Maya Hawke Says ‘Inside Out 2’ Shows How Anxiety ‘Can Be a Force for Good and a Force for Bad’

Riley’s newest emotion in the Pixar sequel explores how anxiety can exist in a “healthy place” inside someone’s head

Anxiety in "Inside Out 2"
Anxiety in "Inside Out 2" (Credit: Disney)

“Inside Out 2” hits theaters in June, and it’s bringing several new emotions along with it — including Anxiety. But according to Maya Hawke, the actress who lends her voice to Riley’s newest emotion, the film will explore how anxiety can exist in a “healthy place” in someone’s head.

In the sequel, Joy (Amy Poehler) and all her friends are back, but now that Riley’s 13 years old, they have to share brain space with new emotions like Anxiety and Embarrassment (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser). According to the director, Shame was very nearly among the new emotions, but was cut for being “too heavy” and “not fun to watch.”

Speaking with TheWrap at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) at the end of April, Hawke explained how she made Anxiety fun to watch, despite the bulk of the character’s personality being something that’s hard to deal with for people in real life.

“When you watch the first movie, Joy is all joy — but Joy has moments of playing inside other emotions, you know? It’s kind of like it’s her dominant set point,” Hawke told TheWrap. “Like, if you went inside Joy’s head, there’s a Joy at the wheel, but … it’s still a fully rounded character, I think. And so I tried to do that with Anxiety, too.”

Hawke was quick to point out that there are multiple types of anxiety that people experience, like nervous energy and excitement. Playing with those variations opened up new possibilities.

“There’s like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so excited to come to this comic-con. And so I’m going to make sure that my outfit’s good, and am I going to be on time? And are people going to like me? All right, I’ve got my lipstick, and I’ve got my bag and I’m already for the airport. OK, here we go.’ Like, that’s a kind of [anxiety].”

She continued, “And there’s also like, ‘Oh no, everyone’s going to hate it, and it’s going to be so bad, and I’m going to be terrible in this movie and no one’s going to want to watch it, and ah!’ Anxiety as an emotion has multiple qualities and can be a force for good and a force for bad.”

“Inside Out 2” examines that juxtaposition, Hawke said, asking, “What healthy place can anxiety hold in your life?”

“Because it’s not going anywhere. And you can’t tamp it down, but maybe you can, you know, use it for your own good,” Hawke elaborated.

As is common in animated features, the actress didn’t get to record in the studio with her costars. But she highlighted other tools that helped her create Anxiety, like the book “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking” by Julie K. Norem.

As Hawke explained it, one takeaway from the book is that “negative thinking sucks, except when it rains, and some people brought umbrellas, and some people didn’t — and the people who brought umbrellas are negative thinkers.” Though Hawke herself likes to walk in the rain, the metaphor is one she appreciated and thought about “a lot” while making “Inside Out 2.”

All that said, Hawke admitted Anxiety was “an exhausting” character to take on. But that exhaustion comes more from the physicality of doing voiceover work.

“I’ve actually generally found that all animation is exhausting because of how emotive it is, and loud and — because you have to force the humanity into the character,” she said.

“My neck hurts after doing it, and my shoulders hurt,” she continued, slipping into Anxiety’s voice. “And I’ve been — I’m like, super tense. And ahh! But it’s so fun, it doesn’t matter.”

“Inside Out 2” hits theaters on June 14, 2024.


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