I recently had the opportunity to interview up-and-coming actor Noel Fisher about what it was like to step into the role of a lifetime: His childhood icon Michelangelo in this summer's [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles](movie:323027). The actor took a break from his star making, Emmy buzzy turn as troubled gay lover Mickey Milkovich in Showtime's critically acclaimed [Shameless](series:720555) to chat with me, and was gracious as could be.
To my delight (but not quite my surprise), Fisher was fantastic to interview: Funny, warm, humble, and boyishly enthusiastic about the character he's loved since he was a kid. As I learned, stand-in Jedis are good, Velcro is bad, and nunchucks, well...nunchucks are a wild card.
You’ve been a part of the Twilight franchise, but this is the first time you’ve been in a lead role for a franchise with as big a fanbase as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Did you find that intimidating?
Of course, a little. I mean, you want to come in and make sure you are doing justice to the characters. I understand – I grew up with them, too, you know, they were heroes of mine when I was a kid, so I know how I feel about it as a fan. It’s definitely a little intimidating that fans have been so vocal about decisions that have been made about the movie but I can’t really think too much about that. All I can do is try to breathe life into a character that I have a lot of love for.
So as a former TMNT fan, who was your favorite?
You know, I was always a Donatello guy. There was just something about him. He just always seemed so calm and collected. I liked that. Having said who doesn’t love Michelangelo? Everyone loves Mikey, he’s the fun-loving life of the party.
You guys did a ton of mocap work for this. Any funny stories from having to wear the mocap suit?
Oh man. It wasn’t that bad, but it definitely took some getting used to. We have all of these sensor things they stuck to us, and they’d be labeled for each one of us and what part of the suit they were supposed to go on. You know, like “Mikey right shoulder, Mike left shoulder”. But there was Velcro all over the suits, so sometimes, we’d have to stop because they’d be like, “Wait, wait. Mikey, how did you get Leo’s shin stuck to your shoulder?”.
The first day we shot was pretty hilarious because it was part of the snow chase scene and I remember the guys down in the truck were getting tossed around a lot and getting their cameras stuck to each other like braces. That was pretty funny to watch.
Did you have to do any stunt work in the mocap suits? What was that like?
We had to shoot some scenes, but we’re not really trained in martial arts, and we really wanted to make it clear that they’re ninjas, you know? Luckily we had this incredible stunt team, 87 Eleven. Getting to watch them do their thing was the jaw dropping. My stunt double was incredible – his name is Jeremy Marinas – and just to see him flipping around and spinning and doing all this ninja stuff and knowing that was Mikey doing that, was really cool. Knowing that what people are going to see was that character up on screen was really incredible. The 87 Eleven team was great. They did all the fight coordinating and weapons. They were awesome. Real life Jedi.
Is there anything you’re really proud of that you learned while shooting this film?
I did get pretty good at the nunchucks. I was kinda proud of that. It’s hard using those with cameras strapped to your head. We had lots of scenes where I’d be whirling them around and have go to the ILM guys and say, “Look, I pre-apologize, but how much do these cost cause I’m probably going to hit your camera with my nunchucks.” And I would. [laughing] But I got pretty good with them at the end. I definitely wouldn’t want to bring them into a fight but for movie making I can pretend to be badass!
So you could take out a bad guy with your nunchucks?
[laughing] Only if they were 87 Eleven guys making me look like I was winning.
What was your most favorite day on set or favorite scene to shoot?
Any day we were just hanging out in our lair set. A lot of this is about how the four of them are family, and we all felt like that on set, so my favorite moments are when we were all just hanging out together on that set. The first time we walked in and saw the lair, my mind was pretty blown. I mean, we all grew up with the cartoons, you know? So getting to see that come to life was pretty exciting.
A lot of people don’t realize that the Turtles were originally a comic book, and it was a LOT darker and more subversive than the bright cartoon we all grew up with. The trailers seem to be a little darker, like they’ll bring more of the graphic novel vibe into it. Is that right?
I think we aimed to strike a balance between the two. The comics were definitely more dark and were aimed at a more adult crowd but we also want to be accessible to this whole new generation that is discovering TMNT. We want there to be some gritty action but you don’t want to loose that fun, pizza loving vibe either. I guess that's where my character comes in a lot. I mean, Mikey was always the goofball, the pizza-obsessed one, so it’s cool that I get to bring a lot of the comic relief to the movie. I think fans of the original cartoons will be really happy with the final product, but it will also open the door to new fans of the Turtles. And that’s kind of the best of both worlds.
[Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles](movie:323027) is currently in theaters. If you haven't seen it yet - what are you waiting for?