In Disney’s animated musical-comedy, Wish, Asha, a sharp-witted idealist in the kingdom of Rosas, makes a powerful wish that’s answered by Star, a ball of boundless energy. Soon, Asha and Star must face a formidable foe – the ruler of Rosas – to save her community and prove that when one brave human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things happen.
Wish will be available at all major digital retailers on January 23 and arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on March 12. Disney fans who buy the movie can enjoy hours of never-before-seen bonus material, including a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, and much more.
Earlier this month, we sat down for a chat with Angelique Cabral to discuss her role as Queen Amaya in Wish. She took us on a deep dive into how she approached the character and what it meant to be part of a project which celebrated an amazing 100 years of Disney Animation.
The actress – who many of you will likely recognise for her work in Life in Pieces, Undone, and Big Sky – also reflects on Amaya originally being a villain alongside the evil King Magnifico and shares some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and secrets. We also hear from Cabral on the experience of singing “Knowing What I Know Now” and the possibility of reprising this role in a Wish sequel or spin-off.
You can watch our full interview with the actress in the player below (via Toonado.com).
I wanted to start by talking about Queen Amaya’s big mic drop moment during “Knowing What I Know Now.” What do you remember about the experience of performing that song?
That was probably the highlight of my life so far, I’ll be honest with you. Recording the music with Benjamin Rice and Julia Michaels in the room and working on the music…I’ve been a musical theater actress for years and I studied musical theatre in college [but] I haven’t sung in about 15 years. Like, ‘ How I will learn to sing?’ Just because I’ve been on TV for so long, right? And all of my shows didn’t have any singing. So this was a thrill of a lifetime. I couldn’t wait to go into the recording studio. It was emotional. Actually, I felt like it was emotional for Queen Amaya, that mic drop moment, where she has this turn. She’s turning against her husband, and then also turning towards her people [who are] turning towards her kingdom. So it was a really emotional moment. I cried, quite a bit, during the recording of it, and when I listen to it back, and my kids have been listening to it on repeat…it’s like everyone’s favourite part of the song! It’s also just like a great anthem. The song is so incredible. So I’m just really grateful. I’m just grateful for the music and that moment and I’m so proud of it. It sounds so good on the recording and in the movie, you’re just like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.’ She’s so cool, right? It’s amazing. Yeah.
Were you able to perform alongside Ariana [DeBose] and the rest of the cast?
Actually, in the recording of the movie, we never met, we never saw each other. We never ran into each other. I actually met Ariana at a restaurant here in Los Angeles at a party, and I went up to her. I was like, ‘Excuse me, I’m Queen Amaya, and you’re amazing, and I can’t believe we’ve been working together for 2 years, and I’ve never really met you.’ I’ve still yet to meet Chris Pine. I know Alan [Tudyk] and that’s it. I’ve met him just doing some press, but we never get to see each other or be in the room together.
I’ve read that the original plan was for Amaya to be a villain, pet cat and all, so were you ever privy to that version of the character and how did you feel about the change?
When I first auditioned for this movie, it wasn’t called Wish. It was just called Disney’s, you know, big, animated…there was a working title…but it was Disney’s 100 years of Disney movie. She was an evil queen. So my first audition, the sides were evil and I had to sing a song. I actually sang Ursula’s theme song like the evil queen from The Little Mermaid and I thought, ‘This is fun! This is cool.’ I knew nothing. They don’t give you a script, right? So you just have your sides. And I did it. It was wonderful. But then, several months later, it’s a long process, and when I had my call back, the sides were completely different. The character was completely different. She was grounded, and she was loving. She was rather maternal and I loved her. And so that’s the version that they ended up going with, obviously in production and even when we would work on some scenes throughout the recording. It was about a year of recording. They would come back sometimes the next session, and she would be tweaked and a little kinder. I think they wanted to lean into the difference between the evil king and the kind of maternal, loving grounded Queen, so it was really cool to watch her change. I was excited to see the difference.
Were you surprised the movie gave you a chance to explore Amaya’s relationship with King Magnifico and the way it breaks down as the story progresses?
Yes, I was thrilled. And also, I just think it’s such a great journey for any artist to be able to go through this and see the change from the beginning to where she ends up in the movie. And I think it’s also just such a beautiful story of resilience and perseverance. And Queen Amaya turns out to save the day in a lot of ways with the teens and Asha. I feel like it’s a dream come true to play a strong female character in a Disney film that millions and millions and millions of children, including my own daughter and these young girls, are now gonna grow up with this kind of role model. And the whole movie speaks to that. It’s really such a beautiful story because it’s not a love story. It’s a story of love for the kingdom or the people, and doing greater good and thinking of others. And Asha is just such a great heroine. She goes out on a limb, and she puts everyone before herself, and I just love watching her. And then Queen Amaya, stepped up to meet her. I think it’s such a beautiful story. I’m so proud of it.
The movie was a big part of last year’s Disney100 celebrations, so how did it feel when you learned of its importance to Disney Animation?
