When she's not playing the totally brill middle child Alex on Modern Family, Ariel Winter is very busy mouthing off. In animation, that is. She's the voice of Gretchen the Fireside Girl on Disney's Phineas and Ferb and Robin (yes, a female Robin!) in Warner Bros. upcoming animated flick Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. On Friday June 29 she's back as the mermaid Marina on Disney Channel's preschool smash Jake and the Never Land Pirates (9am/8c). TV Guide Magazine chatted with the delightful Winter about her toon-filled life.
TV Guide Magazine: What are the chances, on a scale of 99 to 100 percent, that you were named after Ariel in The Little Mermaid?
Winter: [Laughs] One hundred percent! My mother wanted to name me Jackie or Jacqueline but she got to name my sister and my brother, so my dad and my brother insisted on naming me. And they were big fans of The Little Mermaid. I love being named after her. Since Modern Family has been on hiatus, I've dyed my hair redder so I can live up to the name!
TV Guide Magazine: So we can safely assume that getting to play a mermaid is a dream come true?
Winter: Are you kidding? I'm such a hero to my three little nieces! Marina is so cute and sweet it's ridiculous. I love her little fish tail. Sometimes mermaids are selfish and vain, but Marina's a good girl.
TV Guide Magazine: So good she swims around in a pink blouse. How come no clamshell bra?
Winter: [Laughs] Hey, we're keeping this show G-rated!
TV Guide Magazine: You also won the lead role in Disney Channel's next big animated series Sofia the First, coming in 2013.
Winter: Sofia is only eight or so and the youngest princess in the franchise. I can't wait for the merchandise! I'm going to buy my nieces a Sofia dress and get a big one for myself and we'll go run around Disneyland. What little girl doesn't want to be a princess?
TV Guide Magazine: I'm not sure feminists would see it that way. Do we want to send out the message that women require rescuing and that they need a prince to complete them?
Winter: Sofia is way too young for that. Little girls will relate to her because she's going through the same things they're going through. She's not falling in love with a cute prince and getting married. Sofia's not privileged and born to royalty. She's from the local village and her mom marries the king, so then Sofia is suddenly a princess and has a lot of adjusting to do. She's building a relationship with her new siblings, learning things in school, learning manners and etiquette and how to grow up right. The kids who watch will really be learning something. Sofia shows that what makes a great princess is on the inside, not on the outside. [Laughs] But she still has pretty dresses!
TV Guide Magazine: This is a musical, right?
Winter: Yes, Sofia does sing and there are a few songs in every episode. I wrote an original song for my audition because I've been working on my own music. I've been writing an album, stuff that's kind of personal to my own life.
TV Guide Magazine: Taylor Swift-style?
Winter: A little. Her songs make me cry. It's a little bit like the Adele thing, too. [Laughs] You take what's happening in your personal life and make songs that are multimillion dollar hits!
TV Guide Magazine: So one day you may have a Grammy to go with your two Screen Actors Guild awards?
Winter: And I will put it on my mantle and admire it as I wear my Princess Sofia dress!
TV Guide Magazine: If Disney loves you so much, where's your big-screen Pixar spectacular?
Winter: [Stunned pause] Oh...um...I can't talk about it now. But I might have some news very soon!
TV Guide Magazine: Cool! We can't wait! Let's talk Modern Family. Any worries you'll be written off the show once Alex is ready for college? Isn't she Ivy League material?
Winter: Alex is not going anywhere! She'll stay with the family, stay in the house, and probably go to community college.
TV Guide Magazine: Seriously?
Winter: She doesn't need some big-deal university. [Laughs] She's going to make all her money being an incredible genius. Just watch. She'll be inventing the next Google or Facebook. I love that she's showing other teenagers that it's okay to be smart. Actually it's even better than okay, it's cool to be smart!