At New York Comic-Con 2018, AnimeSuperhero got the chance to talk with some of the cast and crew of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. From left to right in the photo above, we spoke with actors Kat Graham (April O’Neil) and Omar Miller (Raphael); and co-executive producer Ant Ward.
ANIMESUPERHERO: My first question is for Omar, since you’re the only Turtle I didn’t interview earlier this year. This looks like it’s your first voiceover role, correct?
OMAR MILLER: Yes and no. It’s my first voiceover series. I did a voice for a Christian animation film about the Nativity story. I played a pig, and it’s told from the standpoint of all the animals in the barn when Jesus was born.
KAT GRAHAM: Oh I want to see this, will you send it to me?
OMAR MILLER: It’s a South African film, as a matter of fact!
ANT WARD: Which one is it?
OMAR MILLER: It’s called The Lion of Judah. I played a pig, and honestly I did probably my best Foghorn Leghorn with a whole lot of snorts instead of clucks for the rooster. That was fun but that was a long time ago. So this is definitely my first animated consistent job, and it’s been a learning experience. It’s been very humbling, put it like that. It’s been very, very humbling. I take it seriously, even though we’re having a lot of fun.
ANT WARD: You’ve been knocking it out of the park, though, man.
OMAR MILLER: Thank you. Thank you.
OMAR MILLER: Listen, they put a lot on me, so I’m happy that people are responding. Put it like that. I try to get better. I’m somebody who likes being good at stuff, so I really want to be better than I am at this, if that makes any sense.
ANT WARD: You bring a great range to it, though, dude. Like you can be tough when you need to be, and then big and cuddly animal loving, too. It’s really great. That character has so much depth, it’s awesome.
OMAR MILLER: Thank you. And they write to your strengths. One thing that’s really helped me as a novice is that as we’ve all gotten to know each other better and better, the scripts come out and I read something and I’m like, “Oh! OK, that’s in my wheelhouse!”
KAT GRAHAM: Right!
OMAR MILLER: This is a center-cut fastball. I know what to do with that.
ANIMESUPERHERO: Ant, I read in another interview with you and Andy Suriano that you did about six episodes or so before you did the pilot. I thought that was really interesting because it feels like a lot of shows take about that long before they really find their footing.
ANT WARD: Well, there’s something very weird that’s happening now with development in cartoons. The development process has gotten really elongated. You can spend six months to a year to two years developing an idea before you actually start to make it, and then as soon as you start to make it, you realize, “What I’m making doesn’t make any sense.” So we were fortunate in that we had a very short development time. We started production within four months of being picked up, and we knew we couldn’t write the pilot which we wanted to be the start of this story, the start of this journey. Not only could we not write it, but we couldn’t expect the cast or our crew to be on board with what we wanted to do because we were still developing as we went. We were finding what was working, what didn’t work, what nuances would work, what types of stories we could really tell within the format we were changing. It took a while to get there, but we knew we had that goal.
ANIMESUPERHERO: Kat, to tie those two things together, what’s changed for you from the first records you had done to where you are now? Do you feel the same kinds of things Omar was talking about in the way the scripts have changed?
KAT GRAHAM: Well, when we first started…people think I’m an L.A. girl, maybe because of how I talk, but I’ve actually been living in Georgia for the past 10 years, and some of that sass, some of that Georgian twang would come out when I’d get really excited or do certain April-isms. So we had to move it from the South to more New York, because she is kind of this young New Yorker, street smart girl. So that was something we had to tweak a lot, actually, because when I get excited, my Atlanta comes out.
OMAR MILLER: Kat, your Atlanta’s showing! (Laughter)
KAT GRAHAM: It’s true! So they had to bring me from kind of bring me from L.A. to Georgia to New York, so that was something that they were really patient with with me. And I’d really say that whatever happens from this point on with this show or outside of it, I can honestly give credit to Ant and Andy and Rob Paulsen for coaching me through who I am becoming as a voiceover artist. So it’s really exciting. It’s really humbling because I don’t know what I’m doing (laughs) and it’s great. It’s really great.
ANIMESUPERHERO: The last thing I wanted to ask was about the visual style of the show. It feels like this is the most New York incarnation of animated Turtles I’ve ever seen because the art reminds me of guys like Keith Haring and those New York modern art types from the 70’s and graffiti art. Were those influences in the way you were designing the show?
ANT WARD: Not directly, but what we did want to do was treat the city itself like its own character. Because it really is. It’s a city that’s always alive, and it’s this fantastic juxtaposition of old meets new, and of cultural variance. And the people of New York are alive and thronging. So whenever we’re in town, and we’re in town quite a lot, Andy and I walk everywhere. We’re always taking photos and observing as much as we can. There’s a certain stereotype of New York that you think, but we wanted to step out beyond that and really represent the cosmopolitan city that it is. Kinetic and full of energy.
AnimeSuperhero would like to thank Ant Ward, Kat Graham, and Omar Miller for taking the time to talk with us, as well as the Nickelodeon PR team for organizing press sessions in the semi-controlled chaos of New York Comic Con. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is airing now on Nickelodeon. You can keep up with Ant Ward on his Twitter; Kat Graham on Twitter and on her official website; and Omar Miller on his Twitter.