Saturday , June 15 2024
Moderator Victor Dandridge and Kathleen Herles (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Fan EXPO Boston: Kathleen Herles on ‘Dora the Explorer’

Kathleen Herles voiced Dora the Explorer for more than 10 years, starting when she was only seven years old. Featuring a Latina as the lead character, Dora the Explorer paved the way for more diverse children’s programming after the year 2000. Herles spoke about this work, and her career in general, during an interactive panel at Fan EXPO Boston on August 5.

In the show, Dora goes on exciting adventures with her friend, Monkey Boots. Another trusted friend is Backpack, who carries tools that Dora needs for overcoming obstacles along the way. Fans in Boston were amused when Herles brought a large Dora doll and Backpack to the stage, before she led everyone in singing the show’s theme song.

Highlights of Working on the Show

Looking back, Herles appreciates what Dora the Explorer did for educational programming, which needed a refresh. For one thing, it led to the popular spin-off Go, Diego, Go! about Dora’s cousin. Herles said, “I didn’t have a lot of things to connect to when I watched TV, children’s programs especially. Even in animation, there weren’t a lot of characters that were Latina.” 

With the internet still in its early years and running at slower speeds, you couldn’t always look up voice actors like you can today in an instant. Herles didn’t know a lot about other voice actors back then. “At the time, when Dora was airing, SpongeBob was a big thing. I got to meet Tom Kenny multiple times growing up. He was always so sweet and very nice!”

One of Herles’ favorite parts of the show was getting to sing. She enjoyed how the creators incorporated music. “They put the salsa elements in the background. I loved it so much! We recorded CDs, too. I got to sing with—I didn’t meet them—but on the same track as Ziggy Marley, Gloria Estefan, big people.”

On Dora Nostalgia

To Herles, Dora the Explorer is an ideal show for family time. “When you spend those moments with your family, you never forget those moments, all the nostalgia. It’s amazing.”

Photo of a Dora the Explorer doll
Kathleen Herles brought a Dora doll to her Fan EXPO Boston panel (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Dora shares important lessons along the way in each episode. “She’s teaching you that you could … have a backpack full of stuff, but also the importance of asking for help.”

It’s a positive message that Herles embraces wholeheartedly. “Never be afraid to ask for help. We all need help. We can’t do it alone.”

‘Love Who You Are’

Herles grew up in Queens with her older brother. Their parents had immigrated to New York from Lima, Peru. Being half Ecuadorian, I understood her next point all too well from my own childhood experiences.

About growing up, she said, “If you don’t know how to salsa, if you don’t know how to speak Spanish fluently and with an accent, you’re not Latina or Latino enough. That’s not true.”

Through the awkward encounters, sometimes you feel a lot of pressure to change yourself to try and fit in. Herles believes that’s not the right answer. “Everyone comes from somewhere. Just because you don’t emulate that outwardly, [it] doesn’t take away from that. I say, embrace what you have, embrace your family and love who you are. You’re enough.” 

What’s Ahead for Kathleen Herles?

Herles is 32 years old and married now. She auditioned for roles here and there, but much of her time since Dora has been spent with college and a career outside of acting. “I was working in the corporate world. I got a job in interior design. A few months ago, I quit my job and I’m pursuing voice acting again full-time. My goal is to voice new characters whether big or small.”

She also meets her fans on the convention circuit, hearing the lovely feedback about Dora. People tell her things like, “I had her haircut. I wore her backpack to school. People made fun of me.”

Herles smiled at the fan’s enthusiasm, glancing at the Dora doll onstage. She said, “That love for Dora, I understand it and other times, I don’t understand it. But look how cute she is!”

Follow Kathleen Herles on X (formerly Twitter) for her videos and news about her upcoming convention appearances.

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

Check Also

GalaxyCon Richmond: Tara Strong

"Perfect is boring and you're going to make mistakes. If you learn from them, let them go."