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Fanboy Favorite Rosario Dawson Discusses "Wonder Woman"

Reported by Jay Cochran - 2009.02.26

Actress and fanboy favorite Rosario Dawson delivers a knockout punch as the voice of strong-willed Amazonian warrior Artemis in Wonder Woman, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies due from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation on March 3, 2009. Warner Home Video will distribute the all-new film, which will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date, March 3, 2009.

Dawson, whose voiceover experience was previously limited to a single episode of Robot Chicken, completely immersed herself in the warrior mindset to bring Artemis to animated life. Dawsonís resonating take on the focused, powerful tones and dry, no-nonsense (and thus, unintentional humor) approach of Artemis perfectly complements the work done by the rest of the stellar voice cast, which includes Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Virginia Madsen and Alfred Molina.

Fans in the San Francisco Bay Area will have a chance to see the West Coast Premiere of Wonder Woman at WonderCon on Friday, February 27 at 6:00 p.m. in the Esplanade Ballroom of The Moscone Center. The premiere will be followed by a panel discussion of the film led by Virginia Madsen (the voice of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons), producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery, writer Michael Jelenic and moderated by DC Comics Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck.

In a career spanning just over a dozen years, Dawson has managed to seamlessly glide between fanboy features, big-time Hollywood epics, charming independent and ďsmallerĒ films, and even a musical. She is constantly in demand by the hippest of todayís filmmakers from Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez to Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Kevin Smith., Her on-screen resume includes Sin City (and its upcoming sequel), Eagle Eye, Grindhouse, Clerks and Men in Black II, as well Rent, Alexander, 25th Hour, He Got Game and the recent Seven Pounds.

Dawson is every fanboyís fantasy: a stunning beauty with a greater love and knowledge of comic books than your average Wednesday-at-Golden-Apple geek. She has her own comic book series (ďOccult Crimes TaskforceĒ), she hosted Saturday Night Live just a few weeks ago, and she once spoke Klingon as a guest on Late Night with Conan OíBrien.

An interview with Dawson is only challenging for your tape recorder Ė because she has the capacity to answer a question for three minutes without taking a breath. She is more impressive and endearing than youíd ever hope to find, and she offered a significant stretch of time to discuss her role in Wonder Woman, the intrinsic attributes of a great super hero, an absolute adoration of Neil Gaiman, some deleted The Devilís Rejects scenes, a hankering to play the live-action version of Harley Quinn, and her love for anything in the comics realm.

Enjoy the thoughts of Rosario Dawson Ö

ENI: Would you describe the challenges of bringing this character to life with this particular voice?

ROSARIO DAWSON: I havenít done that much voiceover work., so it was interesting to prepare for a character like Artemis whoís so strong and so powerful. Then you have the language, the pronunciations, the Greek mythology involved, the kind of accent they want. Sheís from a different land and such a different time. Iím a New Yorker, so there are some aspects of being a tough woman that I thought I could bring to the role Ė but itís such a different world as a woman whoís like a warrior. This medium is very dependent on understanding what the filmmakers want Ė so, ironically, listening is really important part to doing voiceover work.

ENI: Did you have preconceptions about doing this role versus how you ended up doing it?

ROSARIO DAWSON: I think it was her deadpan humor that I didnít anticipate. Sheís definitely not one-dimensional. Sheís very one-track-minded about her strength, and about her opinion. Sheís very okay with the fact that the Amazons have cut themselves off from the rest of the world Ė sheís happy and secure in the way they live, and she takes a lot of pride and honor in being an Amazon and being Hippolytaís right hand woman. But sheís so steadfast in her ways all the time that it does lend itself to moments of humor. Thatís always an interesting thing to kind of play with, especially for a character like Artemis Ė she doesnít have a funny bone in her body, so itís actually funnier just to play those lines straight. I like the consistency of that.

ENI: What are the joys and the challenges of playing a role like this?

ROSARIO DAWSON: Again, Iím a New Yorker, so I have this sort of tough vein thatís naturally bred into me. In general, Iím a nice person, and that seems to surprise people sometimes. Iíll be at Comic-Con and people will say, ďIíve been watching you for three days and you seem really nice Ė but you were really scary in Sin City. How did you do that?Ē And Iím like, ďActing!Ē (she laughs) Iíve played so many different roles that are very strong minded women, and I think ultimately the key to that is (A) because I come at it from such a different outside perspective that Iím able to kind of appreciate exactly what that looks like, and I savor the opportunities of being able to play that in a character;; and (B) I think ultimately that the key to it is not just playing strong, but to understand the reasons that sheís strong, and the situations in the world she lives. Itís about knowing why she adopts that kind of behavior or personality. For someone like Artemis, itís very different from someone like Gail (in Sin City). A different background lends itself to different nuances. Itís kind of interesting to play someone who is so strong, but also very feminine. These Amazons are women are very proud to be women. Artemis is strong, but sheís not trying to be masculine. If anything, she just really fully believes she is superior because she IS a woman. So I tried to keep my voice very strong and sometimes very gravelly, but still have a little bit of warmth. Itís not like she hates men. Itís just that she believes ultimately that the choices theyíve made as women in protecting themselves are the best choices that could possibly made. I like that itís embracing womanhood, and the strength that a woman has Ė as opposed to maybe feeling like sheís lesser than men, and thatís why she tries so hard to be strong.

