FAST & FURIOUS: SPY RACERS Interview: Renée Elise Goldsberry Talks Playing Ms. Nowhere, HAMILTON, & More

FAST & FURIOUS: SPY RACERS Interview: Renée Elise Goldsberry Talks Playing Ms. Nowhere, HAMILTON, & More

Emmy-nominated actress Renée Elise Goldsberry talks to us about joining the Fast & Furious franchise, where Ms. Nowhere's story goes next, how starring in a musical compares to a recording booth, and more!

Inspired by Universal’s blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise, Fast & Furious: Spy Racers returned to Netflix last Friday, this time with the crew embarking on a world-saving mission in the South Pacific.

It’s a race against time as the Spy Racers rush to rescue a kidnapped Tony Toretto only to discover that he has inexplicably lost the ability to do what he loves most - drive! The crew bands together on a mission traversing land, air and sea in the South Pacific to foil the dreaded arms dealer Sudarikov's dangerous plans. But will Sudarikov’s secret weapon prove too powerful for the Spy Racers and ultimately succeed in endangering the world? Luckily, they're going to have some help!

Last week, we sat down with star Renée Elise Goldsberry for an in-depth conversation about her return as Ms. Nowhere. A secret agent who serves as the liaison between Tony Toretto's Crew and her government agency, the character has come a long way since Spy Racers launched, and now looks set to embark on a romantic relationship with Palindrome...all while kicking a lot of butt, of course.

In this interview, the Emmy-nominated, Tony Award-winning, actress talks to us about joining the Fast & Furious franchise, why Spy Racers is such a meaningful project, the challenges that come with stepping into the recording booth, and her future hopes for Ms. Nowhere, teasing a possible jump to live-action in the process. Renée also discusses the impact Hamilton had on her career after it landed on Disney+ last year, and touches on those big She-Hulk rumours...
 

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Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about the series, Renée! It must be fun to be doing the rounds to talk about this upcoming season?

Oh, I love this [project]. It’s a lot of fun and a special series. 

This Fast & Furious franchise has become a real showcase for strong female characters in recent years, but what did it mean to you to be invited to join this world as someone as badass as Ms. Nowhere? 

[Laughs] Just hearing her name makes me laugh. She’s the funniest character I’ve ever played. I’m always delighted to be this influential in this world of teenagers [Laughs]. She’s the most loving prickly person I’ve ever met and I just enjoy being the gateway for young people to discover this franchise. 

As the series has progressed and we’ve seen Ms. Nowhere develop as a character, how much of your personality do you feel you’ve been able to infuse in her?

Well, with any character, if it works out well, you bleed into them and what’s written bleeds into you. I generally gauge the development when I remember the challenge it was in the beginning to record her. I felt like I could only do so much because she brings so much [Laughs]. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know how I’m going to do this for so many seasons.’ At some point, her exasperated feeling that these kids are driving her crazy becomes a really natural back and forth volley between them that I didn’t even notice anymore. Her personality seemed like a seamless part of mine to play, and I feel like on some level, she’s calmed down a little bit. The humour is still there and the way they can push her buttons is still there, but it felt really organic and fun to do. 

I spoke to Paul Wight last week and he talked about Ms. Nowhere frustrating Palindrome by always being a step ahead of him, but what excited you most about exploring their dynamic this season?

[Laughs] Well, what I love is when the relationship between two characters develops so beautifully as with Palindrome and Ms. Nowhere! It’s really fun when your nemesis becomes someone you need and I really enjoyed it when Ms. Nowhere is frustrated him. That was a lot of fun for me. In their development of the series and their relationship, they have been just so surprising and done things I didn’t see coming that have made the series, and the adventure, more than just the car chases. 

Everyone will know what incredible work you’ve done in the theatre, but did you find any similarities between preparing to go on stage and heading into the recording booth for what I imagine were quite intense sessions given the physicality of this role?

I learned a lot playing her because there is such a similarity between the range you can explore with your voice, especially when you’ve done a lot of musicals. One thing’s for sure is that I always have to warm up before I go in there because I know what I have to do vocally as an actor. What I love about how they wrote this woman is that she’s physically such a force. To be the adult in the room and to be the boss and one in charge, so often, that character is stuck in the office. She’s in the field, flying through the air in a physically unique and powerful way I think is really uplifting for women. To voice that character, I really did have to engage so much of my physicality and tap into such a great part of my range. That’s something I usually only have to do in the theatre.

Talking of Hamilton, like a lot of people, my wife and I fell in love with that when it arrived on Disney+ last year, but what has it been like for you to see the response to that from a global audience four, five years on from when you actually filmed it? 

Hamilton has been such a gift. I could never have seen back then that it would continue to be such a blessing to me. I just got an Emmy nomination a couple of weeks ago…

Congratulations on that, by the way! 

Thank you! I just had no idea what the world would be. I think that’s the biggest thing of being part of any artistic piece. You do it being very aware of who you are in the moment, but the moment changes and what’s beautiful about art, as time passes, we’re tested and take on new challenges. What Hamilton has proven is that a really beautiful piece of art...it can be timeless and universal. It’s more important than the continued blessings through awards and that kind of recognition. The greatest gift to me is the relevance it has to speak to the times and show us the way forward. It’s something that happened a number of years ago, but can still show us the way forward. That’s such a gift.
 

