The Actress Who Plays Riley In 'Inside Out' On What Mindy Kaling Is Really Like & Keeping Big Ol' Pixar Secrets
Like most teenagers, Kaitlyn Dias loves Pixar movies, worships Amy Poehler, and worries about getting approval from her friends and her mom. Unlike her peers, though, Dias' days are spent a little differently — the 16-year-old stars in Pixar's newest release, Inside Out , alongside Poehler (not to mention Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith...), and spent the years leading up to the film's release hiding the most exciting part of her life from those closest to her.
"I was able to to tell people that I was working on a Pixar movie, but, other than that, nothing," Dias says, talking to Bustle. "But my friends, they were all really excited and they still are! They’ve been really supportive."
No wonder: Inside Out, about the emotions staked out in an 11-year-old girl's mind, is nothing less than a phenomenon, winning raves — and even Oscar talk — from critics while also demolishing box office records; since its release in mid-June, the movie has raked in an astounding $435 million worldwide, and won the spot for the biggest opening weekend for any original movie, animated or otherwise. The success is due in large part to the incredible work of its voice cast, from Poehler's Joy to Kaling's Disgust to, of course, Dias' Riley, the preteen at the center of the film.
"Riley’s the lynchpin in all this," the actress says.
Although the emotions controlling her moves get most of the movie's attention, it's Riley who makes them come to life, whether by fighting with her parents, crying at school, or struggling to maintain a long-distance friendship. Inside Out's garnered much praise for its realistic depiction of an 11-year-old, and critics and audiences alike have been surprised and moved by how much they've related to Riley. Dias says she identifies with her character strongly, both in their personalities — both girls love sports, although Dias prefers parcourses to Riley's hockey — and their experiences.
"I know what it’s like to have to switch schools and not be with any of your friends," she says, adding that she thinks "everyone can take something away from" the story and Riley's mindset, no matter their age or gender.
Yet while Dias might be confident in the movie's accessibility now, it wasn't long ago that she didn't even know what it was about. When the actress (then only 11, same as Riley) first signed on to Inside Out, it was only as the scratch voice, the voice used for the storyboards when the studio presented the idea of the film to investors. Yet "they liked me so much," Dias says, that she ended up staying for the actual movie. A big Pixar fan (Brave is a particular favorite), she was thrilled to be involved, even if it took some time getting used to the secrecy that comes with working on one of the studio's films. Dias says she was "surprisingly good" at not spilling details, although she recalls occasionally having to ask her mom if she was allowed to speak about something before opening her mouth.
Said the actress with a laugh, "I didn’t want to screw this up."
It helps that she had her famous co-stars for support; although Dias didn't meet many of them until the film's premiere, a drawback of voice acting, she says that she greatly admires each of them, especially Poehler and Kaling.
"I really look up to Amy Poehler," Dias says, adding that she freaked out when she finally encountered her on the Inside Out red carpet.
And as for Kaling, "She’s not only an amazing actress, but she gives representation to women of color in the media, which I think is awesome," Dias says.
Like her co-stars, Dias hopes to pursue a long-lasting acting career, saying that while she's not currently involved with a new project, acting is her "dream job" and she plans to continue, both in voice work and on-camera. And, of course, if another Pixar movie came around, she'd be more than happy to jump in, especially considering how well her first one has done.
Says Dias, "It's been a blast... I’m really happy to be a part of something this big."
Whatever her next role ends up being, she hopes that it will have as much of an impact on fans as Inside Out has during its run thus far. She points to the movie's message of embracing all emotions, emphasizing its importance as something all viewers, both young and old, should take away.
"I hope that they can see that it’s okay to be sad," says Dias. "There’s no reason to be ashamed."
Spoken like a true Pixar heroine.
Images: Walt Disney Studios; Giphy; Getty Images (2)