Raya and the Last Dragon’s Kelly Marie Tran opens up about her journey to voice acting, detailing years of struggle and work that culminated in Raya.
Raya and the Last Dragon star Kelly Marie Tran has opened up about her journey to becoming a voice actress. Tran is a Vietnamese-American actress who is making great strides in establishing herself in Hollywood. Her career started out modestly, taking on roles in the web series College Humor, guest appearing in various TV shows, and performing in commercials. However, her big breakthrough came when she landed the role of Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Her first big voice acting role was as Dawn Betterman in The Croods: A New Age. Her Star Wars role also subsequently led her back to voice acting, as she took on the voice of Tico for The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. However, it was Tran’s Raya and the Last Dragon role that truly blew fans away as she dauntlessly took on the Disney princess and established her skill as a voice actress. Now, she is opening up on how she reached that point.
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In an interview with Collider, Tran discussed the long and hard journey that led her to voice acting. Tran first explained that her experience in improv gave her an advantage in her career. The Croods: A New Age was her very first voice acting gig, and she admits that she improvised the majority of the audition. Her improvisation won her the role and also gave her a fun experience that encouraged her to audition for Raya. She went on to discuss how her role in Raya was truly the culmination of a decade of work. Candidly, she discussed her struggle to get her career off the ground, but acknowledged that the hard years really taught her and shaped her into who she needed to be to take on Raya. Check out her statement below:
This is gonna sound crazy because when you’re a struggling actor in LA, the last thing you want to hear from someone who’s in my position, a very privileged position who’s had this miraculous trajectory, the last thing you want to hear is that your struggling years really teach you what you need to know, but I think that’s absolutely true for me. It took me, I don’t know, I think I started trying to get an agent in high school and no one wanted me. That was probably 2006, is when I started, and I was on set for Jedi in 2016 so it took me about 10 years and all of those years of struggling, of going through acting classes and going to casting director workshops and doing the improv, all of those skills are things that I use now. So I think for me getting into animation is sort of a culmination of a decade of work.
In the span of 10-years, Tran went from being a high school student that agents rejected to starring in a Star Wars film. It wasn’t just a stroke of luck, though; she worked tirelessly taking classes, going to workshops, and participating in improv to eventually get where she wanted to be in her career. Even after her acting breakthrough, her journey was still riddled with difficulties after Tran received backlash for her Last Jedi role. However, she simply continued holding her head high and working tirelessly, all of which led her to voice acting.
Breaking into the acting field is getting increasingly difficult. Newcomers face intense competition, and few truly get the chance to demonstrate their skill. However, there is an added level of difficulty when one is also a female and a minority, who may face discrimination on top of the usual barriers to entry. That is why Tran’s story is so inspiring, as she successfully conquered the struggling-actor years and overcame racist and sexist attacks to become a Disney princess. Tran is an actress who has shown incredible class, grace, and humility in the face of hardships. Her voice acting breakthrough in Raya and the Last Dragon is surely just the beginning of her journey as she will continue growing as an actress and inspiring those who look up to her.
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