ENI: Did you have a favorite moment or line?

ROSARIO DAWSON: Artemis has a few really great lines because she plays everything Ė even the humor Ė very straight. The one that made me laugh out loud when I read it was when she tells Hippolyta that they shouldnít have let Diana go out into the outside world. Hippolyta asks, ďWhat could we have done to have stopped her?Ē And Artemis says, ďWell I could have shot her in the leg with an arrow. Not in an artery, of course.Ē Itís just so deadpan Ė she wouldnít kill her, but she wouldíve shot her. Itís so dry, and itís so honest. And I love that.

ENI: What are your overall impressions of the character of Wonder Woman in perspective with this script?

ROSARIO DAWSON: I really liked the change to present day, with nuclear missiles and all that kind of stuff. I think it really ups the ante, bringing real discussions of what it would be like to have a super hero in our world right now. Weíre really delving into so many stories that are comic book based, so I like that we have a woman as part of that production. We havenít really explored that too much. Wonder Woman has had so many different connotations over the years because sheís so beloved as a character, and itís been interesting to see how sheís evolved Ė to see how her outfits have changed, and going from having her invisible plane to starting to fly herself, and sort of be on par with the physical attributes of Superman. She is like the female Superman. She has represented so much for women and everything women were not traditionally allowed to do, like embracing your sensuality and being strong at the same time. Theyíre supposed to be in contradiction, but she holds it with dignity and with class. She didnít look like princesses that you normally saw, but she was a princess. There were so many great things about her, and Iím very excited to see that all of that is maintained.

Wonder Woman has really evolved, and her character has been unique in many ways. She was raised with this backwards perspective about men, and she learned to kind of evolve her mind past that. Sheís able to separate and unite concepts Ė that these are my lessons as a child, but these are my experiences as a woman, and I can put the two together and make sense of it all. Sheís a great balance to Superman and Batman. She has a very clear understanding of everything, so sheís not afraid to maybe take it as far as Batman would, which is very different than Superman. She does understand that sometimes war is necessary, and to that end she is like an angel with a flaming sword. Thatís an amazing character, and it makes sense that we keep going back to her because she really does resonate with each generation.

ENI: Were you modeling your present character on any of your past performances?

ROSARIO DAWSON: No, partly because Iíve never played a character like this before. Plus, Iím used to using my body a lot more, Even with Sin City, as we were doing everything with green screen, at least we still had costumes and certain markings, and other people to work with. So being in an environment where thereís just a script in front of you, and youíre not really working off of someone, you try to milk it for the mike. Itís a different kind of experience. Mostly I was pulling from thinking of the warriors in my life. My mom is six feet tall, and she was raised with four brothers, so sheís the toughest woman I know. She was in gangs when she was younger; she used to be a plumber; sheís a singer and a great cook. Itís like that song says, sheís a Brick House. It was an interesting thing as a young girl growing up, to know that song and think of that as your mother. So when I told her I was doing this film, she was really excited because sheís our Amazon. Weíve even gotten her a Wonder Woman mug in the past. Itís nice because I know my mom will always be taller than me Ė so when I have a bad day, she always envelopes me in a great warm hug. I always feel like my momís there. Even as she gets older, sheís always gonna feel like a warrior woman who can handle anything. She can take care of me. She can protect me. Thatís a wonderful thing. Ultimately, thatís what I wanted to bring to the character.

ENI: Have you always been a fan of comic books, and what characters or writers/artists do you gravitate toward?

ROSARIO DAWSON: To some degree, peripherally if not always 100 percent, Iíve always had comic books as part of my life. My uncle Gus (Gustavo Vazquez) is a comic book artist who dabbled with DC and Marvel, and heís been a tremendous influence in my life Ė he was an actor and a singer, and heís still doing all of that. I looked up to him as an artist, and a performer. He was always into comics Ė I think heís been drawing since he was 4-years-old Ė and he always took his comics very seriously. I couldnít even breathe on his comics. I could never touch his comics. I read his comics, but only over his shoulder, and I would nod to him so he could flip the page when I was done reading. He gave me the feeling that comics were sacred texts, and my grubby little fingers werenít allowed to touch them. So Iíve always had this really strong love and respect for comics, and the way that the storytelling comes across. The kind of characters that are developed, the issues that are addressed, and the great stories. In the same way that we can look at wonderful films and the journeys they take us on, Iíve always really believed and trusted in the same concepts with comics.

I know what a collaborative effort it is between writers and artists to create a comic. Iíve always had a true respect and admiration for it. I love Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman -- I freaked out when I got to hear Gaiman speak for 15 minutes at Comic-Con, just because itís like real literature when he writes for comics. Itíll sound silly, but I take such pride in the fact that I even know to read them, and Iím so grateful that I have that as an influence. Itís so interesting to me that thereís a huge world of comic book fans, but itís also still very small. But itís definitely reaching out and touching a wider population today, especially with all the comics being made into films. The influences of people like Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller are reaching new audiences, and thatís exciting.

