Just as the song goes, “Michelangelo, he’s one of a kind and you know just where to find him when it’s party time.” Michelangelo is the fun one of the Turtles team. The youngest of the group, Mikey has a tendency to be looked at as the kid of the team. Don’t underestimate his skills, though, because under that cool and relaxed attitude is a fun-loving and exciting guy that you don’t want to mess with.
I recently had the chance to talk with the man behind the voice of Michelangelo, Gregory Cipes (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Teen Titans) and I was happy to hear that he is a happy mix of Iron Fist and Michelangelo.
GeekMom: Thanks for talking with me today!
Gregory Cipes: It’s my pleasure. Let’s have some fun.
GM: My family’s a fan of the Ultimate Spider-Man as well and I was wondering how would you compare Iron Fist to Michelangelo?
GC: Wow. That’s a great question. I would say that Michelangelo is the younger teen version of myself. Iron Fist is kind of what I’m becoming in real life now. Michelangelo brings out a lot of the innocence in me from my childhood and just wants to be able to celebrate life. The smallest things are a big deal to Mikey.
With Iron Fist it’s a more of an experienced perspective and a lot of wisdom.
GM: I know Mikey is the youngest of the Turtles, so I can see how he can be the more fun-loving, younger guy.
GC: Yeah, you know, the youths are not as programmed or conditioned as most people think. It’s easier for a kid to have fun and have an imagination. Mikey definitely has that and that’s why it’s so much fun to play him. At the same time, Iron Fist is a meditator and they are both similar in that perspective. They both kick butt in a big way. Ninjas.
And the colors are similar, huh? Me and Green go together. [laugh]
GM: I’ve talked to a couple of your fellow cast members (Hoon Lee and Kelly Hu) and they both said you are hilarious at the recording booth. Have you ever done it on purpose just to screw with them while recording?
GC: The freedom they allow me to have to explore and try whatever I want is like no other show that I’ve ever been a part of. So, I guess I do crazy and wild things and I make decisions that are from a different place, a new perspective.
Mikey has the perspective of a very innocent powerful character. He just lives in the now, so that might be weird to people. And it’s funny to people too, because I say weird things and I feel weird things, like I’m always experiencing everything for the first time. It’s almost like watching a dog play fight with a cat. Like that’s one of the most enjoyable thing to watch.
GM: They told me you’re very physical in the booth and you’re really funny like that. I’d love to watch you work.
GC: Yeah, you know, I feel it all. I feel it through my face and my lips and my eyes and my legs and in my heart and it comes out in my voice.
Sometimes there are places you don’t want to go to. The Turtles is a very happy, positive, fun-loving show but it also has these deep, dark rooted things that we experience. There is the dark evil and there is an opposition to the positive or the light side. That’s where we have someone like Splinter who walks us through our path and he’s like, “Look guys, Shredder is over here and the robots are here and all of this is going on but you have to stay positive and love and be loved.”
Love is just the key to everything. That’s kind of the goal of every episode, at least from my perspective.
GM: You sound like a very relaxed and easy-going guy. Do you have a routine to get in to Mikey or are you a “Let’s do this!” kind of guy?
GC: I park two blocks away from Nickelodeon studios and I hop on my skateboard and I skateboard the rest of the way to the studio. So, that gets me into Mikey realm, because Mikey loves skateboarding so much. I know from my personal experience how fun skateboarding. That’s kind of the only thing.
I also always make sure that I play and take chances and laugh and not take things too seriously. Sometimes I have to be serious, but I’m like, “Well, you know, I don’t know if Mikey would take that seriously.” Really, the voice director, Andrea Romano, is such a master and such a pro that she always pushes me to the next level and guides me. It’s really awesome.
We have the dream team crew. Brandon Auman, the new head writer. Ciro Nieli the creator of the new look and style of our show. Ciro is the main reason this show is a hit. He is (executive producer) a master animator and dear friend of mine. Peter Hastings (executive producer) is a great musician and all round talented creative dude. The whole Nickelodeon team knows what they are doing.
I’m also excited to see what’s going to happen with the movie.
GM: Yeah, I saw they cast Megan Fox as April O’Neil and that was the worst day I’ve had in a long time.
GC: Oh no, honey. [laugh]
GM: At least I had a really bad day that day so I just blamed it on that news.
