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Trolls World Tour: 'This film shows that diversity is cool and differences should be celebrated'

Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick revisit their brightly-coloured animated characters in the sequel Trolls World Tour. They tell Laura Harding why they always hoped they would get to revisit the creatures' optimistic world

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Justin Timberlake in the recording studio

Justin Timberlake in the recording studio

Anna Kendrick on the red carpet

Anna Kendrick on the red carpet

Getty Images

Mary J Blige

Mary J Blige

Fun roles: Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) in Trolls World Tour

Fun roles: Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) in Trolls World Tour

Justin Timberlake in the recording studio

Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick are inadvertently colour co-ordinated. The pair are both sporting identical shades of deep purple, with Timberlake's shirt perfectly complementing Kendrick's knee-high boots.

"I actually switched into these boots, I wasn't wearing these earlier," 34-year-old Kendrick says. "Maybe subliminally I was doing it on purpose," she laughs, "I thought it was because my feet were sore, but obviously that wasn't it!"

Indeed the duo seem perfectly in sync (no pun intended) as they sit next to each other in a London hotel room, weeks before social distancing and lockdown made such in-person interviews a distant memory.

They have reunited for Trolls World Tour, a sequel to the 2016 animated hit Trolls, reprising their roles of Poppy and Branch.

This time, the brightly-coloured, spiky-haired duo learn that they are but one of six different troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: funk, country, techno, classical, pop and rock.

The new discovery comes as a member of hard-rock royalty, Queen Barb (voiced by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom), wants to destroy all other kinds of music to let rock reign supreme - and the pair must set out to visit all the other lands to unify the trolls in harmony.

"We were thrilled to come back and voice these characters again because we do feel like they bring people so much joy," 39-year-old Timberlake says.

"And I think this time around, our world is so much bigger and our cast is growing exponentially, and now we get to work on and experience all these different styles of music."

Pitch Perfect star Kendrick nods in agreement.

"When they were talking about doing a second one, and this was while we were still finishing the first movie, they were just playing around with ideas. They didn't want to jinx it, but were talking about the idea of meeting all these other kinds of trolls that look different.

"Like the country trolls are half horse and the techno trolls kind of float and stuff, I was just so excited for what a visual feast that was going to be, and was really hoping that the first one would be well received enough that we would get to do that."

Expanding the musical world of the film meant bringing in some of the biggest names in the industry, including funk residents Mary J Blige, George Clinton and Anderson .Paak, country queen Kelly Clarkson, reggaeton maestro J Balvin and Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne from the world of rock.

Meanwhile, world-renowned conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel appears as Trollzart, representing classical music.

"I remember being excited that Anderson .Paak was doing it," Kendrick recalls, "because I like his music, but really just being blown away by how good he is in his acting performance. I just thought he was really funny. He really went for it and really sold it and I have never seen or heard him act before, so that was really cool."

Timberlake, who first found fame as a member of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club and then as a member of N Sync, looks animated.

"I was pretty fired up when they said they had secured George Clinton, the George Clinton I thought that was cool, I was like 'Really?!'"

As well as voicing Branch, musician Timberlake is once again co-executive music producer on the film, crafting the star-studded soundtrack.

For the first film he earned an Oscar nomination for his song for Can't Stop The Feeling! so the pressure must be on to top the first outing.

"Just by virtue of getting to do it again, you always want to," he admits.

"Having the opportunity to work with so many different genres of music, we knew the scope of it was going to be so much bigger, so you always want to go bigger if you get a second chance."

The artists he uses on the soundtrack also have voice cameos in the film, which added an important dimension for director Walt Dohrn.

"They have songs and they play characters in the world, because we really wanted authenticity to each one of these worlds.

"And that is why we cast Ozzy Osbourne and George Clinton and Mary J Blige, the people who are actually making the music.

"We wanted them to not only make the music, but to be characters."

And every genre is represented, underlining the film's message about unity.

"It's about harmony and diversity, so we wanted as much representation as we could get, so we had K-pop and reggaetone and smooth jazz, you've got to represent smooth jazz! We are bringing it back!"

Indeed, the film seems to make sly fun of music snobs, who think only their taste is the right kind.

"It's kind of funny," laughs Kendrick. "I'm glad that the term guilty pleasure music is going out of style, because you shouldn't feel guilty about things that you like, it's a really silly thing.

"If it brings you joy, why would it make you guilty?"

"This film is getting to tell that message to young people," adds Timberlake. "And also remind adults that diversity is a cool thing, and that differences should be celebrated and honoured, so I'm happy that we could use music to help tell that message."

Dohrn seems to agree.

"First, there is the comedy and the music and the colour and all the fun, but underneath it, it should have a resonant message, and that is this idea of tolerance and harmony and diversity, and not blanketing over other people's voices.

"It's really applicable today and it always has been."

Trolls World Tour is available on demand across UK and Ireland streaming platforms now

Belfast Telegraph