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Kiersey Clemons, currently starring in the animated Scooby-Doo adventure Scoob!, had a blast collaborating with director Tony Cervone (Space Jam, Duck Dodgers) on her role as Dee Dee Skyes in the updated retelling of the classic '70s cartoon. Besides getting to wear sweatpants every day (a sartorial choice the actress is currently wary of in this self-isolating world), Clemons was excited about the updates to the classic character. Dee Dee now pilots the Falcon Fury, shuttling the superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his canine sidekick, Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), wherever they need to go to save the day. In Scoob!, this includes saving the Scooby gang — Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Shaggy (Will Forte), and, of course, Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) — from the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs).
Clemons has already had some incredible roles in her young career: Diggy in the coming-of-age movie Dope alongside Shameik Moore; the android Lucy in the sci-fi series Extant with Halle Berry; and starring in both the live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp and the creature feature Sweetheart in 2019. But this role is decidedly some of the most fun she’s had on a project.
Dee Dee (voiced initially by actress Vernee Watson) first appeared on Saturday morning cartoon Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. Similar to Velma Dinkley of the Scooby gang, Dee Dee was always the smartest and most level-headed of the group, especially when the girls were in trouble. Aside from Dee Dee’s cool demeanor, everything else about the character has been completely revamped for Scoob! The short skirts and turtlenecks are gone, replaced with a power suit Iron Man would be proud of. As the pilot of the Falcon Fury, as well as its tactician and engineer, she pretty much runs the ship. If you thought that was Blue Falcon’s job, think again — in this iteration, the brains of the operation are definitely Dee Dee and Dynomutt.
SYFY WIRE spoke to Clemons about her role in the film (which is now available on VOD, after the coronavirus pandemic shuddered theaters globally), the importance of diverse representation onscreen, and why she dedicates this latest performance to her dad.
This movie comes at a perfect time because so many folks are stuck at home, looking for something fun to watch. How have you been spending time in self-isolation?
I've been gardening. On the first day of being stuck at home, I planted potatoes and onions and collard greens and kale. And so it's nice to see that stuff grow, and it kind of keeps track of time, and it can be really metaphorical if you let it. I've just been cooking and hanging out with my dog and swimming and praying and, you know, just trying to stay sane.
Were you a Scooby fan growing up?
I was, but my generation, I think, is more familiar with Scooby-Doo from the live-action version. But when I was younger I did watch the cartoon because my dad loves Scooby-Doo and now my little brother watches it, too. So he's excited to see the movie. It was a part of my childhood in a way that I'm really grateful for because this movie kind of gives me this nostalgic feeling and I can dedicate it to my dad.
Compared to her original appearance in Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels back in the day, Dee Dee has a different role in this movie. What did you think about her updates?
Yeah. She's in a different world, new friends, new hairdo, new suit; she's a whole new woman. She had to step her game up!
I think that for all of the young femme identities at home during isolation, it will be nice for them to see Dee Dee and to see her strength and the way in which she handles this boss who's really not great at his job.
No, not at all. Blue Falcon really is a terrible boss.
Yeah, she takes on all of this responsibility, but with integrity and humor and intelligence, and she's excited to do the work. She does not let his shortcomings get in the way. At the same time, she really lifts him up and encourages him, and I think she's just a very well-rounded character that I'm happy exists in this version of Scooby-Doo.
Her updated design really was great. Did you have anything to do with her new look?
Not really, but I was excited to see the sketch of her for this movie because I had only seen, you know, the Teen Angels version. Seeing her kind of validated and reinforced this idea of that representation is important and continues to be important. As an actor sometimes I feel like, “Am I doing enough?”
And when I saw the sketch, it made me feel good and it’s important [to me] that little Black girls everywhere will also feel represented.
Were you ever in the studio with Mark Wahlberg or Ken Jeong or any of the other actors at all?
No, we were always separated. I mean, it would be possible to do the job and be with everyone, but it would be so hard to get the recording done! I have worked with Ken Jeong, who voices Dynomutt, before. He had a cameo in a Lady and the Tramp, so we were familiar with each other. Then I did Neighbors 2 with Zac Efron. And so I knew other people in the cast. And everyone else, it's just an honor to be able to be a part of an amazing cast — [in] animation or not, you know?
Ken is hilarious. Did you get to see him on the press tour? Or has that been remote too?
He is so funny, we did a bunch of interviews together for Scoob! before [the pandemic shutdown], and I just let him talk. He's a great counterpart to me because if I can let someone else talk and I can just make faces, that's a dream world for me. Ken's awesome. I really hope that we get to work together again.
Were you allowed to improvise? They were animating to your voices later, right?
Tony definitely let me improvise and change things to make [Dee Dee] feel more relatable. They really are inspired by the actors’ mannerisms and maybe the little phrases that you say and the words that you use.
I remember the first draft of the script was not really like me. Dee Dee was more Type A and there was a lot of jargon that she used and she was a little more, I want to use the word “hard.” After working with Tony Cervone, the director, we found that there was a way to make her funny and relatable and still get the job done.
She's a human and she's soft and these are her friends, and I wanted to make her a real person in the real world.
What was your favorite thing about working on this project?
I think my favorite thing was honestly working with Tony. We had so much fun. You're in the booth for a long time and it's dark. It can be hard to find inspiration or keep your energy up. We just got along really great and I really looked forward to going in there and getting to work with him every day.
Fantasy question: The Falcon Fury is a pretty amazing machine that you get to pilot. So, let's say Dee Dee was able to take the Falcon Fury to Wakanda, what's the first stop she's making when she gets off the ship?
Oh my gosh. OK, so Falcon is staying on the ship. He's not getting off in Wakanda, I’m not having that. My first stop would be wherever Winston Duke is. What’s his tribe again?
The Jabari! So you’d go see M'baku?
Scoob! is now available on VOD.