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Interview: Greg Cipes and Hoon Lee Chat About TMNT

We talk with the voices of Michelangelo and Splinter about Season One's upcoming finale!

The hour-long finale is almost here! The Turtles have faced all kinds of crazy mutations and threats thus far, but the road ahead of them is looking particularly challenging. Shredder has formed an alliance with the Kraang and to top it off, the aliens from Dimension X want to take over the planet. The show continues to rock, so you can bet we're extremely pumped for the episode to air this week. To help ease the wait, Nickelodeon let us talk with Greg Cipes (Michelangelo) and Hoon Lee (Splinter) about the upcoming episode.

*These phone interviews were conducted separately*

More Metalhead? Yes, please!
More Metalhead? Yes, please!

Comic Vine: Obviously "booyakasha!" is your big line as Mikey, but aside from that, do you have a favorite or most memorable line?

Greg Cipes: I say "booyakasha" a lot and I love it. I would say every episode there's a line that I love to do. The writing is so funny. I do dig the one where he's like, "I'm gonna tattoo my face over my face" and you see the old '80s version of Mikey pop up. I know there's a lot more fun stuff like that coming up animation wise.

CV: I loved the line about the heart in "Operation: Break Out." It was a nice moment of wisdom from Mikey and you don't really expect that -- you kind of expect him to be the voice of levity and fun.

GC: That's cool. Yeah, Mikey is very wise and I think it has to do with not thinking, actually. The fact he's so wild and like an animal, wisdom comes through... like our dogs and our pets, they teach us.

CV: The season finale is coming up. Would you like to talk about what kind of role Mikey will have?

GC: I don't want to spoil anything because it's going to be such a surprise. If there's anytime ever the Turtles could win, it's this time because the Turtles have been training all season for it. But who knows? I don't know! I haven't even seen it yet!

CV: I remember in the first episode, Splinter was celebrating their birthday. Since then, how much would you say Mikey has grown up and developed as a character?

GC: He's grown up. He's absolutely evolving and sometimes even becoming the leader of the group which I enjoy playing. It's not always welcome by the brothers but they definitely start to realize Mikey's not a force to be messed with.

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CV: Speaking of the other brothers, which Turtle (aside from Mike) would you say you relate to the most and why?

GC: I'd say Raph. I love Raph's aggressive personality but it's based on wanting to do the right thing and honor. I'd say as far as the other Turtles go, I'd say Raph's the second most wild Turtle and I love being wild, man. And I love Sean Astin so much. He's a big brother in the show and he's my big brother in real life.

CV: Before landing the role, did you have any experience with the franchise?

GC: Yeah, the original show was my favorite show growing up. Who I am today for a big reason is because of the Turtles. They got me into meditation, martial arts, skateboarding. In general, it made me the positive individual I am today.

CV: And now you're doing that for a whole new generation! What is it about the new show you think makes it such a success?

GC: It's so cool to offer this energy to the next generation. And it's actually bigger now than it was in the '80s based on the amount of people on Earth and kids there are right now. It's actually bigger than its ever been. It's a great responsibility and we're having so much fun offering it to these kids in our world.

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CV: You've been the voice of a lot of comic book characters. Are there any other comic book characters or superheroes you'd love to one day voice?

GC: Mickey Mouse!

CV: *laughs* Why Mickey?

GC: I love mice but I also just love Mickey. I would say SpongeBob but Tom Kenny's got that! *laughs* But really though, I love iconic positive characters like Mickey Mouse and I think Mickey's the ultimate superhero. Plus, it's close to Mikey -- Mickey, Mikey.

CV: What about 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Mice?'

GC: Yeah, that would be a good episode, man!

CV: Would Mickey be the Leo of the group?

GC: No, Mickey would be Mikey, dude!

CV: You're Beast Boy over in Teen Titans Go! If Mikey went into that show, who do you think he'd get along with?

GC: That's obvious! Beast Boy, of course! For many reasons. They're both wild, free, goofy, funny and cute. I think Mikey would love to have Beast Boy turn into all these kinds of different animals and play with dinosaurs. I think Mikey would be more into the fact that Beast Boy can just turn into every animal. I think it would work out great if the Turtles and Titans came together but they're two different worlds. Only through me are they coexisting!

CV: Is there anything else you'd like to add about TTG?

GC: They're both great shows. I love all the shows I'm a part of -- Ultimate Spider-Man Ben 10... it's such a beautiful place to be if you're a voice actor, especially if you're a working voice actor, and to be a part of these huge shows and to have them be so fun to be a part of and get paid for it... it's awesome, there's nothing better than that. These two shows are two of the biggest shows in the whole world and they continue to be. They continue to be these shows that make kids into positive people. These shows are making a difference in people's lives. Kids are sponges so it's important to have shows like TMNT -- for myself to watch and for these kids of all ages. It's crucial, actually.

CV: For sure. I'm 28 and I love it.

