Tuesday, September 06, 2011

George Takei 'Supah Ninjas' Interview: 'I Am The Ninja Master'

From Digital Spy:
George Takei 'Supah Ninjas' interview: 'I am the ninja master'

Whether it's for his classic role as Sulu on the original Star Trek or his brilliant stint on ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here back in 2008, George Takei is quite rightly regarded a bit of a legend by most sensible television viewers.

George returns to our screens this Monday, playing a holographic martial arts sensei in Nickelodeon's new hit series Supah Ninjahs. Digital Spy caught up with the cult hero recently to chat about his new role, mastering the martial arts gamut and whether we've seen the last of Hikaru Sulu...

What is Supah Ninjas all about?
"Supah Ninjas is about a team of three young teenage ninjas, one of them being my grandson Mike (Ryan Potter). I'm a ninja master and I want to see the art and the tradition of our clan carried on. My son doesn't quite measure up, but I find that the genes have skipped a generation and the grandson has all the qualities necessary. So I recruit my grandson to be a ninja, and he has a good buddy named Owen Reynolds (Carlos Knight). He wants his buddy to be a ninja as well, and I agree.

Mike also has a crush on this beautiful, blonde teenage girl (Gracie Dzienny), which isn't reciprocated. She's a very athletic young lady - she's a cheerleader - and when she finds out that this boy who has a crush on her has martial arts talent, she asks to be made into a ninja too. I train the three of them, but I tell them that they must do their good work in the shadows. It must not be known publicly who they are. They agree to that, and they go out and right the wrongs of the world with their ninja skills!"

What originally attracted you to the show?
"Well, it's been some time since I had a series regular role. As you know, I am associated with Star Trek and then I did Heroes as a recurring character. But when this opportunity came for me to be a regular again, and working with young people which I enjoy, I thought 'Wow, this is going to be fun!' I'm really pleased that it's turned out as wonderfully as it has. The kids are great and the writers are fantastic.

Some of the episodes are of epic scale, and others are whimsical. As a matter of fact, in one [episode], I get the chance to sing. Musical theatre has always been one of my passions, so it combines all of the things that I enjoy about being an actor. And I'm being made to feel young again, with young people around me!"

How was the experience of working with the young actors?
"They energise me. They bring the energy that some of the more jaded adult actors don't bring with them, and they're also curious about acting techniques and the history of the studio. We're filming at Paramount Studios where I did Star Trek - the campus where I grew up! Every morning, as I walk to our studio at Stage 24, I walk past a big office building named after Gene Roddenberry - the creator of Star Trek - and the two old Star Trek studios. Stage 31 had the Enterprise set, and 32 had the alien planet surface set.

So it's both nostalgia, and the energy that I had when I was young being revitalised and rekindled in me by working with the kids. It combines my romantic feeling about my youth and the studio that I'm fond of, and working with young people who want to know the history of the studio and of Hollywood. I am now the representative of the history of Hollywood to them!"

The kids perform some incredible stunts on the show. Is there any chance we could see you do amazing stunts in flashbacks?
"No, not in flashback - in reality! There are some spectacular scenes! You've seen the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? You saw what the empowered martial artists did in that, didn't you? Leaping and flying! Well, I'm the ninja master, so I master the whole gamut. I get to do some spectacular things. You're in for a lot of thrilling surprises!"

What were some of your favourite TV shows as a child?
"When I was a teenager, I was an absolutely addicted regular viewer of [CBS anthology series] Playhouse 90. I don't know whether you had that in Britain or not. It was a 90-minute, original script, live television series, and many of the writers from that became very prominent. Rod Serling - who became famous for The Twilight Zone - did a couple of really powerful scripts. I was addicted to that.

Today, I'm addicted to Brothers & Sisters and Hawaii Five-0. Damages with Glenn Close - that's a good drama! Dramatic shows are the ones that I am attracted to."

You appeared on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here - are you still in touch with any of your old camp-mates?
"Yes, a couple of them. Brian Paddick comes to Los Angeles annually and we get together and have dinner or lunch every time he's here. And Joe Swash, we get together when I'm in London. He doesn't come to the US, but I do see Joe when I'm there."

Supah Ninjas begins on Monday September 12 at 6pm on Nickelodeon.

You can read Digital Spy's full interview with George Takei, who plays Hologramps on the brand new Nickelodeon show "Supah Ninjas", here.

