The new animated film, Ferdinand tells the story of a giant bull (voiced by John Cena) with a big heart. After being mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure. Set in Spain, Ferdinand proves you can’t judge a bull by its cover.
Here, Cena opens up about connecting with his character, how he finds inner peace and the important messages in the film.
WHAT MAKES FERDINAND AN IMPORTANT UNIVERSAL STORY EVEN IN OUR CURRENT CYNICAL WORLD?
I think that making a good movie is important and it’s not force-feeding a message. I think that the story is such that it’s a good story with a good message, but it’s a good story first and foremost. It’s a unique story, so you have this unique environment and then you add the wonderful animation of Blue Sky Studios and it creates this universe that you get lost in. Then when you’re along for the ride of the movie you walk away going, that is a decent message too.
THIS IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHARACTER TO DEBUT. PEOPLE HAVE A PERCEPTION OF FERDINAND BEFORE THEY MEET THE CHARACTER. WHEN DID YOU CONNECT WITH FERDINAND?
I think that what is most identifiable about the story and the movie is that there is a huge animal, so you can’t not say, ‘Oh yeah, okay I get what he does’, because no that’s not it, that’s not what I do. I do this other thing, man. So I think, right away, it’s such an easy story to tell because of the physical nature of Ferdinand. I think we all go through stuff like that. Everybody has been judged at one time or another. They know the feeling. It’s easily physically relatable. It’s a big bull, I get it. Misunderstood. I get that too. That leads you to a fun ride.
WHEN DID YOU FINALLY UNDERSTAND YOUR OWN SELF AND WHO YOU WERE MEANT TO BE IN THIS WORLD?
I guess I’ve stopped worrying about trying to be cool, because cool changes on a daily basis and I can’t keep up with that. If you experience true moments of humility and embarrassment and failure and you live to see another day, it’s going to be alright. I continuously learn. I’m not afraid and I just try to do what I can do. There’s an old saying that everybody you meet is going through a struggle you’ll never understand. That’s life. Life is tough.
WE KNOW THAT FERDINAND’S SENSE OF PEACE AND SERENITY COMES FROM FLOWERS. WHAT IS YOUR PLACE OF INNER PEACE AND SERENITY? WHERE DO YOU GO TO?
Where I feel comfortable, certainly with the people I love. I would love to be with Nicole, my bride-to-be. It’s any place where I can be productive and then when I want to kick my feet up, I can. I think that throughout the movie, the flowers remind Ferdinand of home and yes, he loves flowers, but he also loves the atmosphere of home. Home to him is an environment where he can be himself so the more and more comfortable I am with myself, the more places I can call home, because I feel, ‘Alright, I’m okay here. I get it.’
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM YOU SEE HOW CONNECTED FERDINAND AND HIS FATHER ARE. WHAT WAS THE BEST LESSON YOUR FATHER TAUGHT YOU THAT YOU STILL HONOUR TO THIS DAY?
When I graduated college, I wanted to move out west, but not to be an actor. I grew up in Massachusetts and it’s cold. I fell in love with the fitness industry and got a degree in Kinesiology and I wanted to further my degree by being in the center of fitness. My old man said, and I still don’t know to this day if he was being true, or providing motivation, that I would never last two weeks. I left going, to hell with that! Honestly, I went through some tough times, lost my place to live, lived in the back of a Continental for a while, but every time I wanted to fold, I wasn’t going to because I wasn’t going to run home with my tail between my legs. So I’ve developed this philosophy of never giving up and it stems from a lot of those times when the easy route was just to go back home, but then the old man’s got one on me! So I never did and I made it past two weeks. In a brilliant move of motivation and I’d like to think that it’s that. It’s defined me and who I am today.
From the award-winning Blue Sky Studios and directed by Carlos Saldanha (“Rio”) FERDINAND is inspired by the beloved 1936 children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand” by author Munro Leaf and illustrator Robert Lawson. It’s a heartwarming animated comedy adventure with an all-star cast that also includes Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson and many more.