CG: I do know this, there is definitely an open ear from that side as we’ve seen that Michael Bay doesn’t want to disappoint the fans. He wants to make people happy and he wants to make kids happy. So, when the fans speak up they get what they want in a way. We’ve witnessed it already in a way. The universe takes care of the Turtles!
GM: This is how my son got introduced to the Turtles. For my seven-year old, everyday just has to be “Turtles! Turtles! Turtles! Let’s watch Turtles!” I don’t think that anything Michael Bay does is going to change that.
GC: No, and that’s how it got me. If anything, Michael Bay can bring some more people to the Turtles and that’s what we want. It’s the only cartoon that I’ve been a part of that so effectively brings a fresh new version with all the positive messages in it. It’s so much fun making it.
And you know, I’m working with people who I’ve been working with for a long time, so it’s really great to be with a family making cartoons together and creating.
GM: Have you ever received a script and after reading the dialogue went, “You want me to say what??”
GC: Yes I have, and they give me a chance to give a different take. Sometimes it’s a better way, and sometimes I just give them what they are asking for.
GM: Do you have a favorite line that you’ve said in any of the shows you’ve done voices for that just sticks out as a really cool line?
GC: [laugh] It’s quite often these days. Every script has wonderful little pieces of candy. There’s just some great writing for Mikey. Gosh, I love saying “Booyakasha!” I keep finding new ways to say it. I love saying “Booyakasha.” And they also give me the opportunity to comes up with a new catch phrase for the Turtles, but I love “Booyakasha.” It means love will prevail.
Love is the most ferocious and strongest force on the planet. Green is the heart chakra color. Are you into chakra?
GM: Actually, my parents are. My dad is into energy medicine and healing.
GC: It’s very real. Align your stuff with green. And this show is the number one show on most markets around the world, so you’ve got to figure that a lot of kids are looking at the color green. It’s very healing color therapy, just looking at the Turtles even without the volume on. It’s a very powerful experience with what is going on.
GM: My son said “Booyakasha! Do I sound like Mikey?” the other day, and my little brother walked in and he immediately went, “No, it’s ‘Cowabunga!'” and my son just kept going “Booyakasha!”
CG: [laugh] Yeah, I mean, Cowabunga is the root of it. There never could be a Booyakasha without a Cowabunga for me. They really do mean the same thing. Cowabunga is like “Bring it on!” and Booyakasha is like “Bring it on!” It’s the same thing. So we’ll see what happens. Maybe it’s going to come out, I can’t tell you.
GM: I like them both. I think it’s adorable when he runs through the house with his hands behind his back and yelling “Booyakasha! Booyakasha!” He won’t run with his hands beside him now. He has to run with his hands behind him like the Turtles.
CG: Ahh … I’ve heard that from a lot of people. It’s ninja running.
GM: Would you like to see the show take Mikey’s personality anywhere or would you like to see him do something that he hasn’t done yet?
GC: Yeah, they are doing that now. They are pushing Mikey’s character further in new places and new directions and it’s a lot of fun. He’s growing up little by little with new experiences and wisdom. So, Mikey in his own way will become wiser. I don’t know if that’s going to mean that people are going to think he’s smarter or not a goof ball, but he is gaining wisdom. Wisdom meaning like he’s going deeper into his own world. He’s always thinking about his brothers. He wants to improve worlds and be rocking with them all the time.
GM: It thought the coolest scene was the last episode, “The Pulverizer,” when Raphael was injured and Baxter and the Purple Dragons were trying to attack him from behind. He was just kicking their butts and giving them a dirty look like. “Don’t you mess with me, my brother’s sick!” I thought that was one of the cooler scenes I’ve seen Mikey in. Now I have to ask, is April wearing a Wholester in the show?
GC: Yes she is!
GM: Okay. I saw her wearing it in the first episode and I thought it was so cool and wished they were real. Then the other day when I was on your website I realized that they are real.
CG: It’s essentially the same thing. It’s really cool. I want Mae [Whitman] to wear them. We’re going to make her a custom April holster and then maybe we can sell them everywhere. Maybe at that place that sells the all the Turtles stuff at the mall … Man, what’s it called? Umm … HotTopic! We could make it to where you can get Turtles Wholesters at HotTopic. [laugh]
GM: I’m going to have to go there and see if mine sells any Turtles stuff. The last time I was in there they had a bunch of My Little Pony stuff.
GC: Oh, Tara Strong. She’s funny. I record Teen Titans with her every week.
GM: So how often do you do the recordings for the various shows?