Also, here is another George Takei interview in which he talks about playing the character of Hologramps in the brand new Nickelodeon show "Supah Ninjas" from What's on TV:
George Takei: Star Trek's Mr Sulu turns Ninja!

Best known as Star Trek’s Mr Sulu, George Takei is about to star in Nickelodeon’s new children’s series Supah Ninjas. This new American comedy drama follows three young crimefighters who are still at high school.

George plays Hologramps, the dead grandfather of school kid Mike, who appears as a hologram to teach Mike and his pals the mysterious ways of the Ninja. George spoke exclusively to What’s On TV about filming Supah Ninjas, Star Trek and his Second World War experiences....

So what was it about Supah Ninjas that attracted you to the project?
“Well, to be totally frank, I haven’t had a series in some time, something like a couple of years. The last time I had a recurring character was in Heroes, so that was my first practical attraction. But then I found that it was going to be working with young people and I love kids. I have two surrogate kids - my nephew’s two little ones - who are the apples of my eyes. It was also an opportunity to work with young teenagers and working regularly at Paramount Studios again, which is where I grew up with Star Trek. So it’s nostalgia and revivification all in one.

"I park my car and I walk by a brand new office building that they named after Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and he never had his office there, but there’s his name! And then I walk past stage 31 where the Enterprise set was, and then 32 where the Alien Planet Surface set was, and then I head on to stage 24, where my new High Tech Dojo set is – so I get to walk down memory lane as I walk down to my present, in which I play a dead person [laughs].”

Hologramps is a very interesting character, being dead and giving advice to his young grandson as a hologram...
“It gets much more interesting as you move along. I love singing in the shower and I let that be known to them, so they worked in a song number for me as well. That comes in a later episode.”

In that white, long, flowing gown, Hologramps looks very much like Mr Spock in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home...
“Ah, yes. There is a great echo of Star Trek in it throughout.”

There’s also an echo of Batman as well, in that there’s a high-tech cave under Mike’s bed where he goes to meet Hologramps. It’s very Batcave-like...
“And our villains are kind of Batman-like, too – like The Rhymer, who’s a modern day Riddler in that he raps. Oh, and there’s bigger and weirder to come!”

So do you think Supah Ninjas is building on the popularity of films like Karate Kid? Or are there other bigger influences?
“Well, I think it’s the merging of a lot of things. First of all, certainly with me, there’s that echo of Star Trek, the science fiction. And then certainly Batman and the larger than life villains we have, plus as you well point out, the cave is an echo of Batman. And for me, another aspect is the Ninja aspect.

"I really did grow up with Samurai and Ninja movies. When I was a child I was behind the barbed wire fences of US internment camps, and on irregular occasions after dinner they would clear out the mess hall and show old Hollywood movies, but occasionally they’d show old Japanese movies that were imported before Second World War. These were Samurai movies, but also some Ninja movies. Those movies were my escape from those barbed wire fences, so they mean a great deal to me. Ninjas combine so much of my life, my memory, and my experiences...”

Did you ever train in martial arts?
“I did the basics of karate, just because with my face I get asked to do martial arts in films and stuff, and certainly in Star Trek I did that. So I did get the basic training, but I will always tell people that I’m not in any way expert at it because there are always people that like to show off their martial arts training and demonstrate it with me. I tell them no, no, I’m not on that level!”

What’s it like working with the kids on Supah Ninjas?
“First of all, they’re very talented, but I love their energy and their wit. For example, Ryan Potter who plays Mike, might be struggling with a scene and we do it more than a few times, and when he finally gets it he does this victory dance with the fingers snapping and the shoulders going. I think it’s so charming and I try to imitate that! That also gets a big laugh. But there’s this energy – palpable energy – on the set with young people.

"Carlos Knight who plays Owen is a very witty guy and he’s a great improviser. The script might say ‘exit’, but the way he exits becomes another development of his character, so he’s another fun guy to work with. With Gracie Dzienny, who is Amanda, she and I love musical theatre, but she’s young so she doesn’t know some of the classic musicals – the Cole Porter ones [breaks into song], so I have to teach her some of the classic songs.”

*Supah Ninjas, begins on Nickelodeon, at 6pm, on 12 September

You can read What's on TV's full interview with George Takei, who plays Hologramps on the brand new Nickelodeon show "Supah Ninjas", here.

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