Eileen Clarke chats with 16-year-old Kathleen Herles, the voice behind the popular, plucky cartoon character

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  • TV Show
  • Nickelodeon

Meet the voice behind Dora the Explorer

She has a voice that could launch a thousand excursions… with a backpack, a map, and a monkey named Boots. We’re talking, of course, about the 7-year-old heroine of Nick Jr.’s Dora the Explorer (check out a special one-hour episode, Dora’s World Adventure, airing Nov. 19 at 8 p.m., and now on DVD). But most people never get to see the real person behind the cartoon: She’s Kathleen Herles, a 16-year-old Long Island, N.Y., girl who’s been lending her vocal chords to Dora since the series began. What’s she really like? EW.com tracked her down.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get started?
KATHLEEN HERLES: I used to do modeling when I was around 4 years old, and I found my manager, Shirley Grant, and she talked to my mom about acting and stuff. She just started sending me to auditions. I did a couple episodes of Sesame Street, and a lot of radio and voiceover stuff. [A few years later] she sent me to the Dora audition. We didn’t think anything of it — we just thought, ”Okay, it’s a new show.” But the same day, maybe three hours later, they called me and said that I got it, and we were so amazed.

Now that you’re getting older, how do you keep your voice sounding the same?
It gets difficult. Sometimes I’ll [slip and] start using my deeper voice, but I just have to take a deep breath and make my voice higher. That’s how my voice was when I was little: really high. I guess it just stuck with me, and I know how to do it now. I go [to record] around twice a week, around two hours, maybe three.

Are you surprised by the success of Dora?
It’s weird. I can’t believe it’s me.

There are so many things out there that Dora’s on, from toys to pajamas. What’s the strangest Dora product you’ve seen?
They just made a doll — the ”Fairy Wishes” one — and the face actually moves and she blinks. It’s kind of freaky… You can see her eyes go up and down and her mouth moves as she talks.

What do your friends at school say about your work?
Most everybody knows… People still come up to me and ask if I can sign an autograph for their niece or their cousin. It’s not bad.

Do you have a favorite Dora saying that keeps going through your head?
The travel song: ”Come on, vamanos, everybody, let’s go!” I always have that in my head.

Do you speak Spanish at home?
Not that much — mostly when my grandma’s here, because she doesn’t speak English very well. [Her parents are from Lima, Peru.]

What other TV shows do you like to watch?
My favorite is One Tree Hill. And House, also. America’s Next Top Model, and Heroes.

Any stars you’d like to work with one day?
I recently met Hugh Jackman at the premiere of Flushed Away. It was a very big moment for me. And I would like to work with Nicole Kidman, or just meet her… anything. I really admire her.

How long do you think you’ll do Dora?
I would love to do it as long as it’s running, and as long as I still can. I don’t get tired of doing it. It’s a lot of fun.

Dora the Explorer

  • TV Show
  • Nickelodeon