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Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken cast saw themselves in film's 'honest' portrayal of family conflict

Lana Condor and Annie Murphy star in the DreamWorks animation

Watch: Lana Condor and Annie Murphy discuss Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken's approach to family relationships

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is not your average coming-of-age story, but co-stars Lana Condor and Annie Murphy tell Yahoo UK that they could connect to the film because of the way it examines the "realistic conflict" that can be seen in mother-daughter relationships in everyday life.

The DreamWorks animation follows its titular character (Condor) as she tries to navigate life at High School, the catch is that she and her family are really sea creatures, kraken to be exact.

Ruby is banned from entering the ocean by her mother, but when she falls into the sea whilst trying to save her crush from drowning she realises that she is able to transform into a giant kraken and is actually the heir to the throne.

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This revelation causes conflict with her mother Agatha (Toni Collette), though, because she kept it a secret from Ruby. Now the teen wants to learn how to fight from her Grandmamah (Jane Fonda), the war-lord ruler of the seas, in order to help her new mermaid best friend Chelsea (Murphy), but her mum just wants her to live a normal life.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks)
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks)

Condor was blown away by the film's approach to familial bonds, particularly between Ruby, her mother, and her Grandmamah.

"I think what I love so much about the final product is that we were able to portray mother-daughter relationships in a very honest and realistic way," she says.

"I think that there are often times that mother-daughter relationships in film and television are either portrayed to be super triggering or everything is butterflies and sunshine.

"But, in my opinion I think that it's the middle ground, and I think in our film we were able to show a close knit family that still has fights, that still has disagreements, loves each other unconditionally but also is like 'why would you lie to me?' and has realistic conflict.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks)
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks)

"I loved that, I loved how we were able to make it a realistic mother-daughter relationship."

Murphy concurred as she says that she "saw so much of [herself] and [her] mum in" the movie when she read the script, adding that she hoped other families watching the film might feel the same way.

"I think so many people will because it's inevitable when you're young and you're growing up, and you're figuring yourself out, you kind of push away and you want your independence and you want to figure out who you are on your own," the Schitt's Creek star says.

"So that creates inevitable arguments and conflict between you and your parents, but being able to see that despite the disagreements how much love still exists at the core of things was really cool, and again I saw a lot of my relationship with my mum in that and so I hope a lot of people see themselves in it too."

RUBY, L'ADO KRAKEN RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN 2023 de Kirk DeMicco et Faryn Pearl COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL © DreamWorks Animation - Universal Pictures
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks Animation)

Kirk DeMicco, the film's director, adds that they included the storyline to bring an important message across to both the kids watching the film and their parents.

"I always feel like in these movies we want to have the story that brings the kids in and then we surprise them a little bit with the depth underneath," he says.

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"The relationship between Grandmamah and mum in particular seemed to ring Toni and Jane, it has so much honesty but they both come out of it knowing that they love their daughter/granddaughter most and that love is what heals them."

Giving a modern example, DeMicco adds: "We see it with Greta Thunberg, there are kids and teenagers that can teach you, that's the opportunity, and so that was a nice moment [in the film] that both know that nobody has to be perfect and the real answer lies in communication."

Voicing their characters

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks)
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (DreamWorks)

For Condor, playing Ruby meant trying to convey her unique mannerisms and peppy attitude, which proved to be an interesting challenge for the actor: "I really wanted to lean into her like quirky, nervous talkative side. Physically, she's very spiralled [and] I love that, I really tried to play up her quirkiness.

"In my opinion, her quirkiness is what makes her so endearing and so charming so I really wanted to play that up for sure."

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Despite portraying herself as Ruby's friend, Chelsea is actually a foe and Murphy shares how much she enjoyed lending her voice to a character like her.

"I had a spooky amount of fun playing an evil character," she says. "It was uncomfortably natural and it was very therapeutic, but it was also fun.

USA. A scene from the (C)Universal Pictures new film : Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (2023). Plot:  A shy adolescent learns that she comes from a fabled royal family of legendary sea krakens and that her destiny lies in the depths of the waters, which is bigger than she could have ever imagined. Ref: LMK110-J9960-010623 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken (Universal Films/Alamy)

"I hadn't done a ton of voice work before and it's so different from film acting, you can go in looking like a complete grub, no makeup, sweatpants and then go in and turn it up to 11 right out of the gates and be over the top and ridiculous, and extreme... so that was really fun too to be able to play around with."

Perhaps it was too much fun, though, because the actor reveals she lost her voice whilst acting out a dramatic scene where Chelsea reveals her true form.

"In the scene where Chelsea turns into this like move 100 foot tall evil mermaid I blew my voice out almost immediately," Murphy admits.

"It was a four session, the first session, and by the end of it I had no voice left, but really that was a big challenge and it was really fun to play around and see what felt the most evil, basically."

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is released in cinemas on Friday, 30 June.

Watch the trailer for Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken