Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Rise of the TMNT's Kat Graham on Racist Social Media Bullies: 'Bring It…' [Updated]

When Nickelodeon's new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series premieres this fall, one character we all know and love is going to look very different than we've seen before. This series' version of April O'Neil will be the first ever black version of the character, and she'll be voiced by The Vampire Diaries Kat Graham!

Kat Graham

Many fans are excited to see this new imagining of April, but we all know the Internet can often be a cesspool of racism and bigotry, so the cast and creators are also prepared for the inevitable backlash they'll face from people angry at this decision. Though she might be bracing for impact, Graham doesn't sound too worried about the bullies on social media.

When asked at the Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press tour whether she was nervous about a backlash, Graham responded, "No, bring it. I'm a black, Jewish actress. I'm pro-LGBTQ. I'm not afraid of anything. If anything, I'll get louder. I think these characters absolutely needed to be revamped, the questions do need to be asked... I'm more than happy to answer them, and I'm more than happy to stand in these positions and challenge different executives or writers or directors to say, 'Well, why can't this character be black?'"

Kat Graham voices April O'Neil in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Graham's bravery is commendable, especially when so many other performers have been bullied off of social media due to harassment and scare tactics some "fans" use when a beloved character is altered to be of a different race, religion or sexual orientation than his or her original depiction.

When reminded about the recent cases of such instances, such as Star Wars' Kelly Marie Tan deleting all her posts from Instagram after months of harassment, SNL's Leslie Jones getting abuse after starring in 2016's Ghostbusters reboot, and the more recent case of black actress Anna Diop disabling comments on her Instagram account because some racists were upset that she was cast as Starfire in Titans, Graham said she didn't expect to find herself in that situation.

"I can't say why anyone would leave social media, but the bullying can be bad," Graham said. "And I've dealt with a lot racism and anti-semitism, but you know, I'm a tough bitch, I can take it."

Original source: TV Guide.

Update (8/14) - from Eurweb:

Kat Graham on Playing the First Black April O’Neil in Animated Reboot of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

*Nickelodeon has ordered a 26-episode second season of “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and the announcement came ahead of the series premiere. The network made the announcement during Viacom’s presentation at TCA last month.

Kat Graham of the television show ‘Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’ speaks during the Viacom segment of the Summer 2018 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 27, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. (Source: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images North America)

The animated series is set to debut September 17, 2018, but fans were treated with a sneak preview on July 20, when the first 5 episodes of the series were released online the same day.

Ant Ward and Andy Suriano serve as EP’s on this re-imagined series, which will have the Turtles go on new adventures as they seek to unlock the mystical secrets of New York City.

The cast includes Ben Schwartz, Omar Benson Miller, Josh Brener, Brandon Mychal Smith, Eric Bauza, John Cena and “Vampire Diaries” star Kat Graham voices April O’Neil — a human friend of the Ninja Turtles.

This series’ version of April will be the first-ever black depiction. Her early appearance in the comics is a Caucasian Irish-American red-haired woman.

“They decided to go with an African-American actress and African-American character. I knew that being part of Ninja Turtles was going to be a big deal, but I had no idea the weight of that decision and how important it would be because when I was growing up, there were no young Black cartoon characters — female, anyways — that were in this position,” said Graham during TCA.

Kat Graham of the television show “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” speaks during the Viacom segment of the Summer 2018 Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 27, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. (Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

Adding, “By the time there were, I was a little older; too much older to appreciate it. My take on this character and what I hope to bring to this character is not just what comes with being a young Black girl, but the fierceness, the being able to hang with the boys, the playfulness, the strength. I want young girls to see this and see that there’s a brown cartoon character that they can relate to, that they can say, “Well, April O’Neil did it, so I can do it too!” If you have a daughter, I want her to watch it and see that she relates to it. So that’s my dream for this character and that’s what I see for her.”

Voiceover actor Robert Paulsen, whose roles include Raphael and Donatello from the 1987 cartoon and 2012 cartoon respectively of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” serves as voice director for this TV series.

“He’s incredible,” Graham said. “He’s done so many iconic characters, but he has such a demeanor about him and he’s really coached us. When we were doing the
first couple episodes, we’re trying to figure out the character. We’re trying to figure out the groove, the rhythm of all that,” she explained.

“And he really — especially for me — he guided me into a really great place for this character. He’s just so humble and so — he’s just a really great person. I know that might sound a little vague but I think that he’s just — I can keep going on and on about Rob Paulsen,” she added.

Besides voice directing, Paulsen will also be providing voice work on the project, which Suriano described as “an exciting cartoon for today’s generation.”

“There’s certain inherent qualities of the Turtle franchise that have been so resilient and popular. I mean it’s 34 years old, from the ’80s comic books, to the cartoons, and all the iterations. So we — Ant and myself, we looked at it and we said what we liked about all of it, what we thought it worked from all of it. We kind of played with it like a chemistry set and distilled the elements that we thought would be, and an exciting cartoon for today’s generation.”


Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premieres Monday 17th September 2018 on Nickelodeon USA and Monday 22nd September 2018 on Nicktoons UK & Ireland and Channel 5! Visit nick.com and nicktoons.co.uk/rise.

Have you watched the FIRST FULL EPISODE yet?! Check it out right here prior to the official premiere: http://bit.ly/rtmnt-ep1

Did you hear? Nickelodeon has renewed Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a second season! COWABUNGA!

Fans in the US can watch the first episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Nick App, Nick.com/Rise, and Nickelodeon On Demand now. Fans in the UK will be able to watch the first episode of Rise of the TMNT, “Mystic Mayhem” on Nick.co.uk, Nicktoons.co.uk and the Nick Play app from Saturday 15th September 2018. Sky Subscribers will also be able to watch a sneak peek of Episode 1 along with four additional stories and 4 pieces of additional short form content exclusively on Sky VOD.

Originally published: Saturday, July 28, 2018.
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