By now I’m sure you all realize I’m a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. So, when Nickelodeon offered me the chance to interview another one of the actors involved, I jumped at the chance. Last week, I spoke with Kelly Hu, the voice of Karai, the newest character being brought in for season 2. Kelly has quite the geek cred with appearances on Arrow, Young Justice, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 and X-Men 2 under her belt.
GeekMom: Thanks for talking with me today. I’m a huge Turtles fan and an X-Men fan so it’s really cool to get to talk to someone who has experience with both.
Kelly Hu: Yea, am I the only one? I guess I am the only one that’s crossed over into both.
GM: My first question is, were you a fan of the Turtles before accepting the role?
KH: I remember seeing it a bit while I was younger growing up, but I can’t say I was a huge fan per se. I think I might have been a little too old for it. When did it come out exactly? What year?
GM: I was born in 1985, so I remember it in the 90’s, but the first animated series came out in 1987.
KH:I was a teenager in the 80’s. I do remember seeing it around a lot and I did a movie with Ernie Rays Jr. shortly after that called Surf Ninjas.
GM: OH I saw that one. I remember my brothers and I got into martial arts after seeing Surf Ninjas and the Turtles as kids.
KH: OH that’s so funny. It’s a cute little film for what it is and I got to go to Thailand to shoot it which was awesome.
GM: How did make the leap from on-camera acting to voice acting for the animated series, the video games and all of that?
KH: It just kind of fell into my lap. The first job I did was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 (Visas Marr) and it was really fun. I loved it. It came easy to me. I’ve been told that I have a very distinct voice so I think that helps as well. I’ve always had a pretty strong voice because I would get in trouble all the time as a kid.
Being Asian where you’re supposed to be more quiet and softer and I was always getting reprimanded for laughing to loud or speaking to loudly. Just not being feminine at all and I’ve turned all of that into a career.
GM: What is it about Karai that draws you to her? Is there anything about you that you identify with her?
KH: She’s a tough little girl, which I love. I love playing tough chicks. That’s pretty much all I do really. She does have a conscious and I think she struggles with that a bit. She has an attraction to Leonardo in this and it makes it fun that she isn’t just a bad girl, which is like a lot of characters I do.
Lady Deathstrike (X2), was sort of that way, really just on the dark side because she was under that drug. On Arrow I play China White who is also just really a definite bad girl. What I like about Karai is that she wrestles with both.
GM: Do you physically act out any of your lines while recording them or are you pretty laid back?
KH: My skills with the martial arts have definitely helped me in this. I’m very physical because my character is very physical. I do a lot of punches, so I have to make a lot of punching noises so I can’t be sitting in a chair when I’m working, that just doesn’t work for me. I love to be able to huff and puff and throw my arms about and kick. I actually kick when it calls for the kicking sound.
GM: That’s one thing about when I’m watching animated shows, is I wonder how they look in the booth while making all these crazy sounds and what they must be doing to each other to get the sounds. I’ve heard Mikey [Michelangelo] is a very physical actor and that he’s hilarious to watch.
KH: Yea, OMG he is hilarious. I guess he has a lot of fight scenes too. I know he stands up too and that’s probably why because he’s so physical. I feel like, because my character does all of this martial arts and stuff like this that I tend to connect with her better when I stand up.
GM: Before going into the studio, do you do anything to prepare your voice or to step into the role?
KH: I usually just do voice exercises. I’m also taking singing classes as well, not that I ever plan to sing in public in my entire life. I actually have a phobia of singing, so I decided to take some singing lessons to help me get away from the phobia. The phobia is so bad that whenever I would have to sing in front of people in my acting class, I would just start sobbing and crying because it’s so uncomfortable, which probably makes everyone in the audience even more uncomfortable.
GM: In regards to Karai, I heard that she has “never met a weapon she didn’t like”, do you have any weapons training and do you have a weapon you enjoy training with?
KH: I do have weapons training and in fact they are all in my umbrella skin next to my front door. I have always loved the sword. Continue reading Kelly Hu of TMNT: She Loves Playing Tough Chicks