Rob Paulsen Returns To The ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ For New Donatello Role [Interview]
The original Raphael is back, only this time, he’s voicing Donatello. That’s right, Rob Paulsen has returned to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon’s all-new CG animated series. Having voiced scores of characters including Snow Job, Steelbeak, The Mask, Bubsy, Yakko Warner, Pinky and (one of my personal favorites) Mighty Max, the longtime actor is poised to make a new impression on a multi-generational TMNT fanbase. CA got in touch with Paulsen to talk his transition from red to purple (and from sai to staff), kicking off a series of conversations with the show’s cast running up until its September 29 premiere on Nickelodeon. Click past the cut to learn more about Paulsen’s return to the TMNT, his thoughts on new Raphael voice actor Sean Astin, his favorite pizza and more.ComicsAlliance: Welcome back to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Having voiced hundreds of characters across dozens of series, has returning for the latest TMNT show as Donatello felt nostalgic at all?
Rob Paulsen: Thanks! It’s a complete gas being back! Incredibly nostalgic yet completely new. Like seeing an old friend for the first time in almost 20 years who’s had a really good face lift. It’s occurred to me that I’m in a fairly unique position career-wise. Most actors never have the opportunity to have two cracks at an iconic show. As a different character, no less!
CA: Sean Astin has taken over as Raphael, bringing a new flavor to a role you helped define. While a number of other actors have played Raph over the years, have you felt like you’ve had to more metaphorically pass the torch this time around?
RP: Yes. I’m sure that’s because we work together so closely. He is such a gem. He’s doing a terrific job too as are the rest of the cast. Sean brings an edge to Raph that I really dig. He, Greg and Jason have been so deferential with respect to my having been there at the beginning and couldn’t be more supportive. I believe the audience will feel the connection between us. It’s palpable in the studio. Lovely.
CA: You’ve worked with scores of actors over the years on different projects. What’s stood out to you about the dynamic of this particular cast voicing a group of brothers?
RP: We all “got” each other immediately. I think Ciro Nieli, Sarah Noonan and the decision makers at Viacom did a great job of matching the actors over and above the relative sounds of our voices together. We really do love working as a team and the recent press opportunities have allowed us to “perform” together outside of the studio. It’s pure joy. Sharp kids, those three.
CA: Of all of the ninja turtles, which do you most relate to?
RP: Personally? I’d have to say Raph. I can be kind of a smart ass. There are aspects of Leo too, I think. I’m a pretty straight arrow guy and probably follow the rules a bit too much. Might make me a little boring but it keeps me out of traffic school.
CA: Donatello is the brains of the team and traditionally supplies most of their technology. What do you like about getting to voice a brainier type of character?
RP: It’s a HUGE stretch for me. I’m by no means an MIT grad. It’s cool being a nerd who can kick ass when necessary. I think chicks dig that. Maybe I just hope they do. I’ve never been a ladies man in real life, so if it takes being a two time Turtle to appeal to the fairer sex, I’m cool with that.
CA: I’ve read that you’re a big hockey fan. I’d never accuse you of high sticking, but does your history with the sport help you relate to Don’s use of the bo staff?
RP: Moi? High sticking? Never! Besides, I wrap my hockey stick with a different kind of tape. Donnie wraps his Bo with “duck” tape as in, “Duck! Unless you wanna get clobbered, Shredder!”
CA: Given the turtles’ fondness of pizza, I’ve been asking each TMNT star if they’ve got favorite toppings. Are you into pizza? What kind do you usually order?
RP: I LOVE pizza! My favorite toppings are Canadian bacon, shrooms, green pepper and tomato. Deep dish, please. “Turtle-wise,” I prefer hot fudge, marshmallow, tuna fish and Doritos. Still deep dish.
CA: The original TMNT animated series ran for ten seasons and 193 episodes. Judging from what you’ve seen of the new CG animated series so far; do you think the new show will see similar longevity?
RP: It’s tough to say. The original show was completely new and fresh for its time. It clearly struck a nerve in millions of fans. This new version looks spectacular and is literally being made by fans of TMNT for fans. Executive producers, Ciro Nieli and Peter Hastings totally get the mythology and profound importance the show and characters have to millions of kids and grownups, frankly. There’s SO much more competition now for the attention of viewers. But I gotta tell ya, if anyone can pull off another monster hit with this franchise it’s Nickelodeon…with a little help from four green teens.