You've probably seen Despicable Me and its sequels over the years, but have you ever gotten to know the voices behind its amusing characters? If not, you're in for a treat! Chalk got the chance to get to know the young woman behind one of its characters, Edith, voiced by Dana Gaier.
She may just be 19 years old, but you'll be amazed at how much she has achieved at such a young age. Aside from her work as a voice talent, she's also a singer-songwriter who's now a full-time student at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). If you wanna get to know this incredibly talented young lady more, read on!
We heard that you’re currently a full-time student at UCLA with a double major in Sociology and Communications as well as a minor in Film Studies. With all the demands and pressure from college, how do you balance your acting projects, academics, and social life?
I think that I’ve always strived to be involved in different activities and organizations. I find that I’m more successful and productive if I’m busy because it gives me less opportunity to sit on my bed and re-watch Friends for the 100th time. It’s just about making sure that you make time for everything. As an example, if I know I have an event with my sorority, I make sure that I finish my assignment beforehand or sit down and focus on it after. I think it’s really important to have a calendar and schedule so that you can physically see everything you have to do…it makes it harder to forget those things or ignore them.
Considering you’re currently in the film industry, what led you to take up Sociology and Communications as your majors and Film Studies as your minor?
I’m really interested in sociology and communications in general. I think they give you a broad understanding of the different aspects of the world. It lets you zero in on the way we communicate and interact with one another, which is really important. I also think it has made me a better actress because it allows me to understand the reason why we do certain things and react to certain things in different ways. I love the film industry and I really always will. Watching movies and TV helps me escape the real world and I want to learn as much about the business as possible so that I can contribute to it in a positive way.
When did you decide that you want to be in the entertainment industry? Do you wish to pursue it as your career in the long run or do you plan to try out other professions after you graduate?
I think that I always wanted to be in entertainment. I loved performing as a child, I acted and sang whenever I could. I even took up guitar. Everything about me is grounded in this industry because it has had such a huge effect on my life. I really only decided that I wanted to act professionally, though, when my sister started going out to auditions. She’s always been a huge role model for me. I do want to pursue acting in the long-run, but I decided to minor in film because I am interested in all aspects of the industry.
How has your college experience been so far? Any extra-curricular activities that you’re currently involved in?
I love college. Everything about college is exciting to me. I really enjoy learning. My parents always point that out to me because I’ll learn something crazy or interesting and call them to tell them about it. As much as I’ll complain about studying or having to take a final, I really appreciate the opportunity to attend college and there are so many groups you can join. At UCLA, I’m involved in my sorority Gamma Phi Beta as well as a student-run theatre company called Hooligan. It’s been amazing because I’ve truly met some of the most incredible people.
What’s the toughest challenge that you’ve faced so far in your entire college life?
One of the biggest challenges at school, so far, was coping with the on-campus shooting last year. It was just really scary because I was in the dorms and we didn’t really know what was happening. The police scanner has to report every tip they receive and there were a lot of random rumors getting mixed up in there that made everyone nervous about multiple shooters. It also happened right before finals, which obviously added a lot of stress. I remember that I was supposed to have a final that morning and I was studying when I got the alert that there was an active shooter on campus. It was just a very sad and eye-opening day about the safety that we need to implement in schools so that this kind of thing can’t happen.
Considering you started working in the industry at such a young age, what are the ups and downs you’ve experienced and how did it affect you as an individual?
I think, obviously, the biggest up would be booking Despicable Me, but I would say any audition is an “up” for me. I love going into a room and giving it my all—and that’s really all I can ask for at this point. The downside is that there is clearly a lot of rejection. You just have to learn not to take it personally and to remember each audition as an experience rather than a loss. I think it’s made me really strong. I have a great sense of who I am because of the roles I get to play. Each time you embody someone else, you really get to learn more about yourself.
If you’d choose between voice acting and acting, which one would you prefer?
I love voiceover acting, but I think I would love to do more onscreen acting because I have less experience with it. Obviously, the goal would be to be able to do both.
What’s it like working with stars such as Steve Carell, Elsie Fisher, and Miranda Cosgrove?
It’s crazy how kind everyone in the cast has been. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Drake & Josh and iCarly and I love The Office. I just think it’s amazing that I get to meet these people and have relationships with them. I remember on my first red carpet premiere, I was taking pictures with Steve Carell and he just looked at me and said “It’s so nice to finally meet you.” It was such a cool feeling to have someone I looked up to say that to me…especially at age 12.
We love how you stand up against bullying and empower girls around the world with your anti-bullying advocacy. What inspired you to do this?
I was bullied in school. I think what people don’t understand is that bullying comes in different forms. It doesn’t have to be the mean kid who’s your enemy, it could be the people you sit with at the lunch table every day whose snide comments may seem like nothing, but actually cause you a lot of pain. I was lucky enough to have my parents and sister to help me during the time, but other people aren’t so lucky. Nobody should have to go through it alone.
What message do you wish to deliver to girls who are currently being bullied? Can you give us ways they can overcome bullying?
Find someone to talk to! Like I said, I had my family for this, but I even went to my guidance counselor who offered me a lot of great advice on how to cope. You’d be surprised with how much people are willing to help someone in need. I would also say that you should find something that you love to do to serve as an outlet to express yourself. For me, this was music and acting. I would write songs, play my guitar, and perform in shows. Although I wasn’t having the best time in school, these things made it a lot easier. Finally, I would say to stand up for yourself. You might think that this will make it worse, but bringing it to their attention and to the attention of others will definitely make them less likely to do it. It also shows how strong you are and how weak they are for bullying you.
Which celebrities do you look up to and wish to work with someday?
Recently, I’ve been really impressed with Brie Larson’s work. Room is one of my favorite movies. I would love to work with her. Someone I also would love to work with isn’t an actor, but a writer. Shonda Rhimes writes some of my favorite shows: Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. She’s so incredible and I would feel so honored if I ever got to work with her.
What have you learned from your character Edith? And what are the things about her that you think millennials today can learn from?
Edith doesn’t care about what anyone thinks of her. She has her own style and does what she wants to do. It’s really refreshing to find someone who doesn’t feel the need to conform to make others happy. I think we can all learn a lot from Edith in this way. Edith knows who she is and that’s something a lot of us want every day. She teaches us to be ourselves and to own it!
Catch Despicable Me 3 now showing on theaters!
Banner photograph by Birdie Thompson. Makeup and hair by Allison Noelle. Inset photograph from Dana Gaier (Dana Gaier and Steve Carell). Special thanks to Melanie DuPont and Jessica Katz of Katz PR.