In the middle of all the special effects and silly fun of the “Night at the Museum” movies is one character who lends the real heart to the story: Sacajawea, played by Mizuo Peck with such sweet, quiet dignity that it is no wonder Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams) falls in love with her. I had a chance to talk with her about my home-town museum, the Smithsonian, and what it’s like to film a love scene with Robin Williams. The movie is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
NM: This may sound silly, but who are you playing, Sacajawea or a statue of Sacajawea?
MP: That was an interesting question that we were thinking about the entire time when we were shooting. Was Teddy Roosevelt in pain? No he isn’t because he is made out of wax. So we don’t really have the history of the actual figure. But I personally as an actress did a lot of research about Sacajawea and approached the role as if I were a wax statute who was identifying with her.
NM: She was such an amazing character!
MP: Doing the research on her life was almost the most amazing part about this! I didn’t know much about her before. In the back of everyone’s mind, there’s Pocahontas and Sacajawea but we don’t learn much about them in school. I got to read and watch really cool documentaries and find out what a powerful and important historical figure she was. I was very, very proud to play someone so exciting. There’s all sorts of fun things to learn about her. The Lewis and Clark expedition might not have been successful without her.
She was not an official member of the Corps of Discovery. She was just the wife of one of the translators. But her contribution was essential. She was able to dig up roots when all the men were just about eating their horses. Her being there, a woman with a baby, made their encounters peaceful because it showed that Lewis and Clark weren’t there for war. There were all these swarthy men doing this expedition in the dead of winter and she was a young woman holding a newborn on her back the entire time, so more power to her!
NM: We in Washington were very excited that the second film was set in the Smithsonian. Did you visit the museum when you were here?
MP: Yes, the premiere was there at the Air and Space Museum so I got there a day early and my boyfriend and I got there and did the whole tourist thing, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Going to the museum is most definitely a different experience after making the movie! And it’s such a great aspect of the movie that it makes kids want to go to the museum and check out all these characters.
NM: What’s it like to play the love interest of Robin Williams?
MP: Extremely bizarre, I must say! One of the first scenes we did, he’s looking at me through the glass and I’m still getting over that there’s a huge giant star in front of me and then the fact that he is doting on me? And in the second one, I had a scene on a horse with him. I’m just like “pinch me” because it was incredibly surreal! We had a lot of down tme together so we got to joke around a bunch. One scene started with us in an embrace. We would get into position and be hugging and then there would be a wait before “action” and there were so many funny moments where we would be talking while we were in this hug! It is impossible not to enjoy him.
NM: Did you have a lot of special effects work?
MP: I didn’t have to do as much as the other characters like Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan. In the first one, Robin Williams was wearing green tights in the scene where he was in two pieces and it was funny to see him like that.
NM: What are you doing next?
MP: Nothing like this giant blockbuster! Some independent movies and my own script.
NM: What makes you laugh?
MP: When people do silly things, and when my boyfriend tickles me. The movie “Nacho Libre” — it’s so silly, but Jack Black makes me laugh.
NM: What’s your dream role?
MP: I always like it when a woman starts off vulnerable and gains strength, a really intense arc — I like complex characters. I’ve always been attracted to the role in “La Femme Nikita.” She starts at such a low point and keeps her vulnerability but becomes a real bad ass!
NM: What inspires you?
MP: You find inspiration all over the place. I’m a born New Yorker so just the people on the street give me inspiration, being exposed to so many different kinds of people. We all are so different but we all want the same thing, love, trying to make a living. We’re all so different and diverse but it boils down to a certain sense of love and happiness. That’s kind of inspirational to me.