commits selfish deeds as opposed to an evil Queen or witch. She is not simply a one-note villain bent on dastardly deeds. Murphy’s “Mother Gothel” is a welcome new character that will surely stand out as one of the most intriguing Disney baddies of all time. iamROGUE.com recently had the chance to sit down with this lovely and talented actress.

We spoke about her character and what she brought to make Gothel complete. Sadly, we only had a short time with Donna, but it was certainly a pleasure. Tangled is a terrific film with a tremendous script, wonderful animation and great performances including Ms. Murphy! Make sure you check it out on Wednesday, November 24th.


Mother Gothel is not your typical bad guy compared to the usual lot in Disney.

No, I think there are certain things that are sort of classic, “villainess” if you will, at least in the Disney world. You know, I’ve been asked so much about villains and villainess’, I think well what is that? What constitutes a villain? It’s somebody who wants something with such intensity and such great need but comes to a place of not being bound by any kind of moral code or any sense of what’s ethical. Or any sense of being concerned with any consequences and how they might affect someone else. They will do anything to get what they want. They can use whatever resources they have, of course that then comes down to who that person is and what those resources are.

In the case of playing a character, you are given things in the writing and there are other things that a particular actor can bring to it if you are given that kind of freedom. And this was a wonderful combination of things that were on the page and that they knew from the beginning. They weren’t really sure how it should be accomplished or how these qualities would be embodied and then communicated but it was said to me – in what was called the breakdown character that goes out when they’re casting – that this was a woman who needed to be as funny as she was frightening. She also needed to be a commanding and powerful presence but who could also have warmth and engage Rapunzel in a way that the audience would believe that this young girl would have remained there for seventeen to eighteen years and not think she was some kind of idiot for having done that. Not that she appears to have lots of options... it’s all she knows. But I know what they are saying, you wouldn’t want to just see somebody who is twirling their mustache the whole time or being abusive, or could be called abusive in a more obvious way.

I think that that element in my mind’s eye, she [Gothel] can’t help herself coming to love this girl, even though she is motivated by… I don’t think that when she stole Rapunzel for her hair she thought she was going to end up caring about her in the way that she does. She knows it’s not unconditional love, it’s conditional but this is, I’m sure, the most sustained, intimate relationship she’s ever had in her life. And I do think, when you care for something, and if it starts out as an assignment or something that you are doing for reasons other than your affection for that creature, you have a heart and you are human. And if it’s a character like Rapunzel who is spirited and bright, you’d be hard pressed not to develop feelings for that person. So there is a certain degree of humanity and mother love that does develop. It’s not at her core, but it’s accessed in the course of time that she is raising Rapunzel.

Well there are a couple of times where you have this wonderful connection to her, and you do see her…?

Yeah.

What was the most important thing were you given to play her in the beginning?

They were great that when I was hired and I was brought out for my first recording session, out on the Disney lot in the animation building, they showed me so much of the work they’d been doing. Inclusive of things that were directly related to my character and the tower, and choices that my character would have made to create a certain kind of environment for Rapunzel to play in and flourish in and be a creative, artistic young girl in. And then physically the renderings of Gothel at that time, and they said, ‘Watch, it will change, it will start to embody elements that you will bring to the character.’ And that did happen which was really interesting to watch.



Coming from Broadway and working so often on stage, how was it coming into this film and just using your voice?

Well, I never thought of it as just using my voice. I knew that that’s what ultimately would be heard. Organically, I was a character, a character I fleshed out in the way that I would a character that the audience was going to see my entire body and live action. I gave her history and I fleshed out her world beyond the moments that we see on the screen or I read in the script. And I discussed [the character] with my creative team ideas and choices and asked the kinds of questions that I would ask of a director of a stage production or a feature film that was not animated. And I used my body in ways that ultimately, I didn’t know that they would be filming for the animators, but they do film for the animators. So I saw a lot of my behavior and expression in the character.

I think that it would not have been as… it would not have been as much to bring to the table if I had just thought of myself as a voice actor. There are plenty of people who do that magnificently, that’s kind of what they do. That’s not what I had to bring to the table. I’m an actress and my voice was a voice that they seemed to think could serve the character, but I think what made it work was what I sort of can’t help but bring to the table just the actress as a whole.

Will you be seeing Tangled this holiday weekend?

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