An Interview with #TMNT2 Star Stephen Amell

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Director: Dave Green
Writers: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec
Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Tyler Perry
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Official Socials: Site | FacebookTwitter | Instagram |  IMDb
Release Date: June 3, 2016
The Turtles return to save the city from a dangerous threat.

In an unmarked room on the 18th floor inside a squawky Miami Beach hotel, we got to sit down with Stephen Amell as he talked to us about his new role as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of The Shadows out June 3, 2016. We spoke about the audition process to acting alongside some pretty big cast members (nope, we aren’t talking Megan Fox. I’ll give you a clue; they are 6-feet-tall, green and a pack of brothers.)

Q:Casey Jones is a very iconic character, were you a fan of the Turtles growing up?

Stephen: “Yeah! I started watching the cartoons and I can’t remember Casey Jones so much as a cartoon because I was young when I was watching the animated series but then obviously the movies came along and Casey was a big part of that. When I was thinking as a kid watching the Turtles, someone asked me with person did you want to play and I think it might’ve been Casey Jones subconsciously in my very young brain cause he was like a hockey player and he wasn’t a Turtle and I couldn’t totally conceptualize myself being one of those. I’m been a big fan for a while [of Casey Jones”.]

Q: I was actually in New York when you guys were filming so I got to see a couple of shots you were doing, so how does it feel like a year later that the film is finally coming out?

Stephen:“I’ll tell you, the whole thing is actually a little surreal because what I’m used to is not instant gratification but I’ve seen the season finale of Arrow. I watched it a week ago, it’s not the finished cut but it’s very close. It’s weird because I know we filmed a lot of stuff, I know it’s not all in the movie, I know we did some additional photography so it’s not like I really know how it all pieces together. It’s totally surreal. Not only that but the biggest factor is you are filming these scenes either with guys in platforms wearing CGI suits where you are talking to ping-pong balls that are above their heads or once you get those scenes on their feet you’re filming with nobody there. So the idea that I’m going to see a scene where I’m standing in the same space as a 9 foot tall Turtle is mind-blowing.

Q: What are you bringing to this rendition of Casey Jones?

Stephen: “I think i’m bringing some enthusiasm and some fun. I’m brining also an origin story that’s unique to any rendition of Casey Jones which is also allows me a little bit of freedom and a little bit of creative license. I think it’s important when you are doing any type of character that has been represented before. Obviously there has been so many Batman’s right? Of course Batman has this iconic moment of his parents dying and it shaping this legacy for him. Concurrently they’ve always done something with each character that is his own. For me, with Casey Jones is him being a corrections officer and wanting to do the right thing and wanting to play by the rules and the fact that I keep running up against authority figures don’t see things the way I want them to see them leads me down to a different path.”

Q: So your character uses sport’s equipment to fight. If you had to fight someone evil in real life, what piece of sport’s equipment do you think you will use?

Stephen: “I feel like a baseball bat. It’ll probably have to be a baseball bat. I mean, maybe a golf club but I don’t know about that. A baseball bat is the way to go probably. It worked in Inglorious Bastards - we will go with that.

Q: What was your favorite scene to film in the movie?

Stephen: “That’s tough. Well there is the scene I was my most favorite to film and that was actually when Casey meets the Turtles for the first time. There’s actually three answers here. There is the scene where I meet the Turtles for the first time because that actually was the first big dialogue scene I shot and that was an incredibly important moment in filming for me because Casey see’s the Turtles and he see’s what they are and what they look like - he think’s they are aliens. He thinks they might eat him so he had to react in a crazy, out-there, oh my god manner and it’s important I can bring that element of the character in. One of the producers [Andrew Form] after we shot that scene, we were at lunch which is actually dinner because we  were filming nights and he was like ‘Amell, feels like we got a Casey Jones. Feel’s like we’ve got a Turtles movie! This is cool!’ and that just instilled, he was just making an off-the-cut remark I assume, me with the confidence that I was on the right path and it gave me confidence in all the other scenes we shot. The scene that i’m most proud of actually is a scene I have with Laura Linney in the movie and I’m a huge admirer of her work. This was a very out-sized scene and it was very early not necessarily in the filming but in the performance in terms of chronologically in the movie and afterwards she tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a wink and was like, “That was pretty good.”

