Interview: Landry Bender

From the interview archives.

You play Makini in The Lion Guard. What’s the most challenging part about voice acting?

The most challenging part is probably the random noises that you have to do. I know it sounds funny, but when my character has to run really fast, or climb a wall, or jump up and down, I have to give them the strangest noises and it feels ridiculous. 

Being so young, you weren’t around for the original Lion King, but did you watch it when you were growing up? How did it feel to be cast in a series that continues such a beloved story?

I did! I have also seen the original on stage. It’s one of those classic animated films that have played a role in so many kids’ childhoods.  It was super exciting. I was so honored to be a part of it.

What Disney film would you love to see re-imagined in this way?

I’ve always loved Monster’s Inc. I still have my ‘Boo’ doll I got for my second birthday! I know it’s probably considered Pixar, but I’ve always loved it so I’d love for a series to be created from that film. 

Speaking of being cast in a series that was a little before your time, who was the first person you told about being cast in The Fuller House, and did you realize how much of a following the original series had when you auditioned?

The very first person I told was my friend Bryce! I’ve known her since we were 3 years old and she had all of the original series on DVD and we used to watch it together!  If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would’ve known as much about the show and I knew she’d be super excited. I did realize the following, I was a part of it, but it’s still so surreal to see the live audience every Friday. They’re so passionate and excited and give off such an incredible energy. 

Who has been your favourite guest star on the show so far?

I don’t know if they’re considered guest stars, but the original cast is lovingly known as ‘the legacy cast’.  When Bob, John, Dave, and Lori come back the vibe instantly changes on set and everyone’s always reminiscing and bursting out into laughter. 

In what way are you and your character Rocki most similar?

To be honest, we’re very, very different.  Clothes, demeanor, attitude – she and I are actually polar opposites. She’s very dark and mischievous, which I definitely am not. I will say deep down she has a really good heart, which I’d like to think I have too.

What’s the silliest thing that has happened on set?

On Fuller, there are always a lot of babies and animals involved. It always makes for some really funny moments when they don’t cooperate and everyone’s laughing because it’s pure cuteness. Mostly the babies, they don’t understand the word ‘cut’ so even though the scene is over they will keep on going and it’s amazing how much of those accidental moments end up in the real show. 

How did you like NYFW? Which designer did you really gravitate towards?

I loved it! It’s the second time I have been and hope to always get the chance to attend. New York is my favorite city in the world – plus the energy around fashion week is insane. I’ve been a fan of Stacey Bendet and Alice & Olivia since I was 11 or 12 years old so to be able to meet her and attend her presentation was amazing.

What’s your favourite part about being in New York City and where is one place you would recommend first time visitors go to?

My favorite part about NYC in overall is just the fast paced atmosphere. The food’s incredible. My favorite restaurant is Serafina; I go there every time I’m in town.  For dessert I love Serendipity or Magnolia Bakery. And being a theatre lover, I feel that it’s mandatory to see a Broadway show while you’re there.  My first was Mary Poppins when I was 10. 

Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

I feel that fashion is a form of self-expression so a lot of my inspiration comes from how I’m feeling that day. I also love classic and timeless pieces; I get that inspiration from Audrey Hepburn, Alicia Vikander, Anna Wintour, and my mom. 

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you? 

I don’t know if this is necessarily a misconception, but I hope people never underestimate how much I love my work. I think in this day in age, so much can be based around social media and the celebrity and fame aspect of it all.  As fun as all that can be, there’s no substance to it. I fell in love with performing at a very young age and have been very lucky to pursue it. I hope people see that in my work and the way I live my life around it.

How do you juggle normal teenage-hood and your busy career? 

It’s definitely difficult. It’s really about time management and understanding that I’m going to have to make some things a priority over other things.      

What’s the biggest difficulty you have with having such a large social media presence and how do you deal with negative comments from strangers? 

The biggest difficulty is probably the misconception of certain things. Something as simple as a sarcastic comment can be misconstrued which can be frustrating but it’s understandable considering my followers don’t know me personally. With that being said, I try to be as authentic as possible. Our world is unfortunately filled with so much that’s artificial and especially having such a young following I think it’s important to be genuine. The negative comments are hard. I feel bad that someone is at a point in their life where they feel the need to spread negativity to others. I pay less attention to it now than I used to.   

When you have a free weekend, what’s your go-to way to spend that time?

I love spending time with my friends and family. I’m also a huge fan of film and TV along with being an actor. I have a list on my phone of different series and films people have told me to watch, so I try to check them off of that list. If we have time to get away for the weekend, I love to go to Palm Springs and stay at the La Quinta Resort. It is perfection!  

What kind of roles or genres would you like to explore in the future?

Everything. I honestly want to be that kind of performer who can do multiple genres and constantly have the opportunity to challenge myself. There’s something a little scary in that, but I never want be completely comfortable. I think challenging myself is a good thing. 

Which actor or actress would you most like to work with?

The list is so long – oh my gosh!  I love Julie Andrews, Betty White, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Neil Patrick Harris, Meryl Streep, and that’s just to name a few.  Even just sharing the stage now with the ‘Fuller House’ legacy cast has been an honor and I have learned so much. 

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