GC: Very enjoyable to watch. Humor filled yet very powerful messages, especially the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The writing is so good. Titans is more of South Park meets the Teens Titans, where the Turtles is just the Turtles, man. It's so authentically rooted in what the show is about and true to the original creation of the show and the comic book. Kevin Eastman is always blessing us up and showing up and giving his input. He's a dear friend of the show.

CV: Aside from the Turtles and Splinter, the new show has created a lot of new mutants and reinvented some previous ones. Do you have a favorite one?

GC: Yeah, I like Dogpound! I just enjoy anything having to do with dogs and I know there's a lot more coming up that fans will be excited about. They're really full of characters from Turtledom. The long history of all these awesome characters from the original comic book -- they get brought in, all these favorites.

CV: If you had to say why people should check out the finale, what would you tell them?

GC: First thing that comes to mind -- and this is an odd reference -- to not see this episode is like not ever listening to Bob Marley's music once. That's really the energy. It's very important and fun and positive and entertaining... and that's what life's about. Turtles and Bob Marley go together.

CV: Thank so you much for your time and making me laugh every weekend.

GC: Man, my pleasure! If you get a chance, check out my new band Super Space Fighters music video on or you can check it out on Twitter. I'm always talking about the shows and the episodes. I get hundreds of comments and questions every day and I'm always on there answering it!

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CV: Last time we spoke, Hoon Lee, I asked you what your favorite Splinter line was. But that was quite some time ago, so I'm wondering if you have a new favorite line?

Hoon Lee: Oh, gosh! You know, it's tough for me because some of the stories have gotten more personal for Splinter and more emotional. I feel like the moments are standing out to me as opposed to favorite lines -- fear for his sons, etc. I think at the beginning of the series, Splinter has a wonderful combination of a mentor's mentality but also a wicked sense of humor. They've maintained that but I've been pleasantly surprised by how much depth they're giving him as a father figure. The thing I guess that stands out is the story of recounting how he came to be and what he lost in that process.

CV: One of the highlights of the series has been the rare times Splinter steps up and shows how skilled he is, like with Leatherhead. Can we expect to see a lot of Splinter being awesome in the finale?

HL: Well, I will say the entire episode is extremely action packed, pretty much from top to bottom. From what I've seen of it and from what I know of it, I think it's the most exciting and most dynamic episode to date. I'll just say I don't believe you can have that much action without everyone pitching in.

CV: Fair enough! Speaking of the finale, aside from it being action packed, is there anything spoiler-free you can tease?

HL: Sure. As with a lot of finales, the entire season is sort of oriented towards this sort of critical mass on several fronts. I think all throughout the season, these seeds have been laid for certain kinds of encounters but also storylines. It reminds me a little bit of how The X-Files would have those monster episodes but they would also have these larger themes that eat their way through the entire season. In a similar way, we've been dealing with Kraang, we've been dealing with Shredder, we've been dealing with the situations that keep emerging as persistent issues. All of those (particular mutations) are part of a larger theme as well. I think the finale really serves its function as a sort of crucible of these events kind of colliding. Plus, I will say that one of my favorite TV shows growing up was Roseanne. For Roseanne Barr to become part of the show is amazing to me. Like, I cannot wait.

CV: Totally weird question: there's an alternate universe where you've been cast in the show, but they want to cast you as one of the Turtles instead of Splinter. Who would you want to voice and why?

HL: *laughs* Oh, man... that's so hard. I have to say, really, with all honesty, I love voicing Splinter. I love him as a character, I love what he stands for, I love that amongst all of the characters, he's really somebody that has suffered traumatic loss. So, it's tough for me to imagine voicing someone else. The gang does such a good job, it's hard for me to imagine anybody else voicing their roles. I would say that given past roles that I had, I think Raph. I think a more natural fit would probably be Donatello because he's the resident nerd and I think that's probably more accurate for me.

CV: Speaking of being nerdy... if you could see the Ninja Turtles do a crossover with any other franchise out there, who would you really want to see and why?

HL: Oh my God, you know, I'm a huge Batman fan. I know that's the most cliche thing in the world. I think he's such an interesting character. The fact he's risen to such prominence time and time again says a lot about where our society is at in any given time. He's a certain barometer to me for all heroes. I think what would be kind of hilarious is, in their own way, the Turtles are creatures of the night. I think it would kind of be this incredible mix of action and hilarity to see these happy-go-lucky, innocent Turtles confront the Dark Knight. In many ways, the Batman pantheon of villains is not a bad parallel to the gallery of mutated villains that the Turtles face. You can see someone like Clayface fitting very well into the Turtles universe. Or Killer-Croc. Killer-Croc vs. Leatherhead would be amazing, too. I'd certainly watch it, so it would have at least one viewer.

CV: I think it would definitely have a lot of viewers. I can't resist since you brought it up... let's say the Turtles and Batman did meet and had to throw down. Who's taking that?

HL: Oh, man! You know how I see that unfolding? I see that as one of those fights that doesn't even get fought. I think Batman would scare the pants off of the Turtles. They're certainly able to deal with very formidable challenges, but he'd simply strike fear into them to the point where a fight would be a non-issue. Can you just imagine Michelangelo, how he'd deal with Batman? It would be hilarious. The great thing is Andrea Romano, our voice director, has directed so many of the Batman animated series properties. In some ways, it's just waiting to happen! *laughs*

CV: What if they had Splinter?

HL: The beauty of that is neither of them would want to fight. It would be a lot of standing around and intense staring at each other, trying to find out a weakness and figuring out this probably doesn't need to happen. It would be a lot of dramatic pausing. There would be some cherry blossom petals falling and a lot of preparation, and then they'd turn and walk away.

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CV: You mentioned the different mutants and how'd they'd fit in. Aside from the Turtles and Splinter, who would you say your favorite mutant has been?

HL: I don't think think he was brought the farthest in reinvention, but I thought Leatherhead was really compelling because a lot of the creatures that the Turtles have to face have bee otherworldly -- alien or mystifying in some way. There's a kind of rawness to Leatherhead, that sort of primal quality, and the fact he was driven by rage and fighting his own nature makes him not just a formidable potential enemy, but also a complicated ally. I think they did a really good job of having that duality of the character really create movement in the episode. I think that's kind of a tricky thing -- to have someone you're setting up as a villain that can flip a switch into an ally and flip a switch and go back to a villain. You really got a sense of his immense power, his raw unrivaled rage and power. That felt very different to me -- it stood out and gave him an even more lethal and dangerous edge. All the more poignant because it was his nature he was fighting.

CV: Would you say that's also your favorite episode?

HL: It sounds very self-serving because Splinter's featured heavily in it, but I found that episode very compelling just because of Leatherhead. I really thought that was a great character and it was great to be a part of that. Splinter's at the counter-point of Leatherhead. He's a very controlled, focused, experienced character. So to be able to play off of that other energy in the script was lovely and felt very rewarding from a character standpoint. It gives you something as a character to push against as opposed to just trying to self-generate all the time.

CV: Super serious question time: the Turtles are known for having pizza with odd toppings. What would you put on a pizza that sounds ridiculous but would probably taste good?

HL: Oh man, these are tough! I'm in the south right now and there are areas where you cannot get bacon that is not maple praline bacon. It sounds like it's incredibly rich -- it's horrible for you -- but it's so good. I was thinking I kind of want to have it on everything... put it on ice cream! So putting that on a pizza is something I would love to try... and then curl up in a small ball and die.

CV: Is there another franchise or specific character you'd like to also be a part of? Based on our chat, I have a feeling it's related to Batman!

HL: Yeah, I wish I had a more original answer! In fact, the voice of Batman in Beware The Batman is a friend of mine -- Anthony Ruivivar. When I heard he had gotten the job, I was trying to figure out how to dispose of him quietly and take his place. But he's doing wonderful job! It's funny... in the Batman universe, you really only want to voice Batman. It's like "I want to voice Batman and maybe that's it." In terms of other franchises, I've always had a soft spot for Voltron and Battle of the Planets. I always wished they would bring those back in a really great way. Just really reinvent them with vigor. And of course, probably anything to do with the Star Wars universe would be amazing.

CV: If you had to promote the finale in 5 words or less what, what would you say?

HL: I'd say, "Huh?! Pow! Pow! Gasp! Pow!"

CV: *laughs* I think you've sold a lot of people with that. Thanks for your time!

TMNT's hour-long season finale airs this Thursday, August 8th, at 8:00pm (ET/PT). Check the homepage afterwards for our review!

Avatar image for lvenger
Posted By lvenger

SPLINTER IS FIGHTING SHREDDER! This episode is now an instant win given the awesomeness of that picture. The season finale is on Thursday right?

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Edited By Jonny_Anonymous

TMNT is actually the saving grace of cartoons

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Posted By RoTheKid

Great interviews, Gregg! Thanks for posting these! Can't wait for the finale! :)

Avatar image for jonny_anonymous
Posted By Jonny_Anonymous

@lvenger said:

SPLINTER IS FIGHTING SHREDDER! This episode is now an instant win given the awesomeness of that picture. The season finale is on Thursday right?

Avatar image for frozenedge
Posted By frozenedge

Splinter vs Shredder, Metalhead action, and more? This season finale is gonna be awesome

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Edited By TheWolverine04

For some reason I don't hate TMNT's CGI animation like I do in other cartoons.

Avatar image for ms__omega
Posted By ms__omega

Splinter vs Shredder, Metal Head :) Damn all we need is for Leatherhead to come back!!!

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Posted By FoxCircuit101

This finale is gonna rock!

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Posted By RedheadedAtrocitus

TMNT is where its at right now I say! I plan on doing a marathon of episodes just before the finale :)