Recently, we sat down the the beautiful Mizuo Peck, best known for her portrayal as Sacajawea in the Night At The Museum series to prep for the release of the final film in the series, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. We spoke with her about her acting career, that began in a school with many other famous alumni, and got candid about her time in this popular series. She discussed her methods for portraying a historical figure, what it’s been like to be a part of this series, and her thoughts on Robin William’s impact on the film.
How did you get your start in acting?
I started acting when I was 11-years-old. I was apart of this really great theater company, called TADA!, which is still going strong today. They have a lot of great alum, like Iggy Azalea and Kerry Washington. It really changed my life and got me into this world. I auditioned by singing this song and it got me out of my skin and got my very confident and I learned how to be focused. They really treated us like professionals. We weren’t allowed to get away with, “oh they’re just kids,” no, this was a professional company.
Growing up, did you have any actors/actresses you found inspirational and used as motivation?
Oddly enough, for a long time as a kid I looked up to Johnny Depp. Not only did I think I looked like him a little bit, but also I enjoyed that after 21 Jump Street he could have gone on the pretty boy path, but he fought convention and did all the crazy roles and he wanted to focus on genuine character work. I just remember thinking that was amazing thing to look up to. These days I think there are a lot of actors and actresses that are doing a really great job. I also really like these indie people, like Miranda July and Emily Mortimer, I’m really impressed by her career. Just actresses that are really smart and savvy, who create the work for themselves.
Are there any actors/actresses you’d like to work with in the future? Like someone, that you need to work with?
No, I’d be honored to work with any of them. The list of Cate Blanchett’s, they’re the ones that I idolized. It’d be great to work with them. But for the most part, I just want to be girlfriends with them. I think we’d get along, like Lena Dunham.
What is it like to portray a historical figure? Is there any pressure because people actually know who that person is?
I swear, I did so much research on Sacajawea, because it’s so important to me to make her real. We are playing wax statues of these characters, but her story is so fascinating, so it was really cool for me to watch all these documentaries and read all these books about her life. I could tell you so many stories about her, she was such an asset to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Do you have a particular style for preparing for this role?
Yeah, I read a lot of books. Watched a lot of documentaries. I went to the American Indian Natural History Museum all the way down in Bowling Green, which was beautiful to see all the different artifacts and they have modern Native American art. I also read some of the children’s stories that they had at the library there. It was nice to learn and research, it felt like a great way to get in touch. I took a lot from my time out west, visiting the different reservations and the countryside.
Is there any other historical figure, male or female, you’d like to portray?
As far as playing another historical figure man or woman, it would be fun to play a wild and eccentric artist like Salvador Dali. How about Josephine Baker, the barrier breaking roaring 20’s entertainer? The Japanese artists Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono are still very much alive and creating their courageous art. I think they’re great and I’d love to portray them some day.
What’s been your favorite trait about this character, as this is the third time you’re portraying her, what do you think is the best thing about her?
It’s funny, because this time around Sacajawea really gets to put her leadership skills out there. She gets to take charge and she gives some sagely advice to Ben’s character, now that they’ve known each other through the years, she’s able to give him some advice about parenting, She’s very confident. There are so many words to describe her, she’s brave and resilient. In one word, I would say she is wise. She does impart her opinion ad advice. She is someone Ben Stiller’s character listens to and looks up to, because she knows what’s up.
So, how would you say what her relationship with Ben Stiller’s character (Larry Daley) is in these films?
Sacajawea has become a link between the magical creatures that are coming alive in the museum. Carla Gugino’s character (Rebecca), the female interest in the film, and he kind of presents Sacajawea as a gift to her to prove he’s not crazy. I think I was like a friend, along with Ahkmenrah and Attila The Hun, we are all a team with Ben. Which is fun, we encounter obstacles together, along with Teddy Roosevelt of course, who is like the team leader, but Ben is the leader too. We’re a very democratic team, everyone gets a say and is respected.
Is there a moment you think fans will look forward to in this movie?
This time around it was really great. What was different is that I’m holding a monkey the entire time.
What was it like working with the monkey?
It was amazing. Yes, I’ve worked with Dexter before and me a Dexter really get to bond. I’m basically carrying Dexter the entire time. People all want to believe that Dexter is a boy, but she’s not. It’s a girl, she’s Crystal. Crystal and I bonded very much. What was amazing is the gestures she gives you. She shows you when she trusts you, when she puts her hands over her teeth, it’s an act of submission to show she won’t bite you. When she gets really comfortable, she grooms you. It was actually a great honor to work with her. And saying goodbye to her at the end, she was at the cast party and she reached out her hand. It was heartbreaking, it was like tearing myself away from this child. She had such a connection with me.
Twentieth Century Fox
Is there any museum you wish you could have unlimited access to like in these films?
The Lourve. That was always the name thrown around, that it would be the next museum we were going to go to. That would be absolutely amazing. I think it would be romantic and mysterious to walk through. We were able to walk through the British Museum at night and it was eerie and really cool to have free reign.
How do you feel like this film will reflect on Robin Williams’ memory? Is there is any scene with him that you feel you’ll really keep with you?
Oh absolutely! Robin and I, from the very start, had a really sweet relationship. Teddy and Sacajawea’s relationship does continue on into this third movie. This time around, we were arm and arm, walking around the halls of the museum. Checking things out, checking in on each other. We had this strength and trust in each other. He was my Teddy. I’m always going to remember him as that. He’ll always have a special place in my heart. I do think this movie will be such a celebration of his genius. I feel so lucky to have gotten a glimpse of his wild personality and his spirit. I feel very grateful to have been able to work with him.
How is it going to be, promoting this film and watching it on the screen after his untimely passing?
It’s going to be really tough to watch. Without what happened, the movie is kind of takes a serious note. In the movie, there’s a lot of mortality issues, even though we are mannequins. The tablet that keeps us alive is failing. I think there’s a lot of heart wrenching moments. With Robin’s passing, it’s going to be even more bittersweet to watch.
What was it like working with him?
He’s just pure joy. Especially in this character, you know just the strong, leadership of Teddy Roosevelt in this film. I mean, he is a shining light. I’ll never forget when I first got the job, my agent was like, “Okay, you’re going to be riding a horse…with Robin Williams.” I knew there was going to be some famous people in the film that I wasn’t expecting. It’s been an amazing ride.
What can we expect to see from you in the next year?
I would love to do television! I want to use this momentum to go into pilot season, which is the beginning of the year. I would love to book a TV series. I just got new agents, so I’m going to get on it.
What is it about a TV show you’d like? I know some actors don’t like to do both film and television.
I think these days television is a whole other ball game. It’s so well written and so high quality. I think it’s a dream world of stability. You know, I’d do a million films. But with films, they’re a couple months and then they’re over. With some jobs, it’s only a couple days and it’s over. So that just means you keep having to look, which is obviously part of being an actor, you’re always looking for the next gig. I have this fantasy of rolling up to set and getting ready for the day. There’s just a family feeling that I’m seeking.
Is there anything you’d like to add that you want our readers to be looking forward to in the film?
There’s so many good things! You know, the film is going to be like a surprise to me. There’s so many times we are fighting things that aren’t there. That is an interesting thing to look for, when we’re fighting the 9-headed Chinese dragon, it isn’t there. The was one stunt thing I did, which wasn’t much of a stunt, but wasscary for me. In one part of the movie, I’m opening the doors of the planetarium, not only is it digitally done, I’m on a 30-feet cherry picker. It was most frightening thing, I didn’t realize I was afraid of heights until I got up there. And that’s the magic of movie making.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is in theaters December 19th! Make sure you see it in theaters for one final, incredible ride.