Kathleen Herles Discusses The Next Iteration of Dora The Explorer

Kathleen Herles Interview Image. Image Credit to Madison Polkowitz.
Kathleen Herles Interview Image. Image Credit to Madison Polkowitz. /

Dora The Explorer became a phenomenon of a Nickelodeon children's show when it premiered on August 14, 2000. The animated series followed young Dora going on adventures with her friend Boots, her trusty Backpack, and Map, and fought off the swiping Swiper. For years, Dora was voiced by actress Kathleen Herles, who also voiced the character on the successful show's spinoff, Go, Diego, Go! However, years after Dora The Explorer aired its final episode, this series is one of the latest to get the reboot treatment with Paramount+'s Dora The Explorer: More To Explore. Kathleen Herles will even return to the world of Dora, but this time, taking on the role of Dora's mother. Kathleen Herles discusses what to expect from the upcoming series, what went into the original animated show, and her hopes for her future in animation.

Culturess: How did you get started in acting?

Kathleen Herles: So I started really young. My mom put me in modeling and pageants around four or five, and I actually went to this modeling convention where I was discovered by my management team at the time, Shirley Grant and Dave, and they saw potential in me and talked to my mom and was like, 'Hey, we really wanna sign her and think she's great,' so my mom said, 'Okay,' you know, something new and exciting for us to do. Dora was one of the first very big auditions that I went on, and I booked it. It's been a crazy ride ever since, and it's been most of my childhood, so it's really crazy to think back and look on it as an adult.

Culturess: What was it like to see Dora The Explorer become such a phenomenon in children's television?

Kathleen Herles: Growing up, I knew it broke a lot of barriers. Dora was like the first latino heroine in a children's series and it paved the way for a lot of other shows, animated shows, to teach kids a different cultures, different people, and I understood that growing up but I think now, as a 33-year-old, I understand it so much more and it impacts me so much more. To see how impactful she was, how meaningful she is to so many people around the world, not even just here, in New York, or in the U.S., but it's amazing to see how impacted the world is. It's really incredible. I go to these cons, and I've been going to them the past year and meeting people from all over and in Canada. They share their stories with tears in their eyes. Those moments and those feelings that's when I really realized wow, Dora is huge and she means so much to so many people.

Culturess: What encouraged you to return to the world of Dora in Paramount+'s reboot?

Kathleen Herles: I'm happy you asked this question because I remember getting the audition to be Dora's mom. At first I was like, 'Am I reading this right?' because, you know, you get an email. And I'm like, 'Wow, Dora is coming back.' It was crazy to read because I felt like I was so far removed from that part of my life because at the time I was 31. So over ten years that Dora hasn't been a part of my life like that on a daily basis, so at first I didn't know what to think about it because I knew things would change, times have changed, animation has changed. So I was excited. I also felt really old because now I was auditioning as the mom so that was another thing. But then I started getting really excited and thinking, 'Wow, how impactful Dora is and how big she was and it's so important to have her come back and be reintroduced to a new generation and that's when the excitement started to kick in. So I was like, 'Wow, I'm really excited about this.' I was really thinking about the voice because Dora, when I was 7 years old, that was my voice so I didn't really try to create something new. I was probably more animated but it probably wasn't a new character voice. So now as Mami, when I thought about her voice and coming back to the show, I really thought it would be kind of cool if I kept my normal voice, maybe made it a little more deep sounding or more in my chest so I could sound a little older. But to keep my natural voice. I think when people hear that it's gonna bring back some nostalgia of the original show so I'm really excited for it to be back.

Culturess: What is the biggest difference between working on the project as an adult in comparison to when you worked on the original show as a child?

Kathleen Herles: One of the main things was when I was a kid, I would always travel with my mom into the city to record, and now I'm an adult, I'm married now, but my husband has a full-time job and when I record in studio I go on my own. I just love thinking about that because it shows the growth of the show. It shows my own personal growth like experiencing it on my own was something different that I never had because I was always surrounded by somebody who was watching me. But, I love it and it's okay and it's weird because when I'm in the booth, I'm not nervous. I actually feel really safe and free and I think that just goes to show how much of my life was recording and being a part of the show and so many great memories and that all comes back when I'm in the booth recording for the show so it's pretty cool.

Culturess: Why do you think that Dora has had an impact that has lasted this long?

