‘Soul’ Cast & Filmmakers On Bringing the Powerful New Pixar Movie To Life
Pixar’s Soul is now streaming on Disney+! You can peep our review of the heartwarming movie here.
Earlier this month, I was invited to attend the global press conference for the movie. The event featured actors Jamie Foxx (voice of “Joe Gardner”), Tina Fey (voice of “22”), Phylicia Rashad (voice of “Libba Gardner”), Angela Bassett (voice of “Dorothea Williams”), as well as Directors filmmakers Pete Docter and Kemp Powers and Dana Murray (Producer). You can learn more about Kemp Powers here!
Check out some of the highlights from the Soul conversation below.
Kemp Powers on portraying an authentic African American experience:
Powers: When Dana and Pete first approached me to become involved in the film, the first thing I asked was, “What work of mine have you read?” And they had actually read a play of mine that I wrote, called One Night in Miami. I was like, okay, so you know what you’re getting into. You know my politics. You know that I’m gonna be pushing for a lot of Black stuff. Because I can’t help myself. I think our culture is amazing. And a lot of people, particularly in Hollywood, will tell you that, in order to appeal to a wide audience, you want to get away from that. And I feel the opposite. I feel like there is universality by going for hyper specificity. My number one defense is, do you not enjoy The Sopranos and The Godfather, if you’re not Italian? That sounds absurd. It’s specific to a very unique culture. I feel like this was a wonderful opportunity to do something that my family, my kids, my mom, and all of my relatives could be proud of, but that’s also something that everyone could enjoy and that could show how the Black American experience and our humanity is as universal as anyone else’s experience.
I remember that Joe getting a suit was a plot point and I said to Pete, “Well, he also needs a haircut, right?” And someone said, “Well, the haircut isn’t as important as the suit.” I said, “I wouldn’t have even come up just to Pixar for the interview, if I couldn’t have got lined up, so I’m gonna disagree. That haircut is every bit as important as the threads.” And I love that Jon Batiste actually backed me on that. In talking about what makes a person successful in jazz, Jon Batiste said, “It’s not just the talent, it’s the complete package.” It’s about the presentation. It’s about your body language. It’s about your threads. It was so great to have that be actually a plot point in this film. I love about what Pete and Dana encouraged us to lean into that stuff, as opposed to shying away from it. To be honest, there were a lot of times, in making this film, where I kept going, “Can we really do this? Are we gonna be able to say that jazz is Black improvisational music? Am I gonna be able to say he can’t catch a cab? Are we gonna be able to do all of these things?” Honestly, No one even batted an eye. It’s part of what makes the texture of this film so rich and honest and sincere.
Jamie Foxx talked about Soul releasing during such a difficult year:
Foxx: You know, 2020 has been bittersweet for me. I’m living now in a situation where my family has been affected by someone we love very dearly, my sister, who has transitioned. The one thing about my sister though, she always lived every moment, every single moment to the tilt. She’s Down’s Syndrome…She became the ambassador for Down’s syndrome, she was the ambassador for 11 years. And so…when you look at this film, it is exactly what I am now going through, the bittersweet of losing someone but gaining a, sort of vision of joy of all the things that she taught us while she was living. It’s, in a beautiful, strange way, it’s exemplified here in this film. I have a phrase, that I use: The world has been here many billions-millions of years. So, 70, 80, 100 years is what? It’s a blink of an eye. So, I say to everybody, don’t waste your blink. Live your life.
Angela Bassett went on to speak about what she hopes people take away from the movie:
Bassett: I hope they take away their own special brand of uniqueness that they arrived with–you know, their personality, their quirks, their gifts, their talents. And that’s an important asset to the world, and to the community, and to the family that’s around you. I think…this talks about being focused on your dreams, but maybe sometimes too much focus, or hearing negative chatter from outside can derail you and take you to a dark vortex or space. But I hope they just take away positiveness. That especially you’re unique and that you’re destined for this journey. So, live it with gusto, live it with pride, live it with spark and vitality.
Phylicia Rashad spoke about when she found her “spark”!
Rashad: When I was 11 years old and I stood in a spotlight, and couldn’t see anything but light, I held a script of everything that I was supposed to say, but because I’d rehearsed so thoroughly, I knew it by heart, so I just talked to the light, all night long. This was in a great program in the elementary schools in Houston, and when the mothers came to collect their children, I heard one of them say, “There she is. There’s the little girl who spoke so beautifully. Isn’t she beautiful?” That’s manna from heaven, for an 11-year-old, especially one who doesn’t think herself as pretty, at all. So, I thought, “When I grow up, I’ll be an actress and play in the light, and I’ll be beautiful, all the time.”
Pete Docter talked about working with the legendary Jamie Foxx:
So, you’re just solid for three, four hours. Jamie never stopped. He just has energy to burn. He was as energetic at the end as he was at the beginning. He’s incredible and amazing. And I think, one thing that I was expecting, but for whatever reason, it surprised me. We had a lot of scenes where he talks about-Joe talks about the power of music and the importance of music. And I could-my hair stood on end when I hear Jamie talk about it. Because I know he feels that. He believes it so fully. And it was just so truthful and authentic.”