“In a World . . .” is a very smart, funny, observant comedy in which you play a young woman trying to break into a career as a movie-trailer voice-over artist. You capture that world so vividly, I was shocked to learn that you didn’t start out doing voice-overs.
I aspired to do voice-over work, but I never was successful. Basically, I met with a wall of this sort of deeply instated hierarchical system, and that was super cutthroat and kind of cliquey. And that was really shocking, because from afar it seemed like such a colorful career, or at least side career while you were trying to become an actor, which was my main endeavor. I was always told that I had a great ear as a kid, and I latched onto that positive reinforcement and started to do dialects and accents and collecting them like stamps — and that led to literally collecting them with a cassette tape when I went to drama school.
In the film, you offer a running critique of the recent trend of young women speaking in voices that sound like Minnie Mouse on helium, something that has long confounded and bothered me, so thank you for that.
I never claim to be a full-on expert — I didn’t graduate summa cum laude from Yale in women’s studies. But I am a woman, and therefore, inherently, feminist issues are interesting to me. . . . It’s just a trend [that] is so unsavory. I think what I find most unfortunate about it is that it’s diminutive, it’s sort of diminishing. And it’s a dialect. It’s not even justified by, ‘Oh, she was born with that.’ It’s learned.
Where do you think it comes from? Is it an extension of valley-girl culture?
Just doing this movie and investigating it, it does come from the valley-girl voice originally, and it sort of gestated — or festered — into this sort of trend that’s an amalgamation of both dialect and pitch. It’s pitch, which is the higher voice, and it’s also the dialect, the affectation, the vocal fry. It really is a mix of all of those things. It’s this beast of a virus that’s taken on. But I don’t ever want to preach that women take on a false voice and speak lower. That’s not the message. The message is, find your real voice. Which is a normal, big-girl voice, which sounds like what a woman should sound like, instead of insinuating that you’ve regressed to being an 11-year-old and you’re submissive.