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Hoon Lee Talks Voicing Splinter On Nickelodeon’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ [Interview]

About a year ago I rewatched the live action 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie for the first time since I was a kid and got totally choked up every time Splinter would talk about fatherhood. His “All fathers care for their sons,” line even had me calling my own pops the next day, just because. So when Nickelodeon reached out with an opportunity to interview Hoon Lee, the voice of Splinter from Nickelodeon’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CG animated series, I was stoked to get his take on playing the latest version of the green machines’ adoptive father and sensei. You can read the full interview with Hoon Lee, after the jump.

ComicsAlliance: When I first heard that Nickelodeon’s new series would be portraying Splinter as a younger, physically larger and more durable father figure, I had reservations. After the first episode, though, I really warmed up to the new take. What do you like about his modified dynamic with his sons on the new series?

Hoon Lee: For one thing it actually strengthens the sense of fatherhood for me. He’s at a more appropriate age to have teenage kids. It keeps his relationship with the boys less removed. Also, his greater physical capability means there are more conscious decisions being made. Letting the boys venture on their own means something different for instance. And choosing to remain at home when there’s danger abroad also means something different. These are all interesting avenues for the character.

CA: Splinter’s sense of humor has also been beefed up a little to go with the show’s tweaked sensibility. How important do you think humor has been to the new show’s success?

HL: I think it’s been enormously important. It keeps things energized and fun and adventurous. Also, the humor and wit create a lightness that gives the story greater dynamic range. You can go farther into the darkness and seriousness of a show if there’s some balance on the other side. And obviously the humor between Splinter and the boys tells you a lot about their personalities but in a more interesting, nuanced way.

CA: How do you think you compare to Splinter, personality-wise?

HL: Well he’s a wiser, more intelligent and experienced soul. But then, he has writers.

CA: Did you grow up a fan of the TMNT? Did you have a favorite incarnation prior to the new series in comics, animation or movies?

HL: I will always think of those initial comic books – the black and white original run. They created the blueprint. So they’re always going to be my sentimental favorites. But I’m incredibly proud of our show.

CA: If you could play another role on the show in addition to Splinter, which character would you choose and why?

HL: Actually – I’d love to play a Kraang. I just love the way they talk. It always makes me chuckle. It’s hard for me to picture playing other characters in the universe since I know the other actors involved and I “hear” their voices. I’d feel like (and would be) a cheap imitation.

CA: Do you ever find yourself slipping into Splinter mode and doing his voice in your day-to-day life ever?

HL: Not really. I felt like I found the voice through the writing. There’s a rhythm and tone there that leads me to the right place naturally. It’s hard to overstate the importance of the writing, the recording environment and the personnel involved when it comes to making the actors’ performances work. The creative team makes it very easy to find Splinter. They also supply sandwiches. That always helps.

CA: What have your interactions with fans been like since the new show debuted this past fall?

HL: Well I don’t want to sound like I’m just sucking up but the fans are AWESOME. I’d never been to comic con and to be able to go (both to San Diego and New York) and meet people who are so enthusiastic and supportive and passionate has been even more special than I’d imagined. They’re trusting you with their time and their attention and, in some cases, their childhood memories! So it’s very important for me to let them know what a privilege it is to do this work and what an honor it is that they respond to it. Just a great community of fans. And so good looking! (Okay now I’m sucking up).

CA: Toys are a pretty big part of the TMNT experience for a lot of fans. Have you checked out the new Splinter toy or any of the other action figures?

HL: I have my action figure! I’m keeping him intact until my son is just a bit older. I’m half hoping he’s into it and half hoping he’s not. More for me! I’m planning on checking out the rest of the run very soon.


CA: Splinter would probably say that he loves all of his children equally, but do you have a favorite Turtle?

HL: I do really enjoy watching Mikey (doesn’t everyone say that?) and now I’m really enjoying Raph’s interaction with Donnie. But Leo – he’s the leader you know? Have I sufficiently dodged the question?

CA: I got to ask Rob Paulsen and Greg Cipes this question awhile back and now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite kind of pizza?

HL: For me the best pizza is just plain cheese and really crisp, thin crust. If the crust and the sauce and the cheese are all amazing that’s the best.

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A new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode, “I, Monster,” will air on Nickelodeon on Friday, Jan. 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT. You can check out a preview clip below:

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