Kathleen Herles: I think her being Latina and her being the main character, it really is one of the main reasons why I think she's so impactful, especially for the Latino community, for people of color, it was really important to see someone look like them and I say that too because I have spoken to a lot of people who would come up to me at the cons and tell me that, 'Growing up as a kid, Dora was the only person that looked like me and I wanted to look like her, I wanted to go to school with the Dora hair cut, I want to go to school looking like Dora because that's who I love seeing, that representation.' And I love hearing those stories but it also makes me a little sad because for kids to not even have non-animated shows having a character that looks like them and Dora being an animated show and that being the connection to their culture, to who they are, is amazing, and it shows how needed the show was and I know the world has changed and we're talking a lot more, we're being more inclusive. But we still need work, there's still more work to be done. There's more conversations that needs to be had. So I think Dora being reintroduced again is still needed because she's so important.

Culturess: What was your favorite part of including those Latin elements into the show?

Kathleen Herles: I'm gonna say the music. When you hear it, you hear a lot of the same kind of rhythms, the tones, the Salsa feel, and you really feel like the heart and soul of the show too is in the music and you can hear it. And even in the, without saying too much, the new music in the show is gonna homage to the original sounds and the music and I think it's really gonna tie everything together and I love that. I love the music. I love singing the songs and it just beautiful and I really think it just brings it all together.

Culturess: What inspired you to start your YouTube channel?

Kathleen Herles: So that's an interesting question. So growing up, I didn't have social media. I even remember the times where to have a Facebook even you needed to be in college and submit an application to check to make sure you were in college, it's like crazy to think. But I think once social media started to kick I was already ending my time with Dora. I never posted about it. I never posted about like, 'Hey, this is what I've done my whole life." People knew but I was never posting on social media about it. So last year when I was contacted to do these cons they were like, 'Hey, you should post when you're gonna be in a city so people will know where to find you, like meet you.' and I was like okay, and I was a little nervous because I never posted about it and I don't know how people are gonna respond or that I'm gonna be posting about it. So I posted, I started posting on Instagram first because that's what I normally use and the response, I didn't even imagine. I was like, 'People really care about Dora? Wow.' People were showing so much love. So many comments of people sharing their love for the show, sharing their stories, like everything. It was so overwhelming like Dora is still a big deal and it made me feel overwhelmed and so happy that I was a part of it. So I was like, let me start posting on other platforms, so I know YouTube is a big platform so I know YouTube too, you can do different things and categorize them differently. So I've been doing different things and just trying to see what I like and what people like to see me do. I started a few different series. I play a lot of video games. So I've been doing that on YouTube and posting those streams on there and then I just started a reading series of reading children's books, which I also started doing at the cons for families which is nice. So I'm gonna continue doing that and develop that more throughout the year. And I really like YouTube. It's really nice to be able to make longer videos and be able to talk more and people can get more of a sense of who I am.

Culturess: What can you tease about the upcoming Dora The Explorer series?

Kathleen Herles: I don't know if I can say much. All I will say is that people are gonna love it and I really do believe that they're gonna feel the nostaligia of the adults, of people my age, are gonna feel it. They're gonna love it when they see it and then I think the new generation too is gonna love it and love Dora and how she is now. I think it's just gonna be fabulous. I love it and I know everyone's gonna love it. It's so good.

Culturess: What is the most exciting or challenging part of voice acting?

Kathleen Herles: That's a good question. I think for me, and talking about social media, right, there's so much on there. A lot of voice actors now are all over social media and are promoting their craft and their work that they do. But there's also a lot of people who do impressions on social media and I think a lot of times there's a pressure on voice actors because I meet people all the time who say, 'I'm interested in voice acting, what's your advice?' and I say don't compare. I know that social media's flooded with impressionists and people who can do awesome impressions and that's great if you can do them but that can also be overwhelming because not everyone can do that. I know I can't do that. I can try and I'm sure if you work hard on it, figure it out, I'm sure you can do an impersonation. But that's not really what voice acting is so I always try to not comapre myself. Everyone has a unique voice. No one can have your voice and I think that's your strength and I always need to remind myself of that and I always like to remind others of that too.

Culturess: What types of projects would you like to tackle in the future?

Kathleen Herles: I love this question because I kinda took a step back from voice acting after Dora. I went to college. I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. So just recently, like, a year ago, I decided to do voice acting full-time again and so experiencing this now as an adult and trying to create a career again, now, I'm kind of testing everything. I kinda just wanna throw myself out there. I'm taking classes and I'm pushing my skills and I wanna see kinda where my space is, you know. I would love to stick with animation. I would love to do animation. There's so much out there. There's such great things out there so I just love to be a part of it. I would love to stick with animation. So I'm working towards that. Hopefully, throughout this year, in the future, I'll be in some more projects and I'll share them.

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