Kung Fu Panda 2 - Angelina Jolie)
Kung Fu Panda 2 - Tigress (Voiced by Angelina Jolie) ©2011 DreamWorks
Kung Fu Panda 2 - Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie (Tigress) and Po at a photo call in Cannes, France © 2011 DreamWorks

Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie continues to be one of Hollywood’s most talented leading actresses, recently starring in the movies Salt, The Tourist and Wanted.

In the new animated movie Kung Fu Panda 2, she returns as the voice of Tigress, a kung fu master and part of the Furious Five, led by Po (Jack Black), the Panda, who in this film discovers the origin of his birth and has to deal with the fact that he’s adopted.

How was it coming back to the character of Tigress? Did you have a feeling of coming home?

I think it was more fun the second time around. We all got to know each other, and our characters already had a history, so it was fun to jump in and immediately start to play. We didn’t have much time off because they take so many years, you kind of jump in right away. I love her. To me Tigress is one of the best characters I’ve ever played. It’s a pleasure.

Po discovers he’s adopted in this movie.  How do you deal with your own children in terms of them being adopted?

Kung Fu Panda 2 - Angelina Jolie
Tigress (Angelina Jolie) © 2011 DreamWorks

I would say on the adoption front that I think the nice thing about this story is that we’re really growing up with Po, and learning about different aspects of human nature. Whether it be the first [film], being that you can be anything you want, not depending on what you look like or where you come from, but your sense of confidence in finding a self.

In this one it was very much about family and that family at the end of the day is where the love is, and that no matter what you have gone through in your youth, it’s who you choose to be in life. You can define your own destiny and you can be stronger than a very difficult past and overcome it. I think these are all heavy issues that are wonderful that we have the opportunity to be able to do.

I brought my children to see the movie and they absolutely loved it. They laughed through the whole thing. I wondered whether they’d ask me questions about it, but because adoption and birth mothers and orphanages in our home are happy words, they are very used to these discussions and they just felt that much more proud that they were a little more like Po. So it was lovely.

Having six children at home, does it make you more interested in doing films like this?

Kung Fu Panda 2 - Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black and Angelina Jolie
Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) looks on as Po (Jack Black) and Tigress (Angelina Jolie) prepare for another adventure © 2011 DreamWorks

At the end of the day we’re all big kids and we all just want to play. We all like to do these movies. It’s a great deal of fun. But certainly having my kids, they are from 2 to 10, so we figured this was a good group to get a gage whether or not the film was working, and we brought them in. In so many ways I did it for them and I’m excited for them to see it.

How do you deal, both as an actress and as a parent, with violence in movies? How do you look at this film and find the balance of just enough violence, but not too much for kids?

I think you have to know your children, because I think there are children that have a better understanding and are ready earlier than others. But for a film like this, I don’t see this as a film that’s too violent. I think actually it’s quite the opposite, because the strength, even in the final battle, is the inner peace and the way of sending back somebody’s negative energy is actually what wins against the manic aggression, violence and war weapons. It’s the one that doesn’t want to use violence, but the one that chooses to find a center.

Is this the golden age of animation?

Kung Fu Panda 2 - David Cross, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, and Lucy Liu
Po (Jack Black, center) and The Furious Five (left to right) Crane (David Cross), Tigress (Angelina Jolie) Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and Viper (Lucy Liu) are back © 2011 DreamWorks

I hope so, I think so, I feel like I’m very lucky to be a part of these animated films today, especially this one. I feel very emotionally connected to this one, and I think it’s quite beautiful. I think the messages are very strong. It takes so much talent for the directors and writers to be able to make a film that makes the kids giggle and laugh and get excited about all the action. And it’s 3D and it’s beautiful and then somehow underneath it they learn these pretty heavy life lessons. As a parent that’s something you really want to be able to give your kids.

You said that Tigress is one of the best characters that you’ve played. Why is that?

I think the original Tigress was wonderful, in that it was chosen that one of the strongest leaders of the Furious Five was a woman. When I first saw the characters I didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl but I wanted to play her, whoever she was because I liked her. And I was very excited that it was a girl. And for my daughters and for me, I thought it was great.

We talked a lot about the fact that Po has for a male character a lot of sensitivity and emotion, and so it seems like a very nice balance that she’s kind of the harder one that needs to learn to be a bit more emotional, and he’s the very emotional one that is getting tougher. We’re yin and yang.

After all your films, how do you feel to be known as a tiger after all your years of work?

It’s the film that my kids love and it’s the film that you travel around the world and little kids want to talk to you about, so that’s better than anything.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.