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Interview: Kelly Hu Talks TMNT

The voice of Karai chats about the animated show, X-Men, Arrow, and much more!

After a two week break, Nick's impressively awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is finally back! The last episode, "Enemy of My Enemy" was hugely fun and placed a firm focus on the complicated relationship between Karai and the Turtles. An unexpected betrayal by the heroes in a half shell changed the dynamic, and now Shredder's daughter is no longer interested in an uneasy alliance -- instead, she wants revenge.

I was lucky enough to chat with Kelly Hu -- the voice of Karai -- about her character, the future of the show, and the numerous other franchises she's appeared in.

Comic Vine: This show continues to impress me week after week. What do you think it is about the show that makes it so enjoyable?

Kelly Hu: Judging from the title, you’d think it would only attract a young audience but it’s really got a lot of great humor in it and the characters are quite complex. My character, Karai, she wrestles with the good and the bad and who she is – trying to figure out the truth in all of this. It’s not just necessarily the kind of storyline that just appeals to young children – it’s more complex than that.

CV: Before you joined the show did you have any previous experience with the franchise? Did you watch the cartoons/movies or read the comics?

KH: No, but I did a movie with Ernie Reyes Jr. called Surf Ninjas! (laughs)

CV: When you landed the role, did you dive back into the franchise to research your character or instead focus on the new direction they wanted to take Karai?

KH: I did. Once I got it I went online and got some information. There was this TMNT wiki, so I read about her and the different versions. I like that they haven’t followed the background from the other versions because it makes it more interesting for people to watch.

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CV: In your opinion, what makes Karai such a popular and unique character?

KH: I think people just love girls who can beat up on boys! I think people love these little tough girls. She’s got lots of attitude and she’s sarcastic at times. You just never know what she’s going to do. She’s always surprising you – you think she’s going to turn one way and she goes the other. And right now she tried to team-up with the boys and turn to the good side. It’s interesting to see where she’ll end up because she’s so volatile.

CV: Up until the latest betrayal, Leo and Karai had a pretty complex relationship. How do you think she honestly feels about him? Do you think that uneasy alliance would have lasted once the Kraang are out of the picture?

KH: That’s the question, right? You don’t know where she’s really coming from. She was brought up by such a sinister character so you don’t know if she’s taken that on and trying to trick them or if she really does come from the heart. That’s why it’s hard to convince them because they don’t know. I think she’s a bit confused a lot of times as well. It’s such a great character to play that way. And there’s so many great twists and turns coming up with her! Ah! I’m bursting at the seams! (laughs)

CV: Yeah, we had to wait 2 weeks for the new episode!

KH: The best stuff is coming up. It’s all Karai and it’s all awesome.

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CV: Like you said before, part of what makes Karai appealing is the fact she’s can totally beat up just about any dude. You’ve played a lot of characters that fall into that category (Lady Deathstrike, China White, Cheshire, etc)..

KH: I think it’s so funny that I always play characters who are kicking boys butts! Even the characters that I voice are butt-kickers and do all these martial arts. I was saying earlier to someone else that the only reason I think I got the job is because I can do these fight efforts believably. “She really does sound like she can do Karate!” That’s because I can!

CV: If all the characters you’ve played and voiced got into a brawl, who do you think would be the one to walk away?

KH: Oh! That’s so tough! That is hard because I've played so many characters!

CV: I was thinking Lady Deathstrike.

KH: Just last night on Arrow, my character, China White, was beating up on Green Arrow. You know, Lady Deathstrike is iconic and so tough. I think Karai would really give her a run for her money, though. That would be a good one – I’d be interested to see that!

CV: A team-up between them would be pretty frightening.

KH: Wouldn't that?! Angry Asian women! (laughs)

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CV: Are there any other iconic comic book characters you’d want to get a shot at playing?

KH: There were some I had meetings on a while ago but they got shelved. One was called Jade and another was called Shi, but nothing is going on with those characters. I think female comic book characters are really tough when it comes to holding a film. I think people like watching the guys, then the girls will kind of come in and co-star or team-up. But it’s hard to hold a film with a female character. I guess the only ones that have been successful in that way is Lara Croft and Resident Evil, but other than that it’s tough for women.

CV: While we’re on the subject, do you have a favorite comic book movie?

KH: You know, I have to say X2 was pretty good! Am I allowed to pick it?

CV: Sure, you can totally plug it. It’s a good one!

KH: I think it’s one of the best! (laughs)

CV: How do you feel about Hugh Jackman killing you?

KH: Ugh, it was so disappointing, but it was such a beautiful death, wasn't it?

CV: Absolutely.

KH: It was beautifully shot and I think that people really felt sorry for her in the end. I’m really anxious to see what Bryan Singer’s next X-Men movie will be like.

CV: That’s actually what I was going to ask about later. The X-movies kind of jump all over when it comes to the time frame so if there was any kind of opportunity for Lady Deathstrike to return, would you be interested in reprising the role?

KH: I would love to bring back Lady Deathstrike – it would be a dream of mine. But so far it has not been in the cards, but hopefully they’ll bring her back before I’m too old to do martial arts!

CV: You mentioned before about Arrow. I’m a few episodes behind, but is there anything you can tease about your future on it?

KH: All I know is I’m not dead so I can come back for next season. That’s all I know and that’s always a good thing. You know, I die so much in my work because I’m always the bad girl. It’s become kind of a running joke of mine that I’m going to put together a reel of all of my death scenes and have it played at my funeral! I die so often that whenever I get a new job and call my mom she always says, “Do you die?!”

CV: Totally cliché question but I’ve got to ask it: who’s your favorite Turtle and why?

KH: I like Mikey a lot. I think he’s so adorable. I love the way Greg Cipes plays him. It’s really just Greg’s voice – he is Mikey! He’s so Mikey that the first time I ever worked with him in a big group, he actually pulled down his pants in front of everyone to show that he actually had TMNT underwear on! I was like, “I love him!”

CV: Boxers or briefs?

KH: Boxer briefs!

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CV: You've been in so many franchises. If you could pick two for a crossover, which would be the coolest to see?

KH: Well, you've got mutants in both the Turtles and X-Men, so that would be interesting to see those crossover. That fight with Karai and Lady Deathstrike would just be awesome.

CV: In the older cartoons, there were some pretty lame (yet lovable) TMNT villains like Bebop and Rocksteady. They were basically the definition of “doofus.” But now we've got Dogpound and Fishface – and while they’re silly names, they’re still pretty intimidating characters. So, what do you think would happen if they picked a fight with Karai?

KH: Karai is dangerous because she can get so angry, she can just lose it. I think that’s what makes her so fun to watch. You never know when she’ll just explode out of nowhere. So yeah, I think in a couple of episodes you see her sort of slapping them around, too!

CV: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the show or upcoming work you have?

KH: I’m going to be making an appearance soon on Warehouse 13 and it’ll be a reoccurring role! Anything with powers and superheroes, I’m totally there – that’s my reason for living.

CV: Thank you so much for your time!

KH: Great talking to you!

"Karai's Vendetta" airs Saturday, April 27th at 11am (ET) on Nick.

Gregg Katzman is a freelance writer for Comic Vine and IGN Entertainment. This is the part where he shamelessly plugs his Google+ and Twitter page in hopes of getting a new follower or two.