Interview: Stephen Amell Talks ‘TMNT: Out of the Shadows’

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

The turtles are back in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows for an all new adventure. This time around Stephen Amell joins the cast as Casey Jones. We sat down with him for a roundtable interview where he gave us an insight into all things Turtle. He tells us how he got the iconic part, what he learned making the film, plus more!

Casey Jones is a very iconic character. Were you a fan of the turtles and of him growing up?

Yeah, I started watching the cartoons, and I can’t remember Casey Jones so much from the cartoons. I was young when I was watching the original animated series, but then the live-action movies came out and Casey Jones was a big part of that. As a kid, someone asked me, “Which person did you want to play?” I actually think it might’ve been Casey Jones subconsciously in my very young brain because he was a hockey player, and he wasn’t a turtle. I couldn’t totally conceptualize myself being one of those. [Laughs]

What are you bringing to this rendition of Casey Jones?

I think I’m bringing some enthusiasm and some fun. I’m also bringing an origin story that’s unique to any rendition of Casey Jones, which allows me a little bit of freedom and a little bit of creative license. I think that’s important when you’re doing any type of character that has been represented before. Obviously there’s been so many Batmans, right? And of course Batman has this iconic moment of his parents dying and it shaping his legacy for him, but you know currently, they’ve always done something with each character that is his own. And for me, with Casey Jones in this, that’s being a corrections officer and wanting to do the right thing, and wanting to play by the rules. And the fact that I keep running up against authority figures who don’t see things the way that I want them to see them, leads me down a different path.

So your character uses sports equipment to fight. If you had to fight evil in real life, what piece of sports equipment do you think you would use?

I feel like a baseball bat. It would probably have to be a baseball bat. I mean, maybe a golf club, but I don’t know about that. A baseball bat is the way to go probably. It worked in Inglorious Bastards. [Laughs].

What was the audition process like? What made you interested in playing this part?

Well, the fact that it was Casey Jones and the fact that it was Paramount, which is a studio that I have a lot of respect for based on products they put forward and the actors they have a longtime relationship with. And as for the actual audition process, I had a meeting with Brad [Fuller] and Andrew [Form] of Platinum Dunes, who were introduced to me by my manager as “The Michael Bay guys,” which I thought was cool. We had a meeting, but it wasn’t really about Casey Jones because we didn’t think there was any chance at all with my schedule on Arrow that I’d be able to shoot a movie like this because it wasn’t being built for me. You know it’s not Casey Jones out of the shadows. You got to line up everyone’s schedule. So when we found out that I was actually going to be able to do it, we knew that it was starting to float around, we knew that they were getting close to hiring somebody, and when we got the go-ahead from Warner Bros. actually talking about start and finish dates for Arrow, and they were willing to sort of lock both of those in, then I did a tape that afternoon. I want to say that was a Tuesday. That Friday afternoon I was testing with Megan [Fox] in LA, and Monday morning I got a phone call from my agents and manager, which is always a good call to get when you get the joint call. They were like, “You are to be expecting Michael Bay’s phone call.” And that was it.

How does it feel having the film finally coming out?

I’ll tell you the whole thing is actually a little bit surreal because what I’m used to is not instant gratification. I’ve seen the season finale of Arrow. I watched it a week ago. It’s not the finished cut, but it’s very close. So it’s weird because I know that we’ve filmed a lot of stuff [For TMNT], I know that it’s not all in the movie, I know we did some additional photography, so it’s not like I really even know how it all pieces together. It’s totally surreal because not even that, but the biggest factor is you are filming these scenes either with guys in platforms wearing CGI suits where you’re talking to ping-pong balls that are above their head, or once you get those scenes on their feet, you’re filming with nobody there. So the idea that I’m going to see a scene where I’m standing in the same space as a 9-foot-tall turtle is mind-blowing.

What was your favorite scene to film during the movie?

