EXCLUSIVE: Ariel Winter Plays Penny
By: Lynn Barker
Pretty 16-year-old Ariel Winter has been acting since she was four. Currently, Ariel plays smart teen Alex Dunphy on TV’s popular “Modern Family” and is the voice of Sophia in “Sophia the First” on Disney Junior.
Ariel, has provided voices for a great many films and TV shows including “Phineas and Ferb”, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. In the new animated, time travel comedy Mr. Peabody and Sherman, based upon popular 1960’s TV characters, Ariel voices Penny, a smart but bossy and, at first, mean girl who makes fun of new student Sherman (voice of Max Charles, young Spider-Man) but later goes on a huge adventure with him.
We caught up with the feisty actress at DreamWorks Studios in Glendale, California and hit it off right away with lots of laughs.
Kidzworld: If you could go to any time or place in the WABAC (the time machine in the film), where and when would it be? Who would you most want to meet?
- Ariel: I would want to go to ancient Greece and would also want to meet King Henry the 8th and Anne Boleyn (one of the wives he beheaded!).
Kidzworld: Meet her quick before Henry does away with her!
- Ariel: (laughs) Yeah!
Kidzworld: And it would be nice if he wasn’t a big fat kinda ugly guy but looked like Jonathan Rhys Meyers who played him on “The Tudors” on TV.
- Ariel: (excited) Yes! You have no idea! I love, love him. That would be amazing.
Kidzworld: You are in a TV series now and you have done a ton of voice actor roles for animated films. Which is more fun or more fulfilling for you? Live action on the series or animated roles?
- Ariel: They’re both really fulfilling for me. I’ve been doing both for so long that I can’t really pick. I really love the challenge of having to express myself only through my voice in animation and also love being in films. I want to keep doing both.
Kidzworld: How are you like the Penny character and how are you different?
- Ariel: The sass is real for both of us. We’re both extremely sassy. We both get into a lot of things that we probably shouldn’t just because we’re both super curious about the world but I would never steal somebody’s sandwich or make fun of them like Penny does.
Kidzworld: Like Alex on “Modern Family” Penny is also a brainy teen. Are you brainy too? Is that why they cast you for “smart” roles?
- Ariel: (laughs) I hope to be. I’d like to attend Harvard so I definitely try to apply myself. I don’t’ know why I’m cast in “smart” roles but I’m really grateful for it.
Kidzworld: Sometimes smart kids are bullied and teased because kids are jealous. Have you been bullied and, if so, what did you do about it?
- Ariel: This is my sophomore year at Campbell Hall (private high school where Dakota Fanning went) and I love it. Kids do get jealous when you really apply yourself to education and when you come in and don’t mean to take attention from somebody but you’re new and people want to meet the new person. Things like that happen and kids get jealous.
- You kind of have to let it go and make the friends that you have and still with those people because, at the end of the day, when you have your real friends, those are the people you will want to stick with and it won’t matter what other people say.
Kidzworld: Did they show you any of the old Peabody and Sherman shorts from the ‘60’s when they were on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”? Did you like them?
- Ariel: I actually looked them up online after I got the job and really liked them. Penny wasn’t in them so it was cool for me. I got to start with a blank canvas. It was an open book and I got to write it. They were very funny.
Kidzworld: Like Penny, (who eventually likes Sherman) have you ever started out really not liking a guy and later realizing you liked him?
- Ariel: Oh yeah! I feel like I do that now. I feel like that never goes away and always sticks with you. Teenaged girls and boys, there’s a reason you’re butting heads. There is an attraction.
Kidzworld: Do you ever go on fun adventures with your dad like Sherman does or your family?
- Ariel: Oh, definitely. We go anywhere we can. Even if it’s an adventure to a new restaurant that has a type of food we haven’t tried. We go crazy places. We go on a lot of adventures because our house is currently being renovated so we’ll go and get out of the house.
Kidzworld: Who is your fave historical character in the movie?
- Ariel: In the movie? Leonardo da Vinci is hilarious! Him and the Mona Lisa was wonderful.
Kidzworld: Did you get to record any dialogue with Max or Ty (Burrell who plays her dad on “Modern Family”) in the same room?
- Ariel: I wish I was able to but I wasn’t. I think Max had one (recording session) with Ty.
Kidzworld: When did you and Ty find out that you were both doing voices for the movie? What was that like?
- Ariel: It was a little weird. Max and Ty were cast first and I was called and offered the part of Penny and they said “Ty is in it too”. We talked about it on the “Modern Family” set, how funny it was that we were both in this movie and we didn’t work together. We’d do our separate sessions and come in a talk about it.
Kidzworld: You are 16. Was it easy or a little hard to think of yourself as a 10-year-old again to do Penny’s voice?
- Ariel: I guess I’ve been playing younger characters for so long that it’s just second nature for me. I’ve been acting for 12 years now and it just happens. I could relate to her.
Kidzworld: Do you like to read and what book have you read lately?
- Ariel: Oh, I love to read. When I was younger I would read up to four novels a week. I was a junior editor for the West Coast office of Harper Collins Books. Lately, I haven’t had a lot of time to read. I read “Marie Antoinette” (by Antonia Fraser) and loved it.
Kidzworld: What singers or music groups are you into?
- Ariel: I love Drake. He’s amazing. I’m into a lot of music. I listen to KISS FM on the radio.
Kidzworld: Do you sing or play an instrument?
- Ariel: I sing. Don’t play an instrument yet unfortunately. When I get some time, I’ll take some lessons.
Kidzworld: Would you put out an album (she did put out an album earlier with a band)?
- Ariel: I definitely would. I love music but I’m the type of person who wants to have my hand in all aspects of the entertainment industry. I want to be behind the camera and in front and go to Harvard.
Kidzworld: When you go, what will you major in?
- Ariel: Business. I want to have my own production company and record label.
Kidzworld: Smart! Who would you just love to be in a movie with?
- Ariel: I think it would be amazing to be in a film with Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s wonderful.
Kidzworld: Why would kids and teens really get into Mr. Peabody and Sherman?
- Ariel: Because it’s a lot of fun. The writers did a really good job of writing it for everybody. There’s a lot of jokes for adults that will go over the kids’ heads and jokes that teens will get that will go over younger kids’ heads. It has something for everybody. There is romance, family and friendship. Perfect for all ages. Who doesn’t want to see an adorable little kid with a super smart talking dog for a “dad”?
Mr. Peabody and Sherman is in theaters March 7th!
Mr. Peabody and Sherman Trailer