Kelly Marie Tran And Carlos López Estrada Talk Teaming Up For Raya And The Last Dragon And Latest Film Summertime

Kelly, obviously you’ve been in front of the camera doing all kinds of acting work, but now you’re moving behind the scenes too. Any aspirations to direct? And if so, what kind of film would it be?

Kelly Marie Tran: You know…

Carlos López Estrada: Do it! Do it!

Kelly Marie Tran: We’ll see. I think that as an artist I’m really starting to explore parts of myself I haven’t explored before. And wherever that leads me is where I want to go. I don’t want to make any plans for my [future]. But, yeah, I can see a world where I experience different job descriptions.

You two met on “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which has been a big hit with critics and fans alike. And that story is not dissimilar to “Summertime” in that it’s brimming with girl power, for lack of a better term, and Southeast Asian culture. Looking back on that film, how proud are you of what it represents?

Kelly Marie Tran: So proud. Carlos and I talked about this earlier and I think we’ve talked about this many times before just in life, but “Raya” for me does a really good job of conveying a world that I want to live in. I think “Summertime” does the same thing. And I think that’s always the goal with me for anything that I’m involved in. I want to, as an actor, exist in worlds that I dream about, but I’m not sure can exist. I think with “Raya” it was this idea of this character coming from a place of distrust and then towards the end really being willing to give up everything, to contribute to the idea of a better world. That, to me, is such a beautiful arc and journey for a character. It’s something I want to do in my own life.

And I think that I’ve had similar experiences with “Summertime.” The idea that here is a film that highlights the stories of so many incredible artists that come from communities that have historically been ignored. Yeah, it’s such an incredible movie. And I think that it also has that same through line for me, of highlighting a world that I wish that we saw more of and that we could exist in.

What’s it like being a Disney warrior-princess and forever being part of the Disney lexicon? Is it a dream come true or something you never expected?

Kelly Marie Tran: Both! [Laughs] Dream come true, also never expected. I mean, I grew up in a world where I didn’t even know that dreams were possible. My parents emigrated from Vietnam and they both didn’t have the luxury of thinking about what their dreams would be. I always talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They were definitely in that place where they were like, “Okay, food, shelter, safety.” You have to reach a level of privilege to get to the point where you can think about what you would want to do with your life, what would fulfill you. And my parents lived their whole lives helping me get to that place on the pyramid.

So, I never really thought to myself that — I think I would have to be seriously deranged to think like, “Oh, one day you’ll be in ‘Star Wars’ and then you’ll be a Disney princess.” That is like some deranged thinking. [Laughs] I can say that the entire experience — and I think also the “Summertime” experience — has just made me believe that magic and miracles are real accessible things. And I think that I just want to continue chasing magic. So, I feel insane. It’s a really beautiful thing. I wish I could share this experience with everyone.

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