That’s a tough one. Well there’s the scene—my most favorite to film—and that was actually when Casey meets the turtles for the first time. That actually was the first big dialogue scene that I shot, which was an incredibly important moment in filming for me because when Casey sees the turtles and he sees what they are and what they look like, he thinks they’re aliens. He thinks that they might eat him, so he had to react in a very crazy manner. It was important that I could bring that element of the character. After we shot that scene, we were at lunch, which was actually dinner because we were filming nights, one of the producers [Andrew Form] was like, “Amell! Feels like we’ve got a Casey Jones. Feels like we’ve got a turtles movie—this is cool!” And that just instilled. He was just making an off-the-cut remark, I assume, but it really instilled me with the confidence that I was on the right path. It also gave me confidence in all the other scenes that we shot.

And the scene that I’m proudest of actually is a scene I have with Laura Linney.  I’m a huge admirer of her work and again, this was a very outsized scene and it was again, very early—not necessarily in the filming, but in the performance and in terms of chronology in the movie. After the shot, she just tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a wink and was like, “That was pretty good.” [Laughs]

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

For all your fans who know your previous work in Arrow, might think you’re just playing another vigilante. How are you trying to bring something fresh to Casey Jones that’s very different from Arrow?

First of all, if you go see the movie and you think it’s that vigilante guy playing that vigilante guy, then I can’t do anything for you. [Laughs] If you form your opinion based off of the trailer, I still can’t do anything for you, but if by the time Casey meets the turtles in the first couple of scenes, you’re thinking this guy isn’t different, then you don’t want it to be different because it really is. Oliver is actually closer to the turtles. Oliver is closer to being a ninja. Oliver thinks, he’s analytical. Casey Jones has more guts than brains. And I think he’s actually pretty funny.

What’s it like making the switch from TV to movie?

You know, it really is the same thing. It’s a camera and a lens. Again, it’s just time affords you the opportunity to make a much more personal vision. There are certain television shows that are technically television shows, but is Game of Thrones really a television show, or is it a nine-hour movie that comes out every year? [Laughs] With the amount of time that they have to film, it allows them to do stuff like long, steady cam shots. We are required on TV to keep our schedule, and we’re producing at a maximum rate, so when we’re building up a scene of course they story-board it, and that was very different. Since the scale was bigger, I was expecting it to be a little bit more stilted, and in fact, it was the exact opposite. Feature filmmaking allows you to make an incredibly personalized vision because if you don’t make your day, you just come back the next day.

In this day and age, anyone can kind of reach you at your twitter. Playing these iconic characters, not everyone is going to be happy. How do you handle that negativity?

Well first of all, it feels incredibly rare that I get horrible messages. I feel like there’s been a very loud faction of people that seem to think that Arrow was one show for a while, and now it’s becoming another show, but this is simply a problem that you run into because we just finished our 92nd episode. Some of the best shows on television have been their best shows since season six, seven and eight. So, I learned very early on—it was actually when we were shooting the pilot for Arrow— that the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy. If nobody cared, then no one would write anything. When I moved to LA in 2010, I could’ve walked down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard in a box shouting some obscene message and nobody would’ve cared. Now, not so much. [Laughs]. So you just have to learn to roll with it. The other important thing is, especially with Twitter, if it’s not something people are willing to attach their name to, why would I take it seriously?

What was the dynamic like on set?

It was fun. Will Arnett is a funny guy. He really really is, and Megan has a cool relationship with the boys who play the turtles, and the boys who play the turtles have to spend a lot of time together. From coming in the morning and having the dots put on their faces to wearing outfits that quite frankly, make them look ridiculous, to all of the plate work that they have to do. Having experienced just a bit of it when I filmed on The Flash, it’s not fun. It is monotonous, repetitious, busy work, and all of that to say, they still bust on each other all the time. They’re always making fun of one another, and when they started making fun of me by like hour four of the first time that I filmed with them, I knew I was being accepted. If they were super quiet and standoffish, I would’ve been worried. [Laughs]

What was something new that you learned or maybe did for the first time while making this film?

