Exclusive: Interview with Kelly Hu on TMNT, Arrow, Surf Ninjas, Michael Bay and braces

Kelly Hu China White Karai TMNT Arrow

Kelly Hu can be seen in many geek movies and TV shows including X-Men 2 as Lady Deathstrike and CW’s Arrow as China White. She’ll be playing Karai, a teenage ninja, in the new episode of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which airs Friday, Feb. 1, at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT. I had the chance to chat with the beautiful Kelly Hu on her favorite Turtle, Michael Bay’s TMNT, Surf Ninjas, Arrow, braces, motion capture, and more.

Nerd Reactor: Hey Kelly, how’s it going?

Kelly Hu: It’s going good. Thank you.

You’re like in a lot of geek projects lately.

You know, I’m kind of a geek. These fantasy stuff is so much more fun. You’re not constricted by reality, and you can go off and do all kinds of crazy things. You can be a superhero, and you can be so much cooler than you actually are.

What about Miss USA? [jokes]

That’s years ago. That’s like a whole other lifetime. The girl that won my year from Miss USA is on The Real Housewives of Atlanta now.

So you wouldn’t want to do that again?

Oh, no. I don’t know what possessed me to do it in the first place. On second thought, I know what possessed me to do it. It was because I really needed a new car. And you know, as a teenager, you really got nothing to lose. I wanted so much to be on national television, and I heard that if I won the Miss Hawaii Teen USA pageant, I’d get to go to the national pageant, and it would be televised live. That yearning to be on television started at a really young age.

Well it all worked out for the better.

It totally did.

In the new episode of TMNT, you play a ninja named Karai.

It wouldn’t quite be the first time I played a ninja, I think.

It seems like you do play a lot of those types of roles.

Yeah, I don’t know why people think I’m dangerous, but for some reason, I keep getting these roles for the ninja, assassin, bodyguard, bad-girl type.

Karai definitely does sound like a bad-girl type.

Yeah, she is…but fun! She has a lot of fun with it. I have a lot of fun with it.

Now I have to ask…who is your favorite Ninja Turtle?

Well, I get to interact a lot with Leonardo, but Mikey is just so damn cute.

He’s cute and he IS the party animal.

He is a party animal, and I love the voice that Greg does for him. Every time I get to work with him, I just fall in love with Mikey all over again. He does such a great character, and it’s so well written. Sometimes I wish I can sort of exist in that animated world.

That can happen in the future, once we perfect virtual reality.

Right? I know. I do a lot of video games, and sometimes I have to wear those funky motion capture suits with all the dots on them, and those crazy things on your head. So yeah, we’re just a step away.

How does it feel wearing the motion capture suit?

Putting the suit on is not nearly as uncomfortable as having to wear the camera on your head, because it adds this weight, like a giant duck bill with a camera at the end. It’s a little unnerving knowing that there’s a camera so close to you, capturing every little expression on your face. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making weird faces or if I have something stuck on my teeth.

When you’re on camera, it’s a whole different experience. The camera is a foot or two away from your face. But when you’re doing motion capture, you have to balance this thing on your head. It’s pretty tight. It kind of gives you a headache. Do you remember what it looked like when kids had to wear neck/head gear when they had braces?

Yeah.

It’s kind of like that but worse.

It couldn’t be worse than having kids make fun of you.

I had neck gear as a kid, and let me tell you, it was NOT a pleasant experience for me in the 8th grade.

Are you excited about the Ninja Turtles movie that’s going to come out soon?

Yeah, I just read about that, and I think it’s so awesome.

A lot of fans are just dreading it.

Oh really? Is it because they think it’s going to be horrible?

Yeah, it’s because of the way Michael Bay is handling the property. He said that the turtles were going to be aliens instead of being mutants.

But isn’t Mutant in the name?

I believe it’s just Ninja Turtles.

Are they even going to be teenagers?

I don’t even know. But at least the Turtles are back in the spotlight again, right?

Yeah, I grew up with Ninja Turtles. I even did a movie with Ernie Reyes, Jr (TMNT 2: Secret of the Ooze). I did Surf Ninjas.

Surf Ninjas! Yes, I remember that.

It’s a great stoner movie. I looked back on that recently, and I was like, “Oh my god!” People are always coming up to me and going “Surf Ninjas!” and “Kwantsu Dudes!”

I have to admit, we had a party where I popped in Surf Ninjas for people to watch.

That is too funny. I hope people were wasted while watching it.

I haven’t watched Arrow yet, but I’ve heard you’re in the show as China White.

Yes, I just got back a couple of days ago from Vancouver shooting another episode.

That’s cool that your character is a returning character.

Yeah, I shot five episodes so far.

I saw a picture of you with the white hair.

You know, in the last two episodes, they’ve changed the wig a little bit. It’s still white, but I’ve got a bit of an upgrade. I love myself in this white wig. I think it’s so cool. I’m like, “Turning old and going grey is not going to be as bad as I thought.” It’s really fun to play around with this. The first one had these bangs that went straight across, kind of like the Harajuku girls, which isn’t a bad thing. The upgrade is kind of like Storm’s upgrade from the X-Men movies.

I’m not really a fan of the bangs that cuts to the eyebrows. 

I kind of like it though and think it’s cute. I think guys, who are more fans of the show, wanted to see a sexier version. So there’s definitely going to be an upgrade.

When all else fails, just bring in the sexy.

[laughs] I do my best.

Who’s your favorite superhero?

Wonder Woman, of course. I grew up with Linda Carter. I remember having these big fake bracelets that could block bullets. I love the costume, and having the invisible airplane is awesome.

Any future projects?

I’m going to be recurring on Warehouse 13 on Syfy. I’ve already shot five episodes, and it’s going to air in April 2013.

John “Spartan” Nguyen

John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.

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