Rosalie Chiang

On Pixar's Turning Red and embracing her voice


Words: Lan Thi Vu @ltvu11

Photo: Emily Shur @emilyshur

Style: Enrique Melendez @mrenriquemelendez

Hair & Makeup: Tammy Yi @tammyyi

Days after the successful premiere of Pixar's new film, Turning Red, Rosalie Chiang greets me from our Zoom call in a red Disney hoodie. She's all smiles, and her infectious personality draws you in the best ways possible.

Throughout our conversation, Chiang shared with me her candid thoughts on what it was like to voice the spunky and endearing protagonist, Meilin, as well as the importance of having a friend squad and the intricateness of the mother-daughter relationship.  

She didn't shy away from her own coming-of-age story and the awkwardness that comes with it. Instead, Chiang embraces it with thoughtfulness. It's a part of her story, a foundation to build upon for this new chapter of her life.

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Timid Magazine: First off, congrats on the premiere of Turning Red! How are you feeling?

Rosalie Chiang: A little overwhelmed. It's my first movie premiere, and the fact that after four years, Turning Red is finally released. Now the world can watch it and enjoy it. It's exciting!

TM: How is it seeing the movie come to life?

RC: First, it was really weird because my voice came out of someone else's mouth, and I thought, "Oh, I don't sound great." But after a while, I realized that I did a pretty good job.

I also loved people's reactions when I watched it at the premiere. People laughed at the incredible jokes and the funny moments, but then got emotional at certain points in the film. It speaks to how authentic this film is and how it comes from the heart.

TM: In what ways are you and Meilin similar or different?

RC: I would say personality-wise, we're not that similar. Meilin has this confidence that I really admire and love. However, we both have this sort of drive and passion for what we want to do in life, and when we set our mind on something, we go for it 100%. Nothing can stop us!

I also relate to Meilin when it comes to her friends. She has her little squad back home, and I have my squad. I've known them for my entire life, and we're so supportive of each other. They're really excited to see this movie come out, and it was funny to see their reactions.

But I think where I relate to Meilin the most is her relationship with her mother because it's similar to my relationship with my mom. We're both very opinionated people, which sometimes leads to us clashing. My mom's choices and how she treats me are out of love, even though it might not be what I would do. In Turning Red, Meilin's relationship with her mother changes throughout this film. She starts off rebelling, and there are moments in my life where sometimes I would do something just for the sake of rebelling. My mom doesn't want me to do this, but I want to do it.

TM: Going off of that, in what ways has this movie taught you about your relationship with your mom?

RC: In Turning Red, it's great that Meilin's mother, Ming, isn't the villain. She could have easily been made out to be the bad guy, the toxic parent, when in reality, that's not the case because there are always two sides to the story.

Meilin's and my relationship with our mothers is just another portrayal of mother and daughter relationships in general.

TM: In the movie, Meilin is 13-years-old. What advice would you give your 13 year-old-self?

RC: Oh, when I was 13, it was one of the years that I was recording Turning Red. At that time, I was kind of living in fear that I would not book this role or was afraid to get fired from the project. So, I would tell my 13-year-old self, "Don't worry, just do your best and look where we are now. You booked it! Congrats!"

TM: How did you navigate your fears when you initially recorded Turning Red?

RC: I'd say just doing my best the entire time instead of worrying about the project. This is Pixar! It's a great company. They only get the best and release the best movies. So I just told myself, whether I get this job or not, I'm just going to do my very best because that's all I can really do at the end of the day.

TM: I love that mindset! Thinking back, can you describe your coming of age story in three words?

RC: Messy, awkward, and cringey. I feel like I just described everyone's coming-of-age story. What's great about this movie compared to other coming-of-age stories is that it doesn't feel too polished, airbrushed, or filtered. You get every single messy, embarrassing, awkward, cringey moment of life going as you're going through all of these weird changes.

TM: Like when Meilin's mother came to the school with pads.

RC: And then afterward, when her friends Priya, Miriam, and Abby came to visit Meilin and were like, "Hey, we got some pads!" What supportive friends they are, and honestly, that's so realistic. If my friend's mom embarrassed her and she ran back home, I would come by and say, "Hey, I got something. Don't worry, I got you!".

TM: Speaking of friends, earlier, you mentioned that Meilin has her squad, and you have your squad. How has your squad supported you throughout this entire experience?

RC: Unfortunately, I couldn't tell them anything until the teaser trailer came out because that's when they announced the cast. So, throughout the entire 3-4 years, they always asked me, "Oh, what's your next project?" "What are you doing next?" And I'd be like, "nothing." Then, as the release date was approaching, I did say, "Oh, It's something big, really big! Bigger than you expect". When they found out, they were just so happy and supportive.

TM: Much of Turning Red revolved around Meilin's relationship with her mother. What is one of the biggest things you learned from Sandra Oh, who plays her mother, Ming?  

RC: Throughout the three to four years, I recorded by myself. I didn't even know Sandra Oh would be playing my mom until maybe six months before the trailer was released. So, unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to work with her in the booth. However, before the press tour started, she invited me to eat lunch with her, and we just chatted. She is such a warm and nice person. She is also conscious and super experienced with the press and interviews, so she gave me a lot of advice.

TM: So we cannot not talk about how the band 4-town was driving for Meilin and her friends. I heard you're a big K-Pop fan. In what ways has K-Pop influenced you, either personally or professionally?

Oh, wow! K-Pop has influenced me immensely. First off, I became a K-Pop fan a few years ago. Maybe in 2018 or 2019. When I first listened to K-Pop, I realized there were a lot of songs that I heard before I got into K-Pop like "The Boys" by SNSD or "Bar Bar Bar" by Crayon Pop. There was a time when I did hip hop dancing after quitting ballet, but I didn't really have a passion for it. But after listening to K-Pop and watching all the dances, it helped spark my passion for dance again. So I got back into hip hop again and started to really learn it.

Turning Red revolves around 4-Town, where Meilin and her friends share a mutual love and adoration for them. It's literally the same with my friends and I. When Twice announced that they would be doing a world tour and coming to Oakland and Los Angeles, the tickets were so expensive. Like Turning Red, my friends and I raised money and hustled whatever we could. Unfortunately, we couldn't go because I had to do press for Turning Red, but we will next time!

TM: Fingers crossed that that will happen soon! At the end of Turning Red, Meilin starts her new beginning where she embraces her red panda. What would be your new beginning?

RC: My new beginning…honestly, embracing my voice and acting more. I don't know what opportunities Turning Red will bring, but the response to it has been kind of a new beginning for me. And I'm just excited to see where it will take me.

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Turning Red is available on Disney+.

This interview has been edited for clarity.