After a string of confusing comments about alien origins, director Jonathan Liebesman’s live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot has offered-up one controversial production detail after another. Producer Michael Bay, along with other members of the cast and crew, have since retracted the idea that the Turtles will be dimension-hopping extra terrestrials – asserting that the filmmakers will be staying true to the “teenage mutant” source material. However, other divisive choices remain – most notably the casting of model-turned-actress Megan Fox as reporter (and traditionally non-sexualized) April O’Neil.
One week back, we got word of another casting addition that reignited concern in longtime Turtle fans – as well-known entertainer Whoopi Goldberg was seen on set. At the time, it was unclear how Goldberg, who (despite award-winning dramatic work) often appears in campy comedy roles, would fit into the plot but a recent report sheds new light on her character – as well as what role she might have in the larger plot.
According to a CBM source, Goldberg will play an editor at Channel 6 News named Bernadette Thompson. Since this is an unconfirmed rumor (albeit a believable one), it’s possible that Goldberg is be playing someone else. Still, TMNT enthusiasts will remember that “Burne” Thompson was a key supporting figure in the original cartoon series (voiced by Pat Fraley). At the time, Burne was a white, blond-haired, man – so it’s unclear whether Liebesman is merely using the name as a fun nod to fans or made an intentional choice to rework certain aspects of the character to make it a fit for Goldberg (or a similarly-talented entertaining).
That said, we can expect that the character’s contributions to the plot will remain somewhat similar – as the boss of April O’Neil and trouble-making cameraman Vernon Fenwick (played by Will Arnett). Goldberg was on set a few days after a scene that showed Fox downtown with Raphael (not to mention an earlier setup that appeared to depict O’Neil getting fired) – though it’s unclear whether or not the sequences are directly related in the film.
Still, Burne Thompson was a staunch anti-vigilante advocate – considering the Turtles to be no better (or any less dangerous) than all the other mutant freaks running around New York City. The character was a pretty traditional “newspaper boss” character – dedicated to reporting the facts (even if his personal bias showed through on occasion). Plenty of similarities can be drawn between Burne and Spider-Man‘s J. Jonah Jameson (a point CBM also points out in their report) but that doesn’t necessarily ensure that Goldberg’s Bernadette will retain all of the same traits. It’s equally likely that, this time, Thompson is a thematic stand-in for all of New York City – skeptical of the Turtles at first (possibly even firing O’Neil for defending them), only to be won-over by their heroics in the end (and reinstating her former reporter).
That’s all speculation at this point but it’s hard to imagine Liebesman would cast an actress as likable and fun as Goldberg – only to have her serve as a human antagonist for the entire runtime. Despite the “realistic” tone the filmmakers are aiming to convey, casting entertainers like Goldberg and Arnett certainly indicates that plenty of goofy comedy beats will be included. Obviously, Goldberg is also an accomplished dramatic actress as well, with an Academy Award for her role in Ghost as well as a nomination for The Color Purple, but it’s hard to imagine she’ll be putting her more serious thespian chops to work – especially if there actually is a scene where Megan Fox jumps on a trampoline.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hits theaters June 6th, 2014.
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