Q: What would you like the viewers to take away from the movie?

Stephen: “I think we made a fun superhero movie. I think it's a movie that has real stakes, has real fill-ins, but has relatable characters and because of that has stakes that you care about. There are a lot of moving pieces in the movie, there is Shredder’s whole operation, there’s Bebop and Rocksteady, there’s Casey and his story, April and her story, Vern and his story and then the Turtles. I know the main focus of our director, Dave Green, was to really focus on the relationship between the brothers and I think personally that’s what made Turtles a universal property and property that has stood the test of time is that ultimately even thought this is an incredibly unique set of circumstances with four teenage mutant ninja turtles. It is in fact a story about four brothers and everyone can relate to that.

Q: For all your fans who know your previous work on Arrow, they might be thinking “okay, he is playing a vigilante there, and a vigilante here. How are you trying to bring some freshness to Casey Jones that’s different from Arrow?

Stephen: “If you don’t go see the movie you’re going to think ‘that’s the vigilante guy playing a vigilante guy’ then I can’t do anything for you. If you form your opinion based on the trailer, still can’t do anything for you. If you come out of the first couple of scenes, if by the time Casey meets the Turtles you’re not like, ‘ah, this guy is different!’ then you don’t want it to be different - cause it really is. Oliver is closer to the Turtles you know what I mean? Oliver is closer to being a ninja, Oliver thinks - he is analytical. Casey Jones has more guts than brains and I think he is actually pretty funny.

Q: What was the audition process like? What made you interested in playing Casey Jones?

Stephen: “The fact that it was Casey Jones, the fact that it was Paramount which is a studio I have a lot of respect for based on the products they have put forward and some of the actors they have a long-time relationship with. As for the actual audition process I had a meeting with Brad [Fuller] and Andrew [Form] at Platinum Dunes who were introduced to me by by my managers as ‘the Michael Bay guys’ which I thought was cool. We had a meeting, it wasn’t really about Casey Jones because we didn’t think there was any chance at all with my schedule at Arrow that i’ll be able to shoot a movie like this because it wasn’t being built for me. It’s not ‘Casey Jones: Out of The Shadows’ - you’ve got to line up everyone’s schedule and my schedule (which was last) so when we found out that I was actually going to be able to do it, we knew it was starting to float around and we knew they were getting close to hiring somebody and when we got the go-ahead from Warner Brothers actually talking about dates, like finished date and start day for Arrow and they are willing to let us lock both of those in - I did a tape that afternoon. I want to say that was a Tuesday and on Friday afternoon I was testing with Megan in LA and Monday morning I get a phone call from my agents and manger, which is always a good call to get, and they said ‘you are to be expecting Michael Bay’s phone call.’

Q: What was the dynamic like on set?

Stephen: “It was fun, Will Arnett is a funny guy - he really, really is. Megan has a really cool relationship with the boys that play the Turtles. The boys that play the Turtles have to spend a lot of time together from coming in the morning and getting the dots put on their face, wearing outfits that quite frankly make them look ridiculous, to all of the plate work they have to do which is having experience just a bit of it. When I film on The Flash it is not fun. It is monotonous, like repetitious busy work. All of that to say, they bust on each other all the time. They are always making fun of one another and when they started making fun of me, by like hour four of the first time I filmed with them, I was like ‘wow, good. I’m being accepted here.’ They were super quiet and stand-offish I would’ve been worried.

Q: What was something new you learned or did for the first time while making this film? 

Stephen: “There is obviously the CGI elements that i’m not particularly used to and then it really amounts to how specific everyone gets. This was much more collaborative because they just have more time. One of the scenes you see, one of the publicity stills that was released of Megan and I - i’m standing looking at something, it doesn’t matter what i’m looking at, the point is this was something they realized right in the middle of filming that I was in a spot and I needed to see something that I would clearly recognize so they wrote a scene, we filmed it and it is totally in the movie and it’s actually a bit of a crucial part. I learned that these things can kinda grow and evolve and as a result it informed my performance a little bit because I always try and be easy-going in terms of my choices. I don’t want to do anything halfway but I don’t walk into a scene with an idea of how it’s going to be before we put it on its feet. To see how collaborative this process was, to see how much of a process it was eye-opening for me.

