EXCLUSIVE: Viola Davis Talks Voicing The Chameleon For Kung Fu Panda 4; Says It Gave Her ‘A Sense Of Freedom To Just Be Silly’

In an exclusive conversation with Pinkvilla, Oscar Award-winning actress Viola Davis spoke about her Kung Fu Panda 4 role and how it gave her a sense of freedom to 'just be silly' for a few hours.

Published on Feb 26, 2024  |  06:36 PM IST |  122.4K
Viola Davis voices The Chameleon in Kung Fu Panda 4 (Warner Bros Discovery, Getty Images)
Viola Davis voices The Chameleon in Kung Fu Panda 4 (Warner Bros Discovery, Getty Images)
Key Highlight
  • Viola Davis talks about voicing The Chameleon for Kung Fu Panda 4
  • Director Mike Mitchell weighs in on Viola Davis' Kung Fu Panda 4 character
  • About Kung Fu Panda 4

Mike Mitchell’s highly-anticipated Kung Fu Panda 4 is all set to hit the theatres next month. Comedy icon Jack Black will return to reprise the role of Po, the world’s most unlikely kung fu master, in almost a decade and present a hilarious new chapter in DreamWorks Animation’s beloved action-comedy franchise. Joining the ensemble as new characters, Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis will portray The Chameleon, a wicked, powerful sorceress and Golden Globe winner Awkwafina will play Zhen, a crafty, quick-witted thief.

Ahead of the release of the film, Viola Davis exclusively spoke to Pinkvilla about her Kung Fu Panda 4 character and shared how the role gave her “a sense of freedom just to be silly for a few hours.” ‘The Woman King’ star also shared her experience of working with Mitchell and co-director Stephanie Ma Stine. Pinkvilla also sat down for a chat with director Mike Mitchell who shared his insights on the role of Davis’ The Chameleon.

A still from Kung Fu Panda 4 (Warner Bros Discovery)

Viola Davis talks about lending her voice to The Chameleon in Kung Fu Panda 4

In Kung Fu Panda 4, Davis voices The Chameleon, a new force disrupting the tranquility of the Valley of Peace in Kung Fu Panda 4. The character, remarkably, is the EGOT winner’s first role in an animated feature film. The Chameleon is a powerful sorceress who has always been underestimated by her opponents until they’ve seen what she can do. The sharp-tongued and surprisingly funny pint-sized lizard can shape-shift into any creature no matter how big or small, though she often opts for the big ones.

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In an exclusive conversation with Pinkvilla, Davis shared how she liked the complexity and juxtaposition of the tiny creature with big dreams and a big voice. “That, alone, was fun and defied expectations,” Davis said. “Depending on the situation she finds herself in, The Chameleon’s voice changes—whether she feels overcome, insecure or at the peak of her power. I challenged her journey and played with it. I wasn’t always sure if it would land, but I was happy to just explore the voice within the realms of this tiny creature,” the actress shared.

During her exclusive conversation with Pinkvilla, Davis also shared that working with Mitchell and Stine was fun and challenging, in the best way. “Working on this film gave me a sense of freedom to just be silly for a few hours, and I had forgotten what it feels like—just to be silly,” she shared. “They encouraged a sense of play and gave me the license to push the envelope,” Davis stated.

“Being given permission to be free with my silliness, ideas and voice helped me overcome any anxieties that I had going into it. I think the freshness of these films is fueled by the actors’ imagination when they step into the room, and when you have awesome leaders who give you permission to bring new ideas to a well-established franchise, that’s what keeps it feeling vibrant,” she further explained.

Davis also attributed the franchise’s enduring popularity to its characters being reluctant heroes. “I think that sparks something in all of us,” she mentioned. “Po doesn’t necessarily look like a warrior, but it sparks the imagination and allows the viewer to envision what they can become,” Davis added. “It feels great to be part of this group now. I’ve always wanted to do an animated movie, and with this film, I felt like the right character and the right group of people found me, and I’m just happy to be in their company,” she shared.


ALSO READ: Kung Fu Panda 4 Super Bowl TV Spot Shows Jack Black's Po Facing Off Against Baby Bunnies And A Wicked Chameleon

Director Mike Mitchell weighs in on Viola Davis’ Kung Fu Panda character

While speaking exclusively with Pinkvilla, director Mike Mitchell weighed in on Viola Davis’ Kung Fu Panda character, The Chameleon. He said that the character was introduced to the franchise as a deliberate move to bring a fresh challenge for Po. “We realized the absence of a powerful female villain to go up against Po in this franchise, so we decided to fill that gap,” Mitchell said. “Wanting to add a supernatural element, we came up with the idea of a shape-shifter who could morph into any animal from the world of Kung Fu Panda. The natural choice became a chameleon. The Chameleon’s supernatural powers make her the most epic villain the franchise has ever seen,” he added.

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Despite The Chameleon being the smallest villain Po has ever faced, Davis’ performance makes her the most terrifying villain the franchise has seen yet. “With The Chameleon, we have an epic, beautiful design,” Mitchell shared. “And then when you add Viola Davis’ voice to it, man, does this character come to life,” he added. “With Viola’s voice, you would never consider how tiny this character is. Her voice is big, and the performance is empowering, and that’s exactly what we needed for The Chameleon. It was a perfect match,” the director explained.

About Kung Fu Panda 4

The Kung Fu Panda franchise, which has spanned almost 16 years and has amassed a staggering nearly 2 billion USD in global box-office success, will delve into a new era with Kung Fu Panda 4. The upcoming film will see the narrative taking a compelling turn, guiding Po on an internal journey of growth and change. The saga, which at its core revolves around Po overcoming fear and the exploring power of teamwork, will continue to captivate audiences across the world with the new installment.

Alongside Black as Po, Davis as The Chameleon and Awkwafina as Zhen, Kung Fu Panda features the voice talent of returning stars Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman as kung fu master, Shifu; James Hong as Po’s adoptive father, Mr. Ping; Academy Award nominee Bryan Cranston as Po’s birth father, Li, and Emmy Award nominee Ian Mcshane as Tai Lung, Shifu’s former student and arch-nemesis. Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan will join the ensemble as a new character, Han, the leader of the Den of Thieves. A DreamWorks Animation, Kung Fu Panda 4 is distributed by Universal Pictures (Warner Bros. Discovery) and will be released in theatres across India on March 15 in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Zendaya Talks Reprising Chani In Dune: Part Two And How She Connects To Her Character; ‘I Think She’s A Lot Tougher Than I Am’

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