Twelve-year-old Hayden Rolence chats with PEOPLE about working on Finding Dory and meeting its star, Ellen DeGeneres

By Mia McNiece
Updated June 17, 2016 02:15 PM

Finding Dory

broke box-office records this past weekend by earning $136.2 million, the biggest opening by an animated film.

And in order to prepare to voice Nemo in the hit sequel to Finding Nemo, 12-year-old Hayden Rolence got a pretty cool homework assignment.

“I had to watch the original Finding Nemo over and over again,” the Illinois native tells PEOPLE. “And I never got bored of it!”

The actor who voiced Nemo in 2003’s Finding Nemo was Alexander Gould, now 22, and after his turn in the film, he appeared in a slew of TV shows – including a regular stint as Mary Louise Parker’s character’s son, Shane Botwin, on Weeds.

He went on to study philosophy at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and – bringing things full circle – also lent his vocal talents to Finding Dory, where he has a brief voice cameo.

Since Gould was too old to voice Nemo for Finding Dory, filmmakers needed a younger actor to play the lovable clownfish, and found Rolence.

So what did Rolence enjoy most about working on Finding Dory? Getting to meet people like the film’s star, Ellen DeGeneres.

“She’s very nice and very funny,” Rolence says.

For more on Rolence, check out the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

He also got a chance to meet Gould at the film’s premiere and tour the Pixar offices, which he says “give off an inspiring feeling.”

WATCH: Finding Dory Breaks Box Office Record

Outside of acting, Rolence says he enjoys playing piano, swimming and “do things that regular kids who aren’t voicing little fish do!”

Reporting by SCOTT HUVER