We know and love her for Parks and Recreation’s iconic Leslie Knope, and for her run as one of the leading stars of Saturday Night Live, but to a generation of Pixar lovers she’s the voice of Joy in Inside Out.

Amy Poehler recently visited Australia for a talk at the Sydney Opera House to promote her latest film Inside Out 2 – a funny, engaging sequel in which lead character Riley becomes a teenager. Broadsheet saw 30 minutes of the new animation. We sat down with Poehler shortly afterwards to hear what we can expect from the rest of the sequel when it’s released on June 13.

Hi Amy! How does the sequel progress the story from the first film?
There’s a lot of shades of Joy that we see in this film because she’s a little flabbergasted by the fact that Riley doesn’t need her as much, and it kind of mirrors what happens as a parent, when your child starts to grow up and they start to separate from you a little bit and you realise, “Wow, they are their own person, and friends are very important to them.”

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And in the first one she was moving; in the second one she has this friendship group that’s having a little bit of a crisis. That is really important when you’re 13, where you don’t know where you fit in – what’s the group going to be? Are you going to split up? Who are you going to be friends with? So the stakes are pretty high. She’s in this hockey camp and she really wants to play for the good team but she doesn’t want to leave her other friends behind. So that’s why I love Pixar: they take these small human moments and they feel really dramatic and high stakes – and they are! No matter the age, how do you be a good friend? How do you be a good person?

Inside Out came out in 2015. It feels like its audience has grown up a lot. And Inside Out 2 speaks to that older audience.
It’s been really sweet, I’ve met people that have said, “Oh I watched the first one when I was young, and I can’t wait to watch the second one.” And they’re 15, so I want to say, “Well you’re still young to me.”

Riley goes on a journey in the film, but what does Joy go through? How has her character changed?
I think one of the scariest things about being a parent is letting your kid be themselves and fail and watching them make choices and be hurt and be sad, and all that stuff. And if the first film was that sadness is a part of life and we should allow ourselves to sit in it, the second film is that some complicated emotions like embarrassment, anxiety and envy are going to come into your life, and they’re okay. They’re going to exist but you just can’t let them take over the show, they’ll stop you from leaving room for joy. So in the second one, Joy has to let Riley grow up.

Toxic positivity is a bit of a theme. Does Joy learn something about that too?
Yeah, there’s a really funny line where Joy just keeps telling everyone to relax and get over it and stop worrying – and there’s nothing worse than someone telling you, “Don’t worry about it.” That’s the meanest thing you can say to someone.

So she does that a lot: she says, “Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it”, and then she realises that not only is it not helpful but it actually negates somebody’s actual experience – and this movie is the opposite of gaslighting. It’s coming out at the perfect time, because everybody feels anxious and unsure about a lot of things that have happened over the past decade. And Pixar has heard you. They’re listening.

Why don’t any of the emotions in the film have an Australian accent?
I would never do an Australian accent. I come from a place in the US called Boston. We have suffered through the worst Boston accents done in film, television and in person. I would never do that to you. I mean, I know my limitations and I cannot do a good Australian accent.

I have heard that there’s a trick to an Australian accent: you say the words “rise up lights” quickly, it sounds like “razor blades” with an Australian accent. So let me try it: “rise up lights”.

Oh wow, that’s like a deep Queensland accent.
See I didn’t even know there was a Queensland accent. But that’s as far as I’ll go because I don’t want to insult – or be too good, and make other people feel bad.

Inside Out 2 is in cinemas from June 13.