Amy Poehler Was ‘Mix of Anxiety and Joy,’ ‘Wrapped Up In a Boston Accent’ with Shoulder Pads at 13 (Exclusive)

The 'Saturday Night Live' alum voices Joy in 'Inside Out 2,' an animated movie about the emotions inside high school-bound girl Riley

<p>Vivien Killilea/Getty</p> Amy Poehler on June 10

Vivien Killilea/Getty

Amy Poehler on June 10

Amy Poehler can relate to Riley, the 13-year-old girl who takes center stage in the animated movie Inside Out 2, except Poehler wore shoulder pads at that time.

In the follow-up to the 2015 Pixar hit about the animated emotions inside a young girl, Riley (Kensington Tallman) is now going through puberty as she gets ready to enter high school.

Complicated new feelings like Anxiety (Maya Hawke) and Envy (Ayo Edebiri) join existing emotions including Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Anger (Lewis Black).

The mix makes Riley a more complex kid — someone who makes mistakes with her friends and snaps at her parents.

<p>Brendon Thorne/Getty Images</p> Amy Poehler on May 27, 2024

Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Amy Poehler on May 27, 2024

Related: Why Aren't Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader in Inside Out 2? What to Know About Their Recasting

Joy and Anxiety battle for dominance—and Poehler says those two feelings were prevalent when she was 13, too.

“I definitely was a mix of anxiety and joy for sure, wrapped up in a Boston accent,” the 52-year-old quips to PEOPLE. “And [I had] lots of shoulder pads and funky earrings.”

“I guess I felt a lot of what Riley felt in that, your head is full, very noisy,” she continues. “You go from just being —hopefully if you have a childhood that provides you with safety—you go from being not very self-conscious to suddenly really caring about what other people think really fast.”

As for her friend group, Poehler says, “I was kind of a floater.”

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The Saturday Night Live alum shares how many questions are swirling at that age. “What kind of friend do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? What do you care about? I think that is a completely universal experience,” she says. “And by the way, I've said this before, I don't think it stops at 14.”

<p>Disney/Pixar</p> Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Fear and Anger in 'Inside Out 2'


Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Fear and Anger in 'Inside Out 2'

Related: Inside Out 2: All About the Highly-Anticipated Pixar Sequel

Poehler is now raising two teens—sons Archie, 15, and Abel, 13, whom she shares with actor Will Arnett, 54, her ex-husband—so she has a front-row seat to that coming-of-age experience.

As a mom, she sees her role change. “I heard someone say, a great psychologist say, that you kind of go from being the producer to the consultant in your kids' life,” she continues. “You have to really try to stop producing so hard and just being available for advice, but you have to walk alongside them a little bit more.”

“I think that's kind of why I related to playing Joy so much. In the film, Joy has to let go, and when you're raising a kid, they're their own person. You just can't protect them from pain and you're really not even supposed to,” she adds. “You're supposed to let them kind of have all their feelings so that they can figure out who they are.”

Inside Out 2 is in theaters now.

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