Q: You have a long history of doing acting jobs on TV through now you are moving on to TMNT which is a movie - what’s it like making that switch from TV to movie?

Stephen: “The nuts and the bolts of it, they are the same. It really is the same thing, it’s a camera and lens. Time affords you the opportunity to make a much more personal vision, right? There are certain television shows that are technically television shows but I mean is Game of Thrones really a television show or is it a 9-hour movie that comes out every year with the amount of time they have to film? It allows them to film long steady cam shots and we are required on TV to keep our schedule and we are producing at our maximum rate so when we are building up a scene of course they storyboard it but it’s like, what does it look like? Well it could just be a guy on a steady cam doing it and that was very different. The scale was bigger, I was expecting it actually to be a little bit more stilted and in fact it was the exact opposite. Feature film making allows you to make a incredibly personalized vision because if you don’t make your day, you just come back the next day. We usually shoot 14 1/2 hours on Turtles if we have a busy day and when we were out filming shooting nights we would start filming when the sun went down and as the sun was coming up there wouldn't’ be any rush they would just be like ‘sun’s coming up, let’s just come back tomorrow.’ When we were shooting on stages, we shot the most luxurious days it’s like start at 8:00 AM finish at 6:30 PM, go to dinner - it was quite the experience.

Q: Do you feel this sequel sets up for a third movie after? 

Stephen: “Absolutely. The title is sort-of indicative of hopefully where we are going to leave everybody. The movie is a lot about what is everyone’s role. What is Casey’s role? Is he suppose to be a corrections officer or is he supposed to be a vigilante? What are the Turtles role? Are they suppose to be the face-less protectors of the city or are they suppose to step out and represent something to New York City which is a place they obviously love very much. Everyone eventually comes to a conclusion the end of the movie and I had so much fun filming it. I certainly hope they release another movie because it was a blast.”

Q: In this day-of-age, everyone has a Twitter account. Playing iconic characters, not everyone is going to be happy. How do you handle the nay-sayers at the end of the day? 

Stephen: “First of all, it feels incredibly rare if I get horrible messages. There has been a very, very loud factional people that seem to think Arrow was one show for a while and now it’s becoming another show - this is simply a problem you run into because we just finished our 92nd episode, you know what I mean? Some of the best shows on television have been their best shows since season six, season seven and season eight. So I learned early on, it’s actually when we were shooting the pilot of Arrow that the opposite of love is not hate - it is apathy. If nobody cared then nobody would write anything. When I moved to LA in 2010 I could’ve walked out in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard in boxers shouting some obscene message and nobody would’ve cared. Now, not so much. You just have to learn to roll with it and the other important thing is, especially with Twitter, if it’s not something people are willing to attach their name to why would I take it seriously.

Q: You post a lot of photos of your adorable daughter, what does she think about her dad being buddies with the Turtles? I remember you posted something along the lines that she saw the trailer. What does she think?

Stephen: “She did, she totally doesn’t understand it yet. She doesn’t like movie theaters either, she’ll get used to it but she walked in and was like ‘what is this?’ and the lights went down and she was like ‘oh my goood.’ Eventually we will sit down and watch some curated scenes from the movie and see how she does but she knows she’s going to the premiere and she knows i’m buddies with the Turtles.

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Stephen: “My cousin and I [Robbie Amell] crowdsourced financed a film called Code 8 that we are going to try and shoot during my next hiatus. I go back to shoot season 5 of Arrow in July. This press tour haven’t really allowed me to do anything during my hiatus which is probably for the best because I really haven’t had a break since June of 2014 - I’ve been going pretty straight-through. Next hiatus will depend a lot on how the movie does. If the movie does well and they want me to be in it, they are going to have to work on a pretty specific timeline and I would be back as Casey Jones.

Make sure you guys go out and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows starring Stephen Amell in a theater near you starting June 3rd!

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