Well I mean, there’s obviously the CGI elements that I’m not particularly used to. This was much more collaborative because they just have more time. For instance, one of the scenes that you see—one of the publicity stills that have been released of Megan and I, I’m standing looking at something. It doesn’t matter what I’m looking at. The point is that this was something that they realized right in the middle of filming that I was in a spot, and I needed to see something. I would see something that I would clearly recognize, so they wrote a scene and we filmed it. It is totally in the movie, and I think it’s actually a crucial part, so that’s what I learned— that these things can kind of grow and evolve. As a result, it informed my performance a little bit because I always try to be easygoing in terms of my choices. I don’t want to do anything halfway, but I don’t walk into a scene with an idea of what it’s going to be before we put it on its feet. So to see how collaborative this process was, to see how much of a process it was, was eye-opening for me.

Do you think this sequel sets up for a third movie afterwards?

Absolutely. The title is sort of indicative of hopefully where we’re going to leave everybody. The movie is a lot about what everyone’s role is. What’s Casey’s role? Is he supposed to be a corrections officer, or is he supposed to be a vigilante? What are the turtles’ roles? Are they supposed to be the faceless protectors of the city, or are they supposed to step out and represent something to New York City? Everyone eventually comes to a conclusion by the end of the movie. Look I had so much fun filming it, I certainly hope it leads to another movie because it was a blast. [Laughs]

What does your daughter think about her dad being buddies with the Turtles now? [Laughs]

She doesn’t totally understand it yet. She doesn’t like movie theaters either. [Laughs] So eventually we’ll sit down and watch some curated scenes from the movie and see how she does, but she knows that she’s going to the première and she knows that I’m buddies with the turtles. She thinks it’s very cool. [Laughs]

If you could play any other superhero, who would it be?

I don’t know man. I feel like I’ve got my fill right now [Laughs]. I like The Riddler. I’ve always liked The Riddler in Batman movies, so If I could stick within the superhero genre, which includes villains, I’d go with The Riddler.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

My cousin and I co-financed, or crowd-sourced a feature film called Code 8, which we’re going to try to shoot during my next hiatus. I go back to shoot season 5 of Arrow in July. This press tour hasn’t really allowed me to do anything during this hiatus, which is probably for the best because I hadn’t really had a break since June of 2014. I’ve been going pretty straight through, and the next hiatus will depend on how the movie does. If the movie does well, and they want me to be in it, then they’re going to have to work on a pretty specific timeline so I could be back as Casey Jones.

What would you like for the viewers to take from the movie?

I think we made the fun superhero movie. I think it’s a movie that has real stakes, it has real villains, but has relatable characters, and because of that, has real stakes that you care about. And there are a lot of moving pieces in the movie. There’s Shredder’s whole operation, there’s Baxter Stockman, there’s Bebop and Rocksteady, there’s Casey and his story, April and her story, Vernon and his story, and then of course, the turtles. I know that a main focus of our director, Dave Green, was to really focus on the relationship between the brothers, and I personally think that that’s what makes the turtles a really universal property, a property that has stood the test of time. Ultimately, even though this is an incredibly unique set of circumstances with four teenage mutant ninja turtles, it is in fact a story about four brothers, and everyone can relate to that.

In Theaters Now.

Alejandra Torres is a 21 year old from Miami, Florida. She graduated from Florida International University with a degree in English Literature. She loves books, television, and movies. Some of her other favorite things include: leftovers (food—not the show), cookie dough, and her pet poodles, Benji and Bella. She hates Miami traffic but loves XM radio, so basically, it’s complicated. In a battle between contacts or trendy, oversized glasses, the latter wins because lets face it, contacts are a lot more dangerous than some people might think. Her latest binge victim was Parks & Recreation. She “literally” got through six seasons faster than the Millennium Falcon kicks into warp speed. Her favorite shows include: Game of Thrones and Pretty Little Liars—because it doesn’t matter whether a girl is from Dragonstone or Rosewood, fashion is key.