Dana Gaier Interview

By Gloria Jeong

Thirteen-year-old Dana Gaier was the vice president of her middle school and is now even the captain of her field hockey team! But she's more than just a regular girl in middle school....Dana tells us what it was like to play Edith in Despicable Me, how she deals with mean girls, and how important it is to have confidence and believe in yourself. 

DG: How did you get your start in acting?

Dana: My older sister Jillian started acting before me, and my mom took me to one of my sister’s auditions because she didn’t want to leave me home alone. (I was in the fourth grade.) I went in and they asked me if I wanted to audition, too. I said yes, and I was actually the one who ended up getting a call back. It was for a Walmart commercial.

DG: What do you like about acting?

Dana: I love that you can pretend to be someone else. You obviously want to be yourself when you’re not acting, but when you act, you get to take on a whole new role....It’s really exciting!

DG: You’ve already been in a big feature film, and you’re only 13. Did you have to work hard to get to this point?

Dana: Despicable Me was my first audition for a movie. I’d just signed with a movie agent (I had a commercial agent before), so it was really shocking! I didn’t expect to get something like that so quickly....I actually wasn’t even able to go to Despicable Me’s audition because I had to go to my sixth grade camping trip. But when I got back, they still hadn’t found the voice they wanted, so I went in and did the audition. Two weeks later, they called me to go out to California and told me I got the part!

DG: How was working with Miranda Cosgrove and Steve Carrell?

Dana: We actually recorded separately. I recorded like twice in California and three or four times in New York. The first time I recorded, I met the girl that plays Agnes. Her name is Elsie, and she was just adorable! She was like, “When I’m done recording, let’s go play.” It was really cute.

DG: Did you ever get to meet them in person, even though you didn’t work with them?

Dana: I met Miranda at a screening in California. I was like, “I love your show!” And we sat and took pictures together. I met Steve Carrell at the premiere, and he came up to me and said, “Yes! I finally get to meet you!” I was like, “Me? Do you know who you are?!” They were both so nice and told me how great I did in the movie!

DG: Do you think voicing an animated character is different from traditional acting?

Dana: It’s definitely different because you’re not interacting with all the other cast members. If you watch the behind-the-scenes footage in the DVD, though, you can see all the motions we make in the studio—it’s like we’re in the movie! I don’t even remember doing this, but when I watched it, in one scene I actually threw my arms out and screamed!

DG: Did you use any tricks to get into character, or were you already like your character Edith?

Dana: When I first got there, the director told me, “Edith is like this mischievous girl, and she’s always getting into trouble. She makes trouble for Gru and her sisters, Agnes and Margo.” So that kind of gave me something to relate to, because I always made trouble for my parents and my sister.

DG: What was your favorite scene in the movie?

Dana: Probably the one when they (Agnes, Edith, and Margo) go into Vector’s lair. Agnes asks, “Why are you wearing pajamas?” And he says, “I’m not wearing pajamas. This is a warm-up suit.” Then Edith asks, “What are you warming up for?” And he says, “Super cool stuff that you wouldn’t know about.” Then Agnes asks, “Like sleeping?”

DG: How did you feel watching the complete movie in a theater?

Dana: I was sitting in the theater with my family, and my mom, my sister, and I were holding hands because we were freaking out! Then came my first line: “What? I’m just walking.” And I was like, “Ohmigosh! That’s me!”It was pretty unbelievable.

DG: You still go to a regular middle school. Do you think it’s hard to maintain a normal life?

Dana: Not really, because I was in just one movie…and it was a voiceover. People come up to me and ask me about it, but everyone is still really nice and they treat me just like they did before I got the part. Occasionally, someone will come up to me and be like, “Ohmigosh, that’s so cool!” And I’ve even had someone come up to me and say, “You’re my new best friend!” and I’m like, “Okay?”

DG: Do you ever have to deal with any jealousy, or is everyone pretty supportive?

Dana: Everyone’s pretty supportive, but with some friends, it turns into jealousy. They try to act like they’re not, but they’re not as supportive as other friends are.

DG: How did you deal when some of your friends were jealous? Did you bring it up and talk to them about it?

Dana:I heard that someone was talking behind my back, saying, “Why is she in a movie? Her voice isn’t even that cool. I don’t like her voice.” I approached her and said, “Why would you say this about me? It’s not nice. You know that, and we’re supposed to be friends.” Sometimes people try to deny it, but you have to tell them that you know what they did and that they were wrong about it. Some people would admit it and say something like, “You know, I’m sorry. I was feeling really upset that day.” Then I’d be like, “It’s okay. Please just don’t talk about me behind my back.” I’ve overcome it, and all my friends are really supportive now!

DG: You and your sister created a teen help group. Can you tell us more about it?

Dana: Sure! It’s a girls’ empowerment group. I’m still working on the web site, but it’s a blog where people can go and write about their problems. Then I’ll give them advice. If they say they’re having issues with their friends being mean, I’d seriously be able to relate to them—I was that girl. I was at camp this past summer, and I didn’t want to go home because I had a really bad year in seventh grade. I was crying because camp was coming to an end….My counselor came up to me and said, “I promise you, it gets better. Seventh grade is the worst year.” And it’s true! It is the worst year. My counselor really inspired me and even wrote me a letter, telling me that it gets better. It was really great.

DG: Why was seventh grade so tough?

Dana: Seventh grade is really hard because you have all those parties, and that’s the year everyone is trying to figure out who they really are. People look you up and down and then give you the nastiest look…and it’ll make you feel so insecure. But you have to fight back! You can’t just feel insecure about it, because it hurts too much. I was one of those girls who got upset about it, and I regret it so much. This year, whenever something bad happens, I just go right up to that person and say, “You’re not being nice―you shouldn’t be saying this.”

DG: So is the web site just a blog where girls can go and seek advice?

Dana: Well, it’s also going to be a place where girls can feel comfortable saying whatever they want. It can also be completely anonymous. I’m going to give them really good, straight-up advice about what to do in certain situations, because I’ve probably been in every situation…maybe even more! This web site is going to show girls that nobody’s perfect and that they’re not the only ones going through something.

DG: What keeps you motivated?

Dana: Probably everything—my friends, my family....I love acting so much, and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s such a great experience, and it gives you lots of courage and confidence.

Be sure to check out Dana in Despicable Me on DVD! Want your own copy? Enter our giveaway here