Legos made their mark on Stephanie Beatriz.
Long before the “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actress became a star of “The Lego Movie 2,” she enjoyed playing with the plastic building blocks as a kid – and suffered an accident involving the toys when she was 10 or 11.
“Weirdly, I have a permanent scar from a Lego incident,” Beatriz, 37, told the Daily News. “My right eyebrow has a big, sharp scar in it. People have often been like, ‘Do you shave that weird part in your eyebrow like Vanilla Ice?’ No, I got it because I tripped over this massive Lego city that I was building in my bedroom, and had it up in my bedroom for like three weeks or something. My mom kept telling me to take it down and I refused.”
Beatriz had a much more pleasant experience filming the highly anticipated new chapter in the Lego film franchise. She and Tiffany Haddish are the two major newcomers in a cast that also includes returning stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett.
The movie, out Friday, picks up with the city of Bricksburg in chaos following the invasion of the Duplo toys who arrived from outer space at the end of the first “Lego Movie.” Five years after the events of the first film, Beatriz’s character – a tough, helmet-wearing commander named General Mayhem – shows up in an alien spaceship, kidnaps five major characters and brings them to Haddish’s Queen Whatevra Wa’Nabi, the shape-shifting ruler of the Systar System who has a master plan.
Emmet (voiced by Pratt) then embarks on a mission to rescue his friends.
Haddish also grew up playing with Legos and was a fan of the original movie. She felt an instant connection to Queen Whatevra Wa’Nabi when she was approached about the role.
“When they told me that the character was a queen, I was like, ‘Yes, because that’s what I want to be when I grow up,’ “ Haddish joked to The News. “And then when they told me her name was Whatevra Wa’Nabi and that she can be whatever she wants to be, she’s a shape-shifter, I was like, ‘That’s me!’ Because when I change my hair, I’m whatever I want to be.”
The comedian, 39, appreciated that the character shows children they can be whatever they want to be, too.
“The thing that I love the most about the character is, she’s telling them who she is or what she is right off the top. … That’s kind of how I feel in my real life,” Haddish explains. “I tell people who I am and what I am right off the top, and they’re like, ‘Oh, she’s ghetto. She’s this, she’s that.’ But really, I’m not all those things, but that’s their perception. And she does not allow their perception to affect what she wanted to achieve.”
Haddish performs a pair of songs in the computer-animated flick, which is officially titled, “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.”
She says she was “so honored” to be asked to sing in the movie.
“I was like, ‘For real, y’all want me to sing?’” Haddish recalls. “I took a few vocal classes and that helped a lot, and when I saw the movie, I was thinking it would be a lot of auto-tune, but it wasn’t as much as I thought it would be, so that’s great.”
Both Haddish and Beatriz say they were generally accompanied only by some of the film’s makers, and not other actors, for their recording sessions.
Beatriz is a voice-over veteran who has previously done recording work for “Bob’s Burgers” and “Ice Age: Collision Course,” which has been a major thrill for her.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” Beatriz said. “I used to have a Fisher-Price recorder and I would make radio shows where I would play all the different roles. I don’t know, it’s really fun. You’re in this big booth with your directors, and there’s a sound editor and a couple of the writers are there, and you’re just being free and creative and trying things … and making each other laugh.”
The Argentine-born Beatriz, who stars as Detective Rosa Diaz on the NBC cop comedy series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” is pleased to see the public calling for more diversity in Hollywood.
The actress says a “lack of imagination” from those in charge of casting was one of the main challenges in the industry.
“For a long time, it was like, ‘Well, what does a leading lady look like? It looks like this. What does a leading character look like? It looks like this.’ And there was no room for other types of gender identity, or other sexual orientations, or other colors, or other shapes and sizes,” Beatriz said. “Now we’ve kind of reached this tipping point where the public is sort of demanding it. They’re saying, ‘This isn’t enough anymore. I’m tired of watching this story. I don’t identify. I don’t see myself. I want to see myself as part of the conversation.’ “
She said it was exciting playing a character in “The Lego Movie 2” where “there’s no delineation about what ethnicity she is.”
“I won this role based on simply that I was the person that they wanted to play the part,” Beatriz said.
Haddish, too, has observed progress in the industry over the years, and is eager to see more opportunities arise moving forward.
“There will be more, because we have to create projects, too,” Haddish said. “You can’t just expect it to be all about your culture or your thing if you’re not creating the project, so I’m definitely creating.”