Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a franchise that started as a comic book back in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Since then, it has become a cultural phenomenon spanning movies, TV, toys and merchandise. There was even a rock concert tour! This August, fans and moviegoers will get to experience the Turtles on the big screen again when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is released.
Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with director Jeff Rowe and voice actors Nicolas Cantu (Leonardo), Micah Abbey (Donatello), Brady Noon (Raphael), and Shamon Brown Jr (Michelangelo) about the film’s audition, leaning in on the teenager part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, whether they would want to do The Last Ronin film and more.
A lot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and shows have focused on the mutant, ninja and turtles part, but not so much on the teenage part. Director Jeff Rowe wanted to really bring out the teenagers in the Turtles, and it wasn’t hard thanks to the voice cast.
“It was easy because we leaned on the kids and leaned on the cast,” Rowe said of capturing the teenage spirit. “We do this extensive casting search, hundreds of people auditioned. And then we just found these four kids that just felt like the turtles and had great chemistry together. And we tried recording them individually, and we had this script where there were adults’ ideas of how teenagers spoke to each other, and it just felt so false coming out of their mouths. We’re like, ‘We got to record them together, and we have to record not just them saying the lines, but the conversations around it.’ And we were able to just capture them authentically.”
Nicolas Cantu originally auditioned for the role of Donatello, but in the end, the filmmakers thought he was the best fit for the leader of the group, Leonardo.
“Yeah, I actually auditioned for Donatello originally,” Cantu tells Nerd Reactor. “That was my first tape that I got. And then I think it was during the chemistry reads that they were like, ‘You should try the role Leonardo.’ So they threw that one my way. And I feel like I connected with it a lot more. And also because Michah makes such a good Donnie. Like the fact that I was still able to be a part of this project in some way, I just feel grateful. And also like he’s the leader!”
Abbey originally auditioned for Donatello but also had the chance to audition as Michelangelo.
“Yeah, that was a very ‘whew’ moment when they said, ‘Hey, Nick, can you actually do a Leo?'” Abbey said. “Because I remember I was like, ‘That’s kind of my biggest competition.’ I initially auditioned for Donatello. I was like, ‘This is a sick role.’ They came back to me like, ‘Hey, can you try Michelangelo?’ And I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ And I just did more of a chill-like, laid-back-like, very-like surfer. But I’m glad they gave me Donatello because I truly mean this, I literally love the way that Shamon plays Mikey because he had a new feel. It wasn’t just like the calm surfer dude. It was like just a fun-loving guy.”
Brady Noon shared his first experience with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and his favorite Turtle.
“For me, I gravitated towards the 2012 series on Nickelodeon,” Noon said. “Just when I come home from school every day, my siblings and I would just watch that show because it was always on. And that’s really where I first saw the turtles and really got a feel for them. But Raphael, oh, he’s been my favorite.”
The Last Ronin is a recent comic book miniseries that follows Michelangelo as he seeks vengeance against the ones who murdered his family. Shamon Brown Jr talks about whether he would take on that role.
“Yeah, I’d be open to that,” Brown Jr said. “The voice gets deeper a little bit [he deepens his voice], and you know, has to get a bit more gruesome. But it’s gonna be amazing. We’ll see. It could be 5 to 10 years from now. You never know.”
About Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Synopsis: After years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtle brothers set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O’Neil helps them take on a mysterious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.
The film is directed by Jeff Rowe with co-director Kyler Spears. The screenplay is by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg & Jeff Rowe and Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit from the story by Brendan O’Brien and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg & Jeff Rowe, based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman.
It’s produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and James Weaver and executive produced by Ramsay McBean and Josh Fagen.
The voice cast includes Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, Nicolas Cantu, John Cena, Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Natasia Demetriou, Ayo Edebiri, Giancarlo Esposito, Post Malone, Brady Noon, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Maya Rudolph.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem will be released in theaters on August 2, 2023