ABOVE: Watch Dolphin Tale 2 stars Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Nathan Gamble appear on Global’s The Morning Show.
TORONTO – What’s more intimidating: screen-testing with a dolphin or with Morgan Freeman?
Thanks to Dolphin Tale 2, young stars Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Nathan Gamble are uniquely qualified to answer that question. With the sequel to 2011’s popular family comedy-drama opening Friday, Gamble said he was most nervous this time about an intense scene with Freeman.
“Doing a scene with the great Morgan Freeman, I have to be on my A-game,” said Gamble, 16, who recalled that his costume designer snapped a photo of him chatting with Freeman between takes.
“She gave this framed picture to me at the wrap party,” he said. “Now I have that picture next to my bed, and it’s sort of like a friendly reminder I got to work with Morgan Freeman.”
The teens can also boast other notable co-stars Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr. and Kris Kristofferson, who Zuehlsdorff called the “sweetest grampa figure.”
The sequel revolves around more stories inspired by the real Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, including Winter, the cetacean star of the first film, and new addition Hope, a baby dolphin that was actually shrunk digitally to appear smaller.
Zuehlsdorff, also 16, is Hazel, the daughter of the aquarium operator played by Connick Jr. She said interacting with the dolphins is “amazing.”
“It was so much fun for me because Dolphin Tale 2 is really the first time I’ve gotten to film things underwater with the dolphins. My role in the first one was more of protecting and carrying around the dolphins around the pool,” she said.
“And Hope, man, audiences are going to love her. She’s so fast and energetic and fun and inquisitive.”
Both have learned plenty about dolphins through their work on the movies — for example, dolphins shed and get freckles, said Zuehlsdorff.
Gamble, whose character Sawyer also helps out at the aquarium, agreed they were “special” animals.
“They’re the kind of creatures that you feel almost a human connection with because one, they’re really social and Sawyer says in the movie that dolphin brains are as complex as ours. So you would treat them like you treat any other person. And I totally did when I was working with (Hope). I treated her like another cast member,” he said.
The plot of the sequel features Hazel and Sawyer growing up and learning how to make tough choices. Zuehlsdorff said a scene in which Judd’s character gives Hazel advice actually resonated with her in real life.
“We did that scene for probably seven hours, starting from six in the morning all the way through to the afternoon. And every time, I was like, ‘Yes, tell me more!’” she said with a laugh.
Zuehlsdorff said Dolphin Tale explored issues relevant to preteens, while the sequel reaches out more to teenagers.
“We’re becoming individuals at this time in our lives. We’re forming our own thoughts and opinions. And there’s a way to do that and to confront your parents about that respectfully, which my character does with her dad,” she said.
Gamble said the main message of the movie is to not fear change.
“As we grow older, we’re going to have to find a way to embrace change, and really change isn’t a bad thing. As Sawyer says, life is full of possibilities.”