Having twin almost-five-year-old sons, how could I possibly pass up the opportunity to talk to Dora the Explorer herself, aka voice actress Kathleen Herles. Here is where it gets funny, though: I assumed that, a la Bart Simpson, Kathleen would be some middle-aged lady. Nope. Ms. Herles is but a teen. As Nickelodeon presents the new original movie Dora Saves the Mermaids (premiering Monday at 7 pm/ET), Kathleen shared a look into el mundo de Dora. ¡Vamanos! (As they say.)
TVGuide.com: I have to say, when I learned just a moment ago that you were only 16, I had to rejigger my questions a bit….
Kathleen Herles: [Laughs] Yeah, I'm 16….
TVGuide.com: So I come home the other day and my sons say, "Daddy, you’ve got to record the Dora and the mermaids movie!" They must have caught a commercial.
Herles: Awww! That's so cute!
TVGuide.com: What is it that Dora must save the mermaids from?
Herles: There's garbage all over the mermaid kingdom, and the princess has lost her magic crown. We have to find it in order to save the kingdom.
TVGuide.com: So it's like an eco-friendly message with a subtext of, "Keep your rooms clean, kids."
TVGuide.com: Does anybody, like, die?
Herles: No! No deaths. But I can tell you this: Dora turns into a mermaid herself at one point.
TVGuide.com: Does Dora get help from the inevitable Spanish-speaking critter?
Herles: Just Tico…. But there's an octopus on the beach who keeps putting garbage all over the place. He's evil.
TVGuide.com: Did you speak Spanish before starting the role?
Herles: Yes, I did. My parents are from Peru, so I talk Spanish with them and my grandma.
TVGuide.com: If the mission of the series is to offer kids bits of a second language, it's very successful. My sons are always spouting off Spanish words and such. And that "Arriba is up/Abajo is down" song? They belt that out.
Herles: Really? That’s great.
TVGuide.com: Do you do voices for any other TV or films?
Herles: No, but I do a lot of radio commercials. And for Dora, sometimes I'll do some of the backgrounds animals.
TVGuide.com: Hey, have we ever found out the names of Dora's twin baby brother and sister?
Herles: No, no. They're just the "Super Babies!" [in a subsequent spin-off series]. I think they're going to [eventually get names], but I'm really not sure.
TVGuide.com: Know what's odd? In that episode, Dora didn’t know her Mom was pregnant, but then all of a sudden….
Herles: Well, at the beginning of that show she tells [the viewer], "My mom's having a baby…."
TVGuide.com: Yeah, but like "five minutes from now"! And by the time Map gets us home, Dora's mom will have had the baby, be back from the hospital and the twins will be in their crib.
Herles: Yeah…. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: I once saw Boots swimming with his boots off, and man, he had some freaky-looking monkey feet.
Herles: Yeah, I know! [Laughs] That’s funny. There's also an episode where he loses one of his boots and you also see his foot there. He walks around without the one boot.
TVGuide.com: Do you ever get recognized as being "Dora"…?
Herles: Actually, I've done a lot of interviews [on TV], and then a person will recognize me from that.
TVGuide.com: Because your voice, as I listen to it, is deeper than the character's.
Herles: Yeah, a lot deeper.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any say in who plays Dora in the touring live-action stage show?
Herles: No, no….
TVGuide.com: Because when I saw the show with my sons, the actress was, like, 40, 45.
Herles: I think she's younger than that!
TVGuide.com: OK, but she's definitely not 8. And the person playing Map? Horribly miscast.
Herles: They use a girl for that, yeah. It's so hard to match his voice.
TVGuide.com: I do a pretty good job: [Imitating Map rather effectively] "To get to Tall Mountain, you have to go throuuuuugh the spooky forest…."
Herles: [Laughs] That’s not too bad! You should try out.
TVGuide.com: Did you ever see Saturday Night Live's animated Dora spoof, "Maraka"?
Herles: I eventually did, yeah, but a lot of people were telling me about it before I actually saw it.
TVGuide.com: It's hysterical for anyone whose kids watch Dora. Between Mittens the Cat, the blank stares, the awkward pauses and rhetorical questions….
Herles: It is funny, yeah. Did your kids see the Dora [stage] show and the Diego show?
TVGuide.com: Dora yes, Diego no. They're not into Diego. I've pretty much drilled it into their head that he's too derivative. Me, I like the structure of Dora: Here's where we need to go, here are the alligators we have to walk past… and when we get there, the fiesta trio play their song. Why do you think kids love the Dora series so much?
Herles: Because Dora makes them a part of what she’s doing and she always asks for their opinion and for their help.
TVGuide.com: When you get into a car with friends, do you instruct them, "Seatbelts! So we can be safe!"?
Herles: [Laughs] No, but that’s a good idea!
TVGuide.com: Is there a blooper reel floating around out there with you flubbing Dora's lines and letting slip the occasional curse word?
Herles: [Laughs] No! But sometimes I will yell and a little "Dora" will come out.
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