They don't look like turtles. Not teenage, mutant, or ninja turtles. They are grown men draped in body stockings, faces and limbs meticulously coated in dots, with ping pong balls affixed above their heads as an eyeline. Nonetheless, the four stars of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows feel like the titular turtles the moment they open their mouths.
Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), and Pete Ploszek (Leonardo) share an affable ease, a ball-busting playfulness and an ardent love of the franchise made world famous by a 1980's cartoon show and '90s live-action trilogy. And they're doing their full-bodied best to do right by fans they know felt burned by 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Last June, Screen Rant sat down with this friendly foursome for a set visit while they were shooting in Manhattan's East Village on a multi-floor location so convincingly made up to look like a police station this reporter may have stopped a "cop" for directions. Late into the night, we'd witness these guys in action, making an explosive entrance in a curious action sequence. But first, we sat down with the turtles to talk Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, what fans have to look forward to, and what the hell went wrong with that first film.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How does it feel to be back for round two?
Alan Ritchson: It feels good. I got to be honest, I was a little nervous about coming back because the first run of this--the first trial run of the first film--was pretty tough. Pretty tough.
Ritchson: Well, we shot three different versions of the movie for one. So--
Noel Fisher: Getting the tone right.
Ritchson: Getting the tone mixed with getting the technology--
Fisher: Yeah, sharp learning curve.
Ritchson: Dealing with the politics--not us so directly but seeing it--it just made for a really tough shoot.
Pete Ploszek: I think that has informed our approach to this one though in the sense that I think we're all very aware of the movie we made last time. What worked. What didn't work. When you see what made it and what didn't make it (into the final cut), it really informs your choices as an actor. Even just seeing your translation of yourself to a motion-captured turtle, it's pretty damn educational. So that's sort of greased the machine for us this time around. It's been a good fast start.
Jeremy Howard: A much better start.
What specifically do you think worked the first time around that you wanted to bring to the second movie?
Fisher: For me just the energy of the turtles. Us four as people have a really great natural chemistry that's been there from the get-go. We really genuinely like hanging out and busting each others' balls, like brothers would. I think that's the main thing we're bring along with more of the turtles in this movie. So we got the opportunity to bring all of that energy to it.
Ritchson: I think the comedy and the chemistry of the turtles was what seemed to work the best the first time, and what is the emphasis this time.
Ploszek: I think that was clearest in the elevator the first time.
Ritchson: (Teasing) This whole movie actually takes place in an elevator.
Ploszek: We get off on some floors, we get back on on others in different outfits.
Ritchson: If it works once! Why not?
Ploszek: But you know what I mean, the beatbox scene. I think it's creating opportunities for more of that.
Have you adjusted to the motion-capture suits and being covered in dots?
Ploszek: By the end of the first film, it all disappeared for us, and I think for Megan.
Ritchson: So you guys understand, when we're wearing the contraptions, part of the mechanics of that is the eye line of the actor. That's those crazy pingpong balls that are up there (on our foreheads). It's got to be hard for an actor. Megan is used to looking us in the eye. Then we put this on, and she cannot look us in the eye. I don't know how they handle it. But they've gotten used to it.
Howard: Megan's more used to seeing us in dots than out of dots. We've gone into four restaurants in at lunchtime with dots on. It's New York. No one gives us a second glance.
Fisher: Going for coffee in our outfits is super fun.
Is Raphael the introduction to Casey Jones (like he was in the first Turtles movie franchise)?
Ritchson: (After conferring with the onset PR rep) No, I would say it's more of an ensemble. It's hard to describe the scene.
Fisher: It's not really through us at all.
Ploszek: But the turtles pay homage to it in how you--
Ritchson: I would say we tip our hat to that relationship, and hopefully we'll see that develop as something that's more familiar to the origin story. But I would say it's the turtles are more of an ensemble.
Howard: Raph's not on his own when he meets Casey Jones, let's put it that way.