On the Netflix children’s series Waffles + Mochi, puppeteer and Brownsville native Michelle Zamora lends her voice to the main character Waffles and also provides the moves that bring her to life. She spoke with the Running about what it’s like to turn a puppet into a TV show star.
Did you know right away that as a Latina puppeteer you were a rarity in the industry?
It took me years to understand the weight of what it means to be a Latina puppeteer on set. When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I was like, “I’m just going to do my thing.” But now I can be who I am and have a career playing with puppets. There is still a lot to do for Latino puppeteers.
How did you find the voice of Waffles?
I really wanted to give him a voice grounded in reality. I certainly didn’t want to give him a high-pitched puppet voice. Much of his character is definitely the essence of who I am. It’s just much higher.
Is it harder to work with a puppet while you’re talking?
It’s actually better that I can play in the moment as Waffles. We relied on improvisation, so being able to experience this was amazing. As a puppeteer, you’re so connected to the puppet that once you put it on, it’s kind of like the puppet takes over.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done that isn’t a puppet?
Every time I’m at the restaurant, when I put syrup on my waffles, there’s this little thing that opens [on the syrup dispenser] and I’ll make him say anything. I also like to puppet food. So I will usually puppet my pasta.
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