12-Year-Old Fan Of Jazz's Monk Is New 'Dora' Dora the Explorer has a new voice: Twelve-year-old Caitlin Sanchez has taken over the title role of Nickelodeon's bilingual animated adventure series. The Fairview, N.J., resident plays jazz piano and likes John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.
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12-Year-Old Fan Of Jazz's Monk Is New 'Dora'

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12-Year-Old Fan Of Jazz's Monk Is New 'Dora'

12-Year-Old Fan Of Jazz's Monk Is New 'Dora'

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And now an item of special interest to a special demographic slice of the audience. I'm speaking of listeners who are likely to be hearing us against their will - strapped in place near a speaker in the rear of a car, in a car seat - the two to four-year-old set.

(Soundbite of "Dora The Explorer" theme)

Are you ready to explore? Come on, Vamanos arriba D-d-d-d-d Dora...

SIEGEL: That's right, one of the most popular characters in toddler television has a new voice. Twelve-year-old Caitlin Sanchez has taken over the title role of Nickelodeon's bilingual, animated adventure series, "Dora the Explorer." The original Dora, Kathleen Herles, had the role for eight years, and she's now in college. Here's Caitlin as Dora riding a horse, "un caballo," to a three king's party, carrying a three king's cake, which flies loose out of her hands.

(Soundbite of "Dora The Explorer" episode)

Ms. CAITLIN SANCHEZ: (As the Voice of Dora) Whoa! The three king's cake.

Mr. HARRISON CHAD: (As the Voice of Boots) Dora, you've got to get it.

Ms. SANCHEZ: (As the Voice of Dora) We've got to run faster. Say, rapido caballo!

SIEGEL: As our target audience knows, at that point, we say, rapido caballo.

(Soundbite of "Dora The Explorer" episode)

Ms. SANCHEZ: (As the Voice of Dora) Louder!

Unidentified Group of Children's Voices: Rapido caballo!

SIEGEL: And needless to say, the horse runs faster, the cake is caught, and all's well that ends well. Caitlin Sanchez, nice performance there, and it's a pleasure to have you on the program.

Ms. CAITLIN SANCHEZ (Actress, Voice of Dora, "Dora The Explorer"): Thank you so much for having me.

SIEGEL: You are already an experienced actress before you got this part. How did you start?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I started acting when I was about eight years old. And I appeared in - first, I appeared in some commercials, and then I - that led onto being on TV, and then I got Dora.

SIEGEL: And I've read that you also play the piano.

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yes, I do. I started playing the piano when I was about five years old. I mostly play jazz piano, but I'm also into Latin music.

SIEGEL: What kind of jazz piano do you play? What kind of music?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I love John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, and great vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

SIEGEL: Now, Dora is a Latina, and she uses Spanish words. You, I gather, are from a Cuban-American family.


SIEGEL: How's your Spanish?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I think my Spanish is pretty good.

SIEGEL: Do you speak Spanish at home, or have you had to learn it in school?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I speak both Spanish and English at home with my grandmother because she only speaks Spanish, no English at all.

SIEGEL: Your abuela.


(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: And did you watch this program? I mean, were you a fan of "Dora The Explorer" when you were younger?

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah. The show first came out when I was about four years old, and I watched it ever since. So, I guess you could say Dora was part of my childhood.

SIEGEL: (Laughing) Yes, well, your childhood still has...

Ms. SANCHEZ: (Laughing) Yeah.

SIEGEL: You're allowed to claim a couple more years, yet. It's not over. But I want to ask you about the challenge of playing Dora, and we have an illustration of you at work. Nickelodeon shared this with us. It's an example of you recording some of your lines.

(Soundbite of recording session for "Dora the Explorer")

Ms. SANCHEZ: (As the Voice of Dora) Do you like parties? Do you like part - sorry. Do you like parties? Hold on, Boots! Hold on, Boots!

SIEGEL: (Laughing) OK, Boots, we should add, is a character in the program.

Ms.SANCHEZ: Yes, he's the little monkey. He's Dora's sidekick.

SIEGEL: I guess you really have to learn how to sell a line when you're Dora the Explorer, huh?

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah, you have to say each line over and over and over again. And then they all just pick the one they like best.