Honestly, any success that I ever have in doing anything with a comic means more to me most of the time than anything else, because I know if people in comics are approving, then itís actually really approved. Thereís a fine toothcomb that goes through any work in the comic book industry. Because people within this world, if they donít like you or what youíve done, they really have no problem telling you that you suck. (she laughs) I donít mean theyíll say they werenít interested or they didnít like it, I mean they will stand in front of you and tell you, ďYou suck!Ē

Iíve been co-writing this comic book for a while, and itís been going really well. And it makes me feel really excited because it was a big risk for me. I think that was probably one of the scarier things that Iíve ever done, co-writing on the Occult Crimes Taskforce. You donít do that very often, especially as an actor. You act in this sort of vacuum, then it gets edited and put into the theaters, and maybe you hear how it does. But doing a comic resonates with people.

ENI: As active as you are in fantasy films, do you actively seek out roles in that genre?

ROSARIO DAWSON: Itís funny Ė I was at a producer meeting for this really big movie and the guy was saying, ďIím working on all these projects, and Ö I did Rob Zombieís first movie and Iím gonna do a second one.Ē He said it like he was apologizing, like he just automatically assumed it wouldnít be something Iíd be interested in. And Iím saying, ďOh my God, Rob Zombie! I love him! House of Thousand Corpses Ė I love that movie! Are there any parts in (the new film) for me?Ē So while we were filming Sin City, I ended up doing a day of work on The Devilís Rejects. I ended up being one of the rejects of The Devilís Rejects, because I only made it to the DVD deleted scenes, but I got my throat torn up by Dr. Satan and it was really awesome.

I think itís great to have very varied experiences, because that makes me who I am. I grew up listening to Bowie and Queen, but also Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell and Jim Croce. But people donít know that. They watch one of my films, and think I am that character. Most of the time theyíre going to be surprised that thatís not me. Iíve had some really interesting experiences in my life, and luckily itís been able to be reflected in my work. Big budget or small budget films, Spike Lee to Robert Rodriguez to Frank Miller, and Iím excited to continue doing that, The fanboy stuff will always be prevalent Ė it really has added to my life. I can appreciate it in pop culture in a deep way. Itís a cool thing to be a part of.

ENI: Do you realize what a hit you are in the sci-fi comic book fanboy arena?

ROSARIO DAWSON: Thatís only because I spoke Klingon on Conan OíBrien! (she laughs very hard) I love Star Trek. I just bought my brother all the series, every single disk, full of Star Trek: The Next Generation. We will sit there and go over all of that stuff, and my brother remembers everything right down to the code that Data says in episode 114. Itís bad. So itís great when I get to kind of do anything in that fanboy/fangirl world. The fans are totally passionate about it, and I get to let my inner geek out.

ENI: If you could play one comic book character on screen, who would it be and why?

ROSARIO DAWSON: Harley Quinn. Now THAT would be fun. Iíd have to really transform myself, which could be really, really fun. You donít see too many female villains that arenít like Poison Ivy, where theyíre just really sexy but not much otherwise. Harley is such an off-base kind of girl, she is in that same sort of Batman/Joker insanity.

I love playing women who are strong, and characters that have these great convictions and do the right thing. Iím always 100 percent behind that. But I also like to challenge myself to kind of go in the other direction and really explore what the opposite sort of incarnation would be, to look at a situation and think, ďWhatís the way I can reap the most harm.Ē You hit the most conflict when youíre approaching a situation trying to be good, and it would be really interesting and I think really freeing and liberating in some ways. The physicality of doing it would be an interesting exploration because you really canít be too big or too full or too expressive when youíre creating mayhem and embracing chaos. Thereís a flow that evil characters seem to get into sometimes that would be fun to play with, like when youíre playing a video game and you choose to be the character thatís most destructive. I wouldnít want to be that in real life, I donít want that legacy, I donít want that reality, but it would be interesting to explore it in a manner like that, to see what it would feel like when that inner voice shuts off and you just kind of go with it. That would be a safe environment to explore the darker sides of myself.

ENI: How do you think fans will react to the final film?

ROSARIO DAWSON: I was really excited when I was reading Wonder Woman. Michael Jelenic wrote these long paragraphs every once in a while in the middle of the action sequences, things about Wonder Woman beating up a villain in the mall and her destroying the mall being a metaphor for women who are only supposed to just look cute and kind of parade themselves around but actually feeling like being superior to it and showing their strength and femininity at the same time. And then heíd write, ďOkay, Iíve said my peace, back to the story.Ē There were all these little moments where he kind of spoke out to the people who were reading it about just how serious he was taking it, not just the origin stories but really getting the characters across and really setting up Wonder Woman for the next projects. That was cool and itís a great set-up. The whole story has a strong resonance, the dialogue is very strong, the violence is very real, thereís great strength in the characters and the issues that theyíre facing, and thereís all this Greek mythology and the parallels in the two worlds. Itís a very strong script and I really liked it. Itís very respectful to the legacy of the character. I want to see these characters again, I want to see where theyíre going to take this next.

Please visit the filmís official website at www.wonderwomanmovie.com

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