Being a teenage mutant turtle requires more than just scarfing down pizza and saying “cowabunga,” and Alan Ritchson can attest to that. Best known as Arthur Curry on “Smallville” and Thad on “Blue Mountain State,” the chiseled actor first suited up as Raphael for 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” feature film. The production involved long hours of motion-capture work, late nights and plenty of script changes. Now, he’s back for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” which debuted in theaters this past Friday and passed “X-Men: Apocalypse” for No. 1 in the weekend box office.
The sequel takes place a year after defeating Shredder in the original. The turtles still lurk in the sewers and conceal their identities from humans, afraid they won’t be accepted. However, when Shredder escapes imprisonment and forms an alliance with the extraterrestrial Krang, the Turtles must regroup with April O’Neil, Vern and newcomer Casey Jones (played by “Arrow” star Stephen Amell) to prevent the end of the world.
Ritchson recently spoke to CBR News about returning to the Turtles’ universe, working with a better script than the original, Raphael’s reaction to Casey Jones and his character’s evolution over the two films.
CBR News: Alan, we had seen “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” movies before, yet the 2014 film exceeded box office expectations. What do you believe worked about it?
Alan Ritchson: I think the nostalgia was a big factor. This is obviously something that a lot of people, like myself, had grown up with. A lot of these people now have kids of their own. To be able to live it now and be able to share that with this newer generation, that’s obviously one of the bigger draws.
It was tough making that one because a lot of people were like “What is this new reimagining of this world going to be?” I think tonally, even throughout production, it was a work in progress. It’s come full circle from this dark story to now this family comedy. This one is an action/adventure, but it’s much brighter. The billboards around the city right now are bright and colorful and almost cartoony.
If people enjoyed the movie the first time, great, they are going to enjoy it even more. If they passed on it because they weren’t sure what it was — or were afraid of coming into a gratuitous Michael Bay film — it’s gotten really, really good. It’s taken this long to figure out the best of this new world. But, I think what drew people to the first film was a lot of the nostalgia and the love that people have for these cool, fun characters.
It’s not a secret that 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was a tough shoot. What were your thoughts when they started throwing around the idea of a sequel?
You sort of prepare for the worst. It was a tough production and a lot of times we were operating without a blueprint as far as where the story was going. Day-by-day, we were going, “What are we shooting today? What are the lines?” I just expected it to be that way and had a lot of conversations with the producers about how they figured things out and how it would be a whole different ballgame this time. “We tapped into what works and how to accomplish that.” And they were right. It was a way smoother production. It was a lot more fun. We all had a great time. Any time that is happening during production, that’s translating to something magical and tangible on the screen that people feel. That was my sense going into this one: “Ugh. Buckle up. This is going to be a tough one to make.” But, it was a really pleasant one to make, creatively and physically.
Where do we find Raphael, the Turtles and April in this film?
It’s a continuation of that world we left them in. They are now moving towards a world where there’s some kind of understanding that these guys exist. This movie is all about whether the Turtles decide to take that leap and work in and among the people rather than underneath them in the sewers. That’s where the journey picks up and the question begins. Right out of the gate, there are action sequences with them out and about fighting crime. Then some really strange stuff starts happening.
We have a few more villains introduced. How do you feel the stakes have been raised in this sequel?
There’s a lot of backstory we can draw from. If we are true to the comics, we are going to see all these characters at one point or another. This film really honors that. There are a lot more villains which really ups the ante. Things for the Turtles and the rest of the world are getting much more dangerous. That’s where a lot of the fun comes from. We want to see these guys fight crime. It gets otherworldly, so it’s great.
We were just getting a sense of who Raphael was. How does the movie expand him? What kind of arc does Raphael have in this movie?
With him, it’s sort of this lifetime resentment for serving these people that don’t know or appreciate his work, which we can all understand. When you are working hard, you want to give credit where credit is due. There’s a lot of anger and resentment built up in him. But, in the first film, we spent a lot of time thinking about how there was almost a jockeying for position amongst the Turtles. This time, the question veers a little deeper and more outward. He may start wondering if he even wants to be a Turtle. We spend a lot more time in that direction and hitting those themes of figuring out why these guys chose to do what they do.
It’s been a really fun arc to explore. There’s a lot of meat on the bone if you spend time with these Turtles and their world. We didn’t get to do that a ton last time simply because it was so expensive to see them on screen. It’s great because we get to go into those quiet moments where we are just a fly on the wall in their world and their lair and what they fight about. You got to see that and more of the dynamics between the brothers.
Raphael wasn’t particularly fond of Vern (Will Arnett). What does he make of Casey Jones?
In some of the comics, they are buddy/buddy and best friends. Raph is going to choose to like who Raph is going to choose to like. There’s a little friction there. They are all somewhat forced together and there is some friction because of it. I think he’s sort of anti-human in general.
The last film featured snow hill car chases and this choreographed rooftop showdown and some fun slip-sliding down the sewers. What was the craziest scene to film this time around?
For me, it’s not the answer you are looking for. The craziest stuff was the stuff in the lair. I’ve never been on a set like that. I may never be on another set like that. Just wait until you see the scope. People are going to think it’s CG. It’s this big, unbelievably beautiful enormous lair. We spend a lot of time in there and shot some meaty scenes. For me, that did it. I hope it translates on screen because the scope of that was incredible.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is in theaters now.
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