Despicable Me 3 star Dana Gaier, voice actress of the tomboy middle sister, Edith Gru, talks about maintaining a balanced schedule as an actress and student. 

How do you prepare for a role?
I like to imagine what I would do if I were in that character’s situation. I think one of the coolest things about acting is that different actors bring different aspects to roles based off of their own life experiences. I also like to look beyond the script that is given to me and really think about what the character might want that isn’t actually explicitly written.

How is voice acting similar or different from “normal” (on camera) acting?
In my voiceover experiences, it has only been me in the booth, so I haven’t had interaction with the other actors during my scenes. On-camera acting is different because I got to be with the people I was talking to in the scenes. I love both. I also wouldn’t call on camera acting “normal” acting because acting is acting and there are so many different types. It’s such a common misconception that voiceover acting isn’t normal acting, but it’s just as difficult if not more challenging because you don’t have anyone to react to in the room. There’s stage acting, on camera acting, voice acting…all different types that are unique and amazing in their own ways.

What was the experience like in the recording booth for Despicable Me?
It’s just me in the booth on video chat with the directors, who live in Paris. For the third film it was Pierre, who is so great and kind. He would give me some context for the scene I was about to record. Then I take a line and say it three or so times so I can get a feel for how Edith is going to say it. After that, Pierre gives me feedback and possibly another direction to take it in so we can get different emotions attached to the same line. You never know how the scene or the movie is going to turn out in the end because you don’t know which takes they will use, which is really crazy!

What drew you to your majors of communications and sociology at UCLA?
When I first got to school, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to major in yet because it is such a big decision. I took a few classes and the classes I took in sociology and communications stood out to me. I think people and society are such interesting topics and I wanted to learn more about them.

Besides acting, what do you want to do in the future?
I want to graduate college and I want to be able to experience the industry in different ways, whether that’s in casting or even writing. I also want to share my music with people. That’s something that I’ve just been starting to do.

Have you been treated differently because of your rising fame?
I don’t think so. It’s not the first thing I say about myself when I meet them because I want people to get to know me personally before they learn that I’m an actor. People are really surprised when I tell them, but they don’t treat me any differently. My friends joke around with me a lot, but it’s all in good fun. They like to yell, “Do the voice!”

Can you pinpoint a moment in which you felt happiest within your occupation as an actress?
Definitely the moment I found out that I got the role of “Edith.” I was 11 and I remember they tried to trick me at first. They said “I’m so sorry Dana, but you’re gonna have to stay here all day because we want you to record the role of Edith!” I couldn’t stop jumping up and down and it was just the most exciting thing ever.

What are some important relationships you were able to create through your career?
A couple of really important relationships are those with my manager Lucia Chiao and my agent, Bonnie Shumofsky. Bonnie has really seen me grow up and saw something in me from the beginning. Lucia is someone I can really trust to look out for my career. Philip Pelkington, my vocal coach, is also a great source of support. And of course my Despicable Me family, the cast and the creatives, have been great!

Who do you consider to be your role model(s)? Why?
I look up to my entire family–my mom, my dad, and my sister, Jillian. They’re all so ambitious and driven and they encourage me to pursue what I love. My family is just amazing. I don’t think anyone would ever understand our weird humor, but I don’t need them to.

Are there any roles that you hope to play in the future? Are there any genres of film that you want to be a part of in the future?
I would love to be on a TV show like Friends…I can actually quote every line from that show. I really want to be able to do everything though–comedy, sci-fi, action, drama, etc.

How has your minor in film helped your acting career?
It’s given me much more knowledge about the industry in general. I have to study things like the history of motion pictures in America and of sound in film. I get to watch all of the classics and really try to analyze why directors framed shots a certain way or why films were scored or written in a particular way. It’s a great chance to study what I love in a different setting. I also got to take a screenwriting class, which was so much fun. I would love to explore that some more.

You seem to have a busy life as a student and an actress. What other things do you enjoy doing? How do you make time for all these things?
I love just hanging out with my friends. I also love hiking and exercising. I like to read too. I don’t know how I make time for these things, but it’s a lot easier than it looks. I’ve been doing it for a while.

Are there any upcoming projects that we should be looking forward to?
I just filmed an episodic a few weeks ago that should be coming out in the Fall. I can’t say much about it, but it was so much fun and I think people will really like it.

How do you stay motivated in school and in your profession?
School and acting are both things that I’ve always been passionate about so I’m motivated to make it work. I love learning, I love acting and I know that I can do both. If I have to take a break from school to act that would be okay, but I still feel that it’s important for me to reach my goal of graduating college.

What is your favorite part about being an actress?
I love storytelling. Like I said I love to read and I have always been drawn to film and television, even as a child. Stories need to be told. They’re a good escape for our daily lives and they bring something new and important to our attention or make us look at the world differently. Films have the capability to change the world.

What message do you have for people who want to become an actor/actress but are too scared to try?
Don’t EVER let your fear get the best of you. If I had, I never would’ve moved out to California and that ended up being the best decision of my life. Never have any regrets…you don’t want to look back on your life and think, what if?

Don’t EVER let your fear get the best of you. If I had, I never would’ve moved out to California and that ended up being the best decision of my life. Never have any regrets…you don’t want to look back on your life and think, what if?




Originally published in Volume II, Issue No. 004 – Fall 2017.


1 Love