The Toronto International Film Festival may be about all things cinema, but dogs have been the secret stars of the weekend so far. First, Knives Out star Chris Evans lost his mind over adorable puppies, and now Chloe Bennet reveals she grew up with enormous Mastiffs as a kid.
The actress stars in the upcoming animated film Abominable, as a Chinese girl going on an adventure with Everest the Yeti. She jokes that riding huge dogs when she was young prepared her for the role.
“I grew up with a Tibetan Mastiff and then Bullmastiffs. And Kitty, our Tibetan Mastiff, was 200 pounds. And she was huge. I used to ride her as a child,” Bennet says. “We would saddle her — I’m going to probably get in trouble for that, but I was very small. There’s a lot of sequences in the movie where I’m like flying all over Shanghai on Everest, and had real life [experience]. Went meta.”
Tibetan Mastiffs average 26 inches in height and can weigh up to 150 pounds, so they can carry a lot of things on their back, including a small child. Bennet was one of many celebrities who cuddled with puppies from the Finding Them Homes-James Bay Pawsitive Rescue during their stop at the EW photo booth, in partnership with Facebook and Instagram.
Bennet also discussed the fact that although Abominable is set in China and normalizes the culture, the story is about much more than its geographical settings.
“This one is just a really authentic story, and it just happens to take place in this beautiful country, and we’re seeing a different version of China,” Bennet says. “Usually you think of cityscapes, which is portrayed so well, but it’s also so much of other parts that we don’t really get to see, so I love that it’s so much about that but also not at all. It’s also a story about coming into your own as a young woman and as young kids and discovering family.”
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star also has a personal connection with the film. The actress, who is half Chinese, was a teenage pop singer in Shanghai before pursuing an acting career in the States. Similarly, the Dreamworks and Pearl Studio film follows Yi (Bennet), a teenager coming of age in Shanghai. Only in Yi’s case, she is whisked away to the mountains of Nepal by an adorable Yeti.
Abominable, which also stars Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson, premieres Sept. 27 in theaters.