I mean, this whole thing has been surreal. It still feels I pinch myself every day. It feels monumental. And it’s really your part of the history of Disney. Right? And it’s a joy, and I feel I just can’t say it enough. I’m just so proud of the project and the people involved. And how it’s being received! I’m proud of my character. I’m proud of how Queen Maya has been received. I keep hearing that people love her, and she’s like a favourite character, so that makes me feel so proud, and I love when my friends from my whole life, from college and growing up, are telling to sending me selfies with their kids in the theater, and everyone’s seeing it. For the first time, I feel part of something bigger, because I do a lot of TV shows that not everyone watches. There’s a certain genre that watches comedies on TV and sometimes they’re polarizing, and sometimes you don’t have Hulu, or you don’t have Netflix. It depends on like where you’re watching your shows but this is a Disney movie. Everyone’s watching Disney, and that’s how I feel. I feel like I have a family around me just kind of soaking it all in, and to be a part of that feels greater than anything I’ve ever dreamed of, and I just hope to keep doing it. I’m just so ecstatic to be a part of this family. This Disney family.
I don’t believe Amaya’s wish was mentioned in the film itself, so do you have any insights into what it was?
I wasn’t. I wasn’t given any insights, really. And I had done a little bit of character work on that. As to what I think Queen Amaya wishes, I think Queen Amaya’s wish is always for Rosas. I think she just is the matriarch and the Queen, and the loving, benevolent Queen of Rosas, and I think that above all, she wants happiness and peace for her kingdom, and she wants the best for her people, and I think that’s where you see the dichotomy between her and Magnifico. That’s what I always played. If you’re asking what my wish was, I always played just a wish for Rosas, and that’s why I think that she comes out on top.
The film’s animation style is also really unique; was it quite early in the process that you got to see some of that and your character design? Did it help with your performance in any way?
You know I didn’t see the entirety. They showed me kind of early on a version of Queen Amaya and I loved seeing that because she’s so regal, and she’s so confident, and she’s so calm. And there was something so beautiful about her cape…and these were just renderings, right? These are just like sketches, but I had no idea about the beautiful 2D backgrounds where it looks like watercolour. I didn’t know any of that until I saw it in the theater for the first time in November with the rest of you, so I had really no idea of the scope of the art. But, Queen Amaya, I had some insights and I just think she’s so poised and regal, so that did help a lot. If I was ever having trouble with a line, I would think back or they would always show me her before I went into the session. That really helped a lot.
As an actor, what do you enjoy most about stepping into the recording booth for a voiceover role like this one?
I hadn’t ever worked in voiceover to this extent, and I was thrilled at how you can kind of go into the character and how you’re not worried about how you look. Your make-up, your hair. The last touches, you know, final touches and lighting, and it’s it’s a very freeing. It’s very fun. And you just dive in, and then you can do no wrong. You really just play play, play. So you feel like you’re on a playground. It feels like theater. It feels like live theater. It’s so fun. I remember being in the middle of this and just thinking, ‘I want to keep doing this. I want to keep doing this, and I want to get so good at this.’ By the end, I felt so confident. At the beginning. I didn’t really know what I was doing. You’re just kind of like faking it till you make it. And by the end, I was like, ‘This is a dream.” And I will be forever changed. And it’s helped my acting, too. As I’ve gone on and done some other stuff this year, I feel a sense of ease and comfort and confidence. I think an easy confidence that I don’t think I had until I worked through Queen Aaya.
Magnifico gets his comeuppance at the end of the movie, but do you think he might ever be redeemed and freed from that mirror or was it too late for him in your eyes?
Maybe. I think she says something in the movie where we need to break the hold that the spell has on him right? So I think that Queen of Maya knows that she is dealing with a man under a spell. I don’t think that’s really who Queen King Magnifico is, and I think Queen Amaya knows that. If there ever was a a continuation of the story, I do think that there’s a way for them to reconcile, and I think there’s a way for him to apologize, and maybe pay his due. I don’t know. Maybe he has to do something to make it up to her and somehow prove himself again. Or maybe he’s in purgatory for a while. I don’t know, but I think that for sure there’s a way for them to reconcile, and maybe he becomes a benevolent ruler again. Maybe, maybe. We’ll see.
Since the film came out, Queen Amaya is everywhere – you even have your own Funko Pop – so what has it been like to see yourself in that huge Disney machine?
Yeah, I mean, it’s surreal. I’ve never had it all before. So now I do. And it’s wild. Like you said, it’s a Disney machine. It’s amazing. You feel like you’re just part of this bigger-than-life entity. I went to Disneyland, and I went into the big store and there it is in Disneyland. Wish is everywhere throughout the park. The little stars and Valentino. It’s amazing. It’s incredible.
We’ve often seen movies like this get sequels either on the big screen or streaming. Would you like to continue Amaya’s story now she’s Queen of Rosas?
I can’t even believe you’re asking me that [Laughs] Of course I will go right now. I’ll beat everyone there. Yes, of course it would be a it would be a thrill. And I think there’s more story to tell. I want to see what Asha does next and how she becomes a greater version of herself, because I think she’s left with all these magic powers, and we don’t know where she’s going to go. I’m really excited to see what happens to Asia and to all of us.
Wish will be available on Digital platforms starting January 23 and arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on March 12.