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Isabela Moner: “Instant Family showed how wrong we can be about stereotypes”

Instant Family star Isabela Moner on how making the film opened her eyes and playing Dora the Explorer

When most young actors break into the film industry they’re expected to smile, keep quiet and just be happy that they’re caught up in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. But not Isabela Moner.

Despite being just 17-years-old, Moner has two million followers on Instagram and her box office receipts already total over £710 million. Transformers: The Last Knight and Sicario: Day Of The Soldado preceded her most recent release, Instant Family, which revolves around Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne adopting three troubled young children, the eldest of whom, 15-year-old Lizzy, Moner portrays.

When Instant Family was released in cinemas, it met with critical acclaim from respected publications, such as this one, that said it was: “a serious-minded, often tear-jerking message movie dressed in oversize clown shoes.”

But in its marketing, it was the comedy elements that were emphasised over its social message.

“It seemed like a completely different movie and honestly, I was a little disappointed in how the put together the previews for the movie,” Moner says.

“It just didn’t capture the heart of it all. It seemed like just another family comedy. It didn’t look as though it took the whole foster adoption care process seriously.”

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The film was a passion project of writer/director Sean Anders, whose biggest success so far has been the Daddy’s Home franchise, a more traditional family comedy without the nuance. Instant Family instead was based on his and his wife’s experiences of fostering three young children.

“Sean Anders balanced comedy and drama so well, while still managing to give a realistic experience of what it is like if you ever adopt a child,” Moner says. In order to do here character justice, Moner dove deep into research, and became close friends with a young woman named Maria, who the part is “basically based on.”

“Her mother was a meth-head and she was in foster families for years. You would assume she’s messed up now, right? But she is such a well-rounded young woman, who is educated and smart and funny and doesn’t have trust issues. That really opened my eyes to things in life and showed how wrong we can be about stereotypes.”

The cast and crew decided to cancel the red carpet for Instant Family and donate that money to the Red Cross to help take care of the victims of recent forest fires in Los Angeles.

After Instant Family, Moner decided that her approach to future roles would be determined by the impact and reach they have.

“Having done a movie like this, I have been inspired. On the side I enjoy using my platform to help people, and I hope that’s where movies are heading now. I hope movies can inspire people  to do stuff that is greater.”

That includes her title role in the upcoming adaptation of the epically popular Nickelodeon series Dora The Explorer, which is entitled Dora And The Lost City Of Gold, heading for cinemas later this summer.

“It is going to be a big blockbuster, a family adventure comedy, but it is also a crazy game changer in in a big way, too. It is all Latinos in the cast. There is a token white guy, when it is usually reversed.”

Moner compares Dora to Will Ferrell’s lovably naïve character Buddy from Elf. However, Moner says Dora shouldn’t be underestimated. “She has this unbreakable strength that is going to change lives and inspire young people to know that they can do more than what they think.”

Instant Family is out now on Blu-Ray, DVD and available online. Dora And The Lost City Of Gold is released in UK cinemas on August 16

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