SIEGEL: Yeah, do they tend to like the one that's the most excited, loudest one that you give? Or do they ever pick the subtle one?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I guess usually the most exciting, loudest one. But sometimes, you know - Dora has a great heart, and she's good at being sweet and subtle and - yeah, Dora has many different colors, I guess you could say.

SIEGEL: Many different colors.

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah.

SIEGEL: So when you're recording this, when you have your sidekick, Boots, and you have your cousin, Diego, are you ever together when you record this, or does each of you go individually and record your lines separately?

Ms. SANCHEZ: We record individually, and then they all just splice up the lines together and make into an episode.

SIEGEL: Really?

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah.

SIEGEL: So, you never come together? You had me fooled.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: You're from - where in New Jersey did you grow up?

Ms. SANCHEZ: Fairview, New Jersey, which is in Bergen County.

SIEGEL: Which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. What grade are you in in school?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I'm in seventh grade, and I'm home-schooled.

SIEGEL: Is there a particular role that you would love to play someday and not just in "Dora the Explorer," but, you know, on the stage, say, or in a movie?

Ms. SANCHEZ: No specific role really, but I definitely want to continue acting and music and you know, a few movies along the way. I also love acting on screen as well.

SIEGEL: And you've done that?

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah, a few times.

SIEGEL: Did you have a "Law and Order" episode...

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yes, I did.

SIEGEL: ...that you performed in? Really. It was a "Law and Order: S..."

Ms. SANCHEZ: "SVU," yeah.

SIEGEL: In my house, we always say SUV.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SANCHEZ: My dad does the exact same thing.

SIEGEL: I think all adults say that.

Ms. SANCHEZ: I know.

SIEGEL: I think they all call the program "Law and Order: SUV." But what was the episode that you were in now? What did your character do in that?

Ms. SANCHEZ: Well, the episode guest star's Jerry Lewis, and he plays a homeless man, and I help them find the homeless man who lives in Central Park.

SIEGEL: It's coming back to me. He's the uncle of one of the detectives there.

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah. Yeah, you've seen it?

SIEGEL: I've seen every "Law and Order" program more than once.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SANCHEZ: That's great.

SIEGEL: So, I obviously saw you. I didn't know at the time that you would go on to become Dora the Explorer. Are you at all concerned that if you become too identified with "Dora the Explorer" they'll say, oh, yeah, it's the Dora kid. We don't want to - you know, people will think of - they'll associate her too much with that part. You'll get typecast.

Ms. SANCHEZ: I hope not. I mean, I guess it's easier because I'm just the voice behind her, and nobody really pictures me. I don't know how to explain it. But yeah, I hope that I can go on to do other things, you know, without being typecast as just Dora. But other actors are doing it, like Emma Watson in, like, "Harry Potter." She's doing a lot of independent movies and everything, and everyone seems fine with it.

SIEGEL: Right. I think you're probably right. Well, listen, Caitlin, you know, one of the most - among the several things you've told me that I just find very impressive and very surprising - you're one of the youngest Thelonious Monk fans that I've ever spoken with.

Ms. SANCHEZ: (Laughing) Oh, really?

SIEGEL: Yeah, I became a huge fan of Thelonious Monk when I was almost 20, I think. And I guess it's - the music is very fun, but you know, I don't associate it with people your age. What do you like about his music?

Ms. SANCHEZ: I love how it's different because he always has this really unique style. He kind of hits the piano really hard.

SIEGEL: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Ms. SANCHEZ: And I love his off beats. You know, sometimes he goes on beat, sometimes he goes off. He's full of surprises, I guess you could say.

SIEGEL: Yes, I mean, I think that's exactly what you would say, that he plays things that are both incredibly surprising, and yet, at the same time, once you hear it, it makes tremendous sense that...

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah.

SIEGEL: That should be that note at that particular moment.

Ms. SANCHEZ: Mm hmm. My mom doesn't understand his music. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Well, you know, for parents who will take their kids to piano lessons and hope that they will play the scales properly and be able to maintain a proper rhythm, Thelonious Monk is sort of like the anti-pianist, you know, he's a...

Ms. SANCHEZ: Yeah, definitely. He has his own technique, and his own way of doing things. And that's what I like about him.

SIEGEL: Well, you're a very impressive young woman, and it's been delightful talking with you. Good luck with the part.

Ms. SANCHEZ: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's Caitlin Sanchez, the new voice of the Nickelodeon hit "Dora the Explorer."

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