CG: I record a show almost every day. Usually for cartoons, I record them in the mornings from 9 am to noon, then I have the rest of the day to do on camera. It actually gives me time to work on my own projects. I’ve created a new album that’s going to be coming out.
I have a new band, Super Space Fighters and I’m manifesting and playing and working on all the dreams I’ve had. And just know that you will get everything you’ve ever wanted. And you will get it in ways you could never have imagined and better than you could have ever imagined.
Being Mikey is just an example of that. I grew up watching Mickey Mouse and going to Disney World like 2,000 times. Mickey Mouse is like my guru. So, you kind of have to figure it that a cartoon character is my guru, so once the Turtles came on, Turtles was it for me. I sat in front of the T.V for thousands of hours and just watched Turtles and fast forward 20 years later, I’m flowering it to a new generation and it’s so much fun! [laugh] It really is.
GM: If you didn’t go into voice acting, was there something else you wanted to do? Like music or surfing?
GC: I do it all! I was third in the USA junior pro surfers. I put out an album in 2007 and it’s really good and I’m proud of it and a lot of people started spreading it. I’m a soul maker. I write songs. I’m making cartoon shows. I’m planning on putting stuff out myself on my own, on a TV station online.
I’m not limiting myself. I’m doing it all at once.
Some people ask me “how can do you do all of that at once?” Yesterday I was in Sedona, Arizona playing a gig at a Raw Spirit Festival and this week I go to New Zealand. At the same time I’m selling shows. I’m hanging out with beautiful people. Hanging out with my family at home with my dogs. It’s a very enchanted life being Mikey. I don’t take it lightly and I know it’s the greatest responsibility.
Turtles taught me how to meditate. They got me into martial arts. They helped make me who I am today.
GM: Did you get into meditating when you were a kid or as an adult doing the voices?
GC: When I was a kid! I remember being eight years old and watching the show. It was an episode about Splinter, that’s how I remember it, and in the end he kind of snaps out of a mediation and in that moment I tried it. I closed my eyes, sat in an easy pose and I tried a meditation for the first time after watching the Turtles and there’s nothing greater than meditation. The Turtles gave me that gift. It’s cool.
Now when I travel around, when I go to New Zealand next week, or Australia or any of these cons, I play music, I do panels and I sign autographs and I teach kids meditation.
GM: That’s cool. The Turtles got me into karate when I was about eight- or nine-years-old as well. My son saw the Turtles for the first time (around three- or four-years-old) and we had to restrict him from watching the show again because he started destroying his room fighting an invisible foot clan. We determined he was a little too young when we walked into his room and saw he had destroyed everything. All in the name of the Turtles.
GC: We’re making little animals that’s for sure. Little warriors.
GM: I’m a comic book reader, so I’m always asking people if they read and what they read. So, are you into comic books or reading in general?
GC: I love Kevin Eastman. Kevin Eastman has blessed this project and blessed this cartoon, period. I’ve got a really cool story about Kevin Eastman. How he came to me and how I got the role of Mikey. We just became close friends and it makes sense that a show like this brings so much love to people, has come from such a wonderful man. Kevin Eastman is like a Buddha, like the coolest thing in the world, like a rock star.
I grew up with the cartoon and not necessarily the comic books. Really anything to do with the Turtles now is cool. What about you? Do you read the comic books?
GM: I just started reading comic books last year and I started reading the Turtles about the same time. I’m slowly working my way through them. I was born in ’85, so I grew up on the animated series and the live action shows.
GM: I’m one of the few in my circle that likes that movie and it’s because of that scene. I love when he’s singing the song and the Turtles are dancing and fighting. I thought it was really cool.
GC:It was cool, that’s for sure.
GM: Do you think the other Turtles underestimate Mikey?
GC: He’s the underdog. He’s the wild card and he’s always underestimated. He’s also the fiercest and in some ways the best fighter of the group. Raphael has the power. Leonardo has the style. Donatello has the techie and the brains. Mickey just has the ability. He’s like the ultimate ninja. He’s always the guy you want to root for, at least in my life that’s who I want to root for.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles airs tonight at 7 pm EST. Make sure you tune into Nickelodeon to watch Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael take on the Krang in their most important mission yet.
Want more TMNT action? Check out my interview with Hoon Lee and Kelly Hu. If that isn’t enough for you, check out our TMNT Autographed DVD Giveaway and enter for a chance to win one of three DVDs signed by the TMNT cast!