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Diane Guerrero on ‘Encanto,’ the Film’s Beautiful Message, and the Surreal Experience In Bringing Isabela to Life

From Walt Disney Animation Studios, Encanto tells the story of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family who live in a magical house in the mountains of Colombia. Every child in the family has been blessed with a unique magic gift, except for Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), an ordinary teenager still trying to find her place and value among the generations in her vibrant and lively community when she learns that the Madrigal magic may very well be in danger.


During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Diane Guerrero (who voices Mirabel’s perfect sister Isabela) talked about what being a part of Encanto means to her, how she connected with her character, the surreal experience in bringing Isabela to life, the film’s beautiful message, getting to perform songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and getting to be a part of another stand-out ensemble with Doom Patrol.

Collider: With such a beautiful, magical film about the importance of family, and with so many characters and so much culture and great music and so much going on, what makes this film special to you? What does being a part of Encanto mean to you?

DIANE GUERRERO: Gosh, so many things come to mind because this film really encompasses a lot of what I strive for and what I’ve worked so hard for, which is for my family, to keep my family together, to honor my family in all of the things that I do, and sharing my gifts with the world. It’s everything that I’ve done. And of course, being from Colombia and having my family be from Colombia, it’s an incredible honor to be represented in this way, especially in a Disney film. That seemed almost impossible, especially when you think about the kind of representation that a country like Colombia has received in the past, which is mostly negative. It’s so counteractive to what I’ve actually experienced in Colombia, which is exactly what you see in the film. The love of family, the colors, the music, the food, all of those flowers, the connection to magic and that belief is very much embedded in our culture. And so, to see it represented in this way is a dream come true.

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When this character was presented to you, what was your reaction to her? Did she feel like someone you could identify with and embody?

GUERRERO: Immediately, I understood why I was cast as Isabela because I am her a little. I watched Disney movies and I watched Disney princesses, and I lived in that magical fantasyland as a kid and I always wanted to be a princess. Any time my mom told me that I was a princess, I truly believed it. It was something that I really desperately wanted to embody, and yet I didn’t understand what really makes a princess, which is what you feel inside and your courage to speak up for yourself. It’s your ability to change and to make mistakes and to be human, and not just the physical embodiment of a princess and the twirls and making flowers. Much like my character, beauty isn’t just what’s aesthetically beautiful and what’s on the outside. It really is what you have inside.


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Image via Disney

RELATED: Lin-Manuel Miranda on Writing the Songs in ‘Encanto’ and Working With One of His Musical Heroes on ‘The Little Mermaid’

What was it like to see what she would look like, what her gift would be, and to hear yourself bringing her to life?

GUERRERO: It was a surreal experience. To see a character from Colombia, I was so afraid that I wasn’t ever gonna be understood, as far as when I would try to talk about what my experience was when I would go to this magical place. It was rarely portrayed in film and in storytelling, in this way. I couldn’t really put words or a feeling to what I saw. And so, to see myself be a part of something so monumental, it was just an incredible feeling and an incredible sense of accomplishment, on my part, as far as wishing that something like this could happen to me and putting myself first. I allowed myself to dream and allowed myself to have this opportunity. It’s not easy to so be here and to get here and to tell a story like this one. So, I’m incredibly grateful and feeling so blessed.


Everyone sees Isabela as the perfect Madrigal, and I love how this film also explores the weight and pressure that comes with having to be the one that everyone expects to be perfect. At the same time, that perfection is just a little bit annoying, which makes it easy to understand Mirabel’s frustration with her. Did you ever want to roll your eyes at her perfection?

GUERRERO: No. Perfectionism is obnoxious. It is annoying and it’s not good for anybody. So, I had to take that burden of an unlikeable trait, but it’s true. Perfectionism is annoying and it’s boring and it’s not good for anybody. I’m so glad that, even though she expresses herself in this way, it’s a product of what this notion of perfectionism does to person. It makes them shallow, it makes them empty, and you can’t really see who’s really there. That’s why I really appreciate my story arc because you see her break free from that. Really, you see that the key ingredient to breaking free from perfection and from these ideas that society imposes on you is love. Love makes you free break free from that. It’s the love of your family. It’s a love of Mirabel and Isabela. I think it’s a beautiful message.


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Image via Disney

You’re also a part of another very unique, wacky and wild family with Doom Patrol. What has it been like to play that character and explore someone so unique, in that way?

GUERRERO: Gosh, it’s been a really great opportunity for me to explore so many different versions of myself and so many different emotions. Isabela shows a few emotions, but mainly is hiding, whereas Jane on Doom Patrol really can’t hide a lot of her emotions because that’s all she is. It’s been an incredible opportunity to bring a story like that to life. That show is so grounded in the absurd and in possibility. It’s quite magical as well. I feel very fortunate to get to explore the theme of mental health through a superhero story that’s unlike anything out there. So, I’m feeling pretty good.


What did you love about the music? How exciting is it to get to do songs like that?

GUERRERO: It’s incredible. Lin-Manuel [Miranda] is just an incredible steward of this gift and is a great storyteller of our culture. I hope that we see this as example of how much more there is out there and what the possibility of more is. I just hope to see more people telling stories like this and writing more music. The music that Lin created uses the richness of our culture, and there’s so much more out there. I hope that this film invites more of that.

Encanto is now playing in theaters.


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