Sean Astin voicing Raphael in new 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' -- EXCLUSIVE

When you consider that the title sounds like the caffeinated fever dream of a particularly excitable eight-year-old, it’s perhaps not that surprising that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has had so many incarnations: Gritty monochromatic independent comic book, beloved ’80s cartoon, mega-grossing feature-film trilogy, an endless assortment of action figures, fondly-remembered videogames, a second animated series that ran for several years in the 2000s, and a big-screen animated reboot.

Next year, Nickelodeon will relaunch Turtles as a new animated series, and EW can report exclusively that Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings‘ Sam, The Goonies‘ Mikey, and Rudy‘s Rudy) will be voicing red-masked Raphael. He’ll be joined by a cast that includes Jason Biggs as Leonardo, Greg Cipes as Michelangelo, and Rob Paulsen as Donatello. The series will be executive produced by Ciro Nieli, Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, and is currently set to debut in Fall 2012, although select fans can get an exclusive first look at the reimagined Turtles at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con. EW caught up with Astin to talk about his role in the new Turtles series, why Lord of the Rings led him into voiceover work, and his favorite cartoons growing up.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Raphael has typically been portrayed as the grumpiest Turtle. Is that still true in the new series?
SEAN ASTIN: Do you mean to say the coolest?

Well, he was explicitly “cool, but rude” in the original cartoon. Is he still rude?
He’s still working through issues. He’s really good at what he does, and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Sometimes that arrogance can get him in a little bit of trouble.

You’re obviously a little biased, but is he your favorite Ninja Turtle?
He’s everybody‘s favorite Ninja Turtle. Raphael’s the coolest, no question about it. Ask anybody.

Hmmm, I dunno, I know a lot of people who think Michelangelo is the coolest. He’s the party dude!
Yeah, if you like that sort of thing. [Laughs] But Raphael is Raphael, you know what I mean? Everyone tells me, “Raphael! He’s the red one with the sai?” Everybody knows the Turtles by their identifying characteristic, which I just think is hilarious.

Your Goonies co-star Corey Feldman voiced Donatello in two Turtles movies. Did you ask him for any advice about getting into the mindset of a Ninja Turtle?
No, but I certainly had him in mind as a signpost. Actually, I don’t even think he knows yet. [Laughs] The crazy thing is that Rob Paulsen played Raphael in the original series, and now he’s playing Donatello and I’m playing Raphael. [At the recording session] I was looking at him, like, “Am I doing this right?”

In the original cartoon, the Turtles had kind of a surfer-dude accent — like, “Radical! Tubular!” Will that be maintained in the new series?
I don’t know if it’s that far. I don’t think it’s [adopts a perfect 'Bill and Ted' impression] “Dude, how you doin’, dude!” It’s just not quite as intense. A little bit more refined. They’ve got a slightly better education, maybe. More refined chemicals.

What were your favorite kids cartoons growing up?
When I was a little kid, I loved Underdog, and Tom Slick. And Robot Monster — I don’t know if that was the title of it, but that was what the little boy called him. Remember that? The monster would hide behind the mountain, and then he would come out, hold up his arm, open up his fingers, and shoot missiles out of them? And the little boy was his friend, he lived on his shoulder?

Wait, I’ve never heard of that, but it sounds awesome. It’s called Robot Monster?
That’s what the kid called the monster in the cartoon. It was Japanese. I don’t think I ever knew the title of it. But that was good.

Were you a fan of any of the earlier Turtles series?
I was too old for them. My wife’s brother’s son — Little Andy, who’s now Big Andy — when he was four years old, he was sleeping in the Turtles sleeping bags, wearing the Turtles clothes, playing with the Turtles toys, watching the Turtles show. I remember we took him to Disney World, and we got sort of a private audience with the Turtles, I thought he was gonna have a heart attack. He was seized with terror and awe.

I enjoy the world of the Turtles. These people who are doing [the new show], man, they are so fired up. They know they have something that people love, and that they’re getting a different crack at it. The producers recognize how much the fans of Ninja Turtles expect from the new show. With the new show, you’ll have one of two reactions: People will be fired up and excited, or people will be really skeptical. And the people who are fired up, you don’t want to disappoint them. And the people who are skeptical, you want to turn them.

Between this, your Disney Junior show Special Agent Oso, and your old gig narrating Meerkat Manor, you seem to be doing more voiceover work. Was that a conscious career decision?
I used to want to work as a voiceover actor. From the time I was a kid, I used to want to do commercials and cartoons. I would go in for auditions and I just couldn’t get them. Then on Lord of the Rings, we had dialect coaches, and we spent six weeks in these little trailers. They had diagrams up of the shape and structure of your mouth, how the tongue and the teeth work on shaping sounds. All this stuff you think you know, but once you really start studying it with experts and professionals, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I get it!” I came away with was a different command over my own vocal instrument.

Do people generally recognize you from Lord of the Rings, from Rudy, or from The Goonies?
You would think it’s be Lord of the Rings, since it’s more recent, and it made so much money. But mostly, people recognize me either for Rudy or for Goonies. Some people from the Adam Sandler movies, some people from 24, but I would say, if there are 100 people that recognize me, 35 would be for Rudy, 27 would be from Goonies.