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And while we’re on the subject of Disney+, I have to ask whether there’s anything you can tease about joining the MCU in She-Hulk

[Laughs] Talk about franchises. I love the Fast & Furious franchise and I was marvelling right before our call about what it feels like to be part of this series in this very unique space. The Marvel Universe is also a franchise I’m a huge fan of, specifically because of the similarities it has with the Fast & Furious franchise: it’s something I can enjoy with my children. So, yeah, I can’t talk at all about being involved in the Marvel Universe [Laughs] but the similarities of being able to sit down with my kids and laugh and go on a crazy adventure is one of my favourite things to do. I’d love to be part of that universe if it was also a possibility...

Going back to Spy Racers, Ms. Nowhere has been a real hit with fans, but how interested would you be in bringing her into a live-action setting, whether it’s the Fast & Furious series or Hobbs & Shaw franchise? 

God bless you for saying that! [Laughs] It totally crossed my mind today when I was thinking about this new season dropping. For the first time, surprisingly, it crossed my mind that this woman would be very, very at home in the live-action Fast & Furious series [Laughs]. I have no power to bring that to life, but what I’m proud of is that in the landscape of this franchise, and it’s so wide-reaching, and like Hamilton, continuously surprising at how successful it continues to be, is that Ms. Nowhere would be a wonderful addition. She is so charming and funny in the way that all the characters in the live-action series are, and the way this animated series has developed the relationships between the characters reminds me of what I love most about the movies. Those actors look like they are having so much fun working with each other, so I feel like Ms. Nowhere would be right at home there. 

Something I think is great about the show is the level of representation and the fact so many people can see themselves in these characters. Animated or otherwise, how important is it that be the case in the projects you sign up for? 

I know I was really excited to get the job. I don’t know if they had Ms. Nowhere to be a diverse character. It landed in my lap, but I know it was so important that this series, the characters in it, and the entire franchise reflects the world and not just our country, but globally so that anyone from anywhere can tune in and see themselves. That’s crucial for young people. If we don’t get it right in our programming for young people, then our future is in trouble. I’m glad this character is a woman of colour. I’m glad the spectrum across this series looks like going to a random high school anywhere in the world. I’m glad my children can look at this programme and see themselves and their friends. I find more evidence that everyone matters, that people of colour matter, and children have more in common across the globe than their differences. These are the subtle messages that are there just because of the way they cast, and it matters just as much as when you’re animating as it matters when you’re casting live-action. 

Family is such a big theme in this show, so what does it mean to get to explore that in what I think has proved to be a more meaningful way than many people might expect from an animated series?

What I love about the family message in this series, and the franchise, is that it really shows how empowering it is for people to create their own family. I think in the franchise, the movies have been able to show how a ragtag group of people come together for a common purpose and the way they have an incredibly supportive family. The series does that as well, and that’s a message children need. 

This Fast & Furious franchise has become bigger than anyone probably ever imagined, and with this series serving as an introduction to this world for younger viewers, but also something longtime fans can enjoy, do you feel that adds a sense of pressure at all?

I don’t. I feel like a bar being set high, sets me up to succeed. When an extremely successful franchise invites you to participate, they wouldn’t have done it unless they think you have something valuable to bring. They don’t set you up to fail. The stronger the storytelling and storytellers, the more competent I feel when I walk in. 

It often feels like a lot of people underestimate how challenging voice acting roles are, but what’s surprised you most about that aspect of performing since joining Spy Racers?

Honestly, sometimes I marvel at my career. I find myself doing things I didn’t know I could do. I remember thinking about voiceover acting a couple of decades ago and auditioning for roles, trying to figure out what the special sauce was for voiceover people. I didn’t exactly know what that even was, but now I find myself in this series which I’m so proud of. We’re so many seasons in, and I know how confident I feel and how much fun I have working with these producers, writers, and directors. Self-doubt is nowhere in my mind when I’m voicing this character; I marvel at how something that seemed so challenging and far for me becomes so natural and organic, specifically because I’m working with the best in the business. When something is written well, whether it’s a musical and you’re rapping faster than people ever expected you to or you’re on an animated series voicing a character that has no limits in terms of physical or comedy or relationship development, I feel like regardless of where I’m at, when the show is written well, I’m very much at home. That’s what’s so wonderfully thrilling about being able to be an actor in the world of animation. 

Over the course of these first four seasons, we’ve seen Ms. Nowhere develop a bond with the kids and now a potential romance with Palindrome, but do you have any specific hopes for where her story can go next?

I want her, no matter how long this series continues [Laughs], to stay on the field. That’s what I love most about this character. It would have been so easy to have her back in central station somewhere giving them voice commands, but she’s out in the van, in the thick of it, causing trouble and saving the day. My hope is that they continue to dream for women at every age and allow her to kick butt with everyone else. 
 

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