And now, with Turtles, that’s one more group of screaming fans.
I’ll start hiding behind pillars in airports and doing the Raphael voice.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
First Look: Nickelodeon unveils new ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

Comments (33 total) Add your comment
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  • Kelly

    My first and most beloved crush!

    • reece

      Still adorable! I crushed on him too!

  • Matt W

    Great interview, if I ever saw him though I would call him Samwise by accident. Cool news on more Turtles though, hopefulyl it’s good.

    • harry

      Me too

  • harry

    “More refined chemicals” Epic!

  • Craig

    I recognize him from Toy Soldiers! Total guilty pleasure movie. Wil Wheaton is italian!

  • Katja

    I love Sean Astin. I love his career, I love how he seems to be a genuinely nice guy, and now I love that he liked some random Japanese cartoon about a robot monster that hides behind a mountain and shoots missiles from its hand.

  • MHS

    From his description I wonder if he was talking about Gigantor?

  • Ather

    Donatello is the coolest, because he’s the smartest.

  • Tom

    He is so friggin hot, I wanna eat his old arse crusts.

  • Devin

    Oh Dave…

  • alex

    why is he so awesome! i just rewatched lord of the rings the other day.. he should have won an oscar for that.

    • Nancy

      LOTR should have won all oscars for everything.

  • Rob Grizzly

    Doesn’t seem the Raphael type. I’m curious, now

  • Philip

    This is off the subject but when is the seasons 9 an 10 from the teenage mutant ninja turtles original series is gonna be release? It seems that the people are being a little lazy on the dvd’s part of release the last 2 finale seasons…

    Season 1 though season 8 has Shredder & Krang as the main bad guys.

    Season 9 an 10 it is Dregg that replaces Shredder. Season 9(1995-96) Season 10(1996-97) finale an then thats it for the show back in rhe day then they have the TMNTs next mutation on but I heard the 1998 show didnt do well at all.

    I tried emailing the people that own the TMNTs rights from lion gates an heard nothing.

  • Philip

    I’m 31 an grew up with watching the old original series an still never got sick of them. But I hope the people that own the TMNT’s rights on the nick site see’s my previous comment an release the last 2 finale seasons.

    Liongates what I heard dont own the rights too original teenage mutant ninja turtles series.

    • Philip

      An once again I’m going too email the nick an find a way on the site too contact them too ask about last 2 seasons where they have dregg on there……theres 3 episodes where DREGG gets shredder an krang back too earch on middle of 10th season on the episode called POWER OF THREE..an the very last episode is where you see the technodrome as a piece of junk sitting alone in DEMINSION X with some random aliens, but shredder, krang are no where too be seen but the robot body is there an 2 of the turtles got it back too earth too stop dregg an that was it for the show after all the years from 1987 to 1996 it been on…

  • dee123

    Dear Hollywood

    Please stop raping my childhood television memories with crappy remakes

    Thank you, a child of the 90’s

    • A-Marie

      nicely said.

      I was born in 1983, and I love the original b & w comics.
      The old animated series sucked a bit, the 2K3 was closest to the comics – when you love those comics.

      Nickelodeon are gonna destroy everything. They just want new fandom.
      They even changed weapons of Donnie and Mike. Pathetic.

      and Sean Astin as Raphael, who is supposed to have a thick NY accent?? ha ha.
      laughable isnt it.

      • Sun-Wukong

        “Nickelodeon are gonna destroy everything. They just want new fandom.”

        Yeah, that’s why Kevin Eastman is workin on it with them and giving creative input on it, along with administrators from multiple TMNT fansites.

        “They even changed weapons of Donnie and Mike. Pathetic.”

        You do realize they also changed Mikey’s weapon four seasons into the original series, right? And again, if it were such a big deal, Eastman wouldn’t let it happen.

        “and Sean Astin as Raphael, who is supposed to have a thick NY accent?? ha ha.
        laughable isnt it.”

        It’s called acting. Fun Fact: in the original live action movie, Splinter was voiced by Kevin Clash, better known as Elmo from Sesame Street. Good luck figuring that out without looking at the credits, though.

      • TGB

        Jesus H Christ. It hadn’t even aired yet and you’re all “raping my childhood”. Screw your childhood – it’s well and truly over, carved in stone and lacquered. What about the kids of today – you expect them to put up with the kitschness and cheap animation from the 80s? 80s cartoons in the 2010s are only of interest to kids from the 80s as retro memories of your long-distant glory days. Actual kids think they’re crap. They have cassette decks and casual racism and are made on a budget.

        And you and the guy before can’t even agree on what it’s “supposed” to be – he remembers the 80s TV show, you’re rambling about the comics. So, which is it to be?

        Besides, the new show, NOW THAT IT’S ACTUALLY AIRED is awesome. Both funny and dark, true to TMNT. And Astin is great on it. Completely Raphael. The best bits from all the previous versions combined.

        So, whiners proven wrong yet again.

  • Dave Z

    I just hope he works a bit of a New York accent in his portrayal. That was something the first movie added to the character, and it fits perfectly. It’s become standard for Raphael, and I wouldn’t want it to go away.

    • A-Marie

      he wont have that accent.
      the new Nickelodeon serie is for kiddos.
      Not for the original fans.

      Forget the NY accent. Steamy Raph is gonna have a little boy voice.

      • Sun-Wukong

        And the 2003 series where Raph also had the accent was made by which company? Was it one called “4kids”? I think it was! Seriously, think before you type!

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