As a child of the '90s, actress Mae Whitman (Avatar: The Last Airbender, Arrested Development) has a deep-seated love for Nickelodeon programming shared by most people of her age. "I feel like I am a lot of who I am because I watched these shows that said it was okay to be a total weirdo," says Whitman. "Shows like Pete and Pete, Hey, Dude, Salute Your Shorts — that's what I grew up with." Having previously collaborated with Nickelodeon on Avatar, Whitman will be seen starting weekend on the network's revival of another classic '90s show: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The older version has a special place in her heart too.
"I have this memory of being obsessed with how the pizza looks. This yellow, weird pizza. There was something about it… I viscerally loved it. The colors, the premise — everything was fun and interesting and different about it." Whitman sees a connection between those classic Nicktoons and the modernized Turtles. They're both about outsiders, and in the case of her character April O'Neil, emphasize positive messages for younger viewers. "There are so many things about her that are incredible. One thing with this is that she's younger, she's the Turtles' age, a teenager. That's cool to me because you can have these young girls relating to her. And we're not trying to take her over, we're trying to add something to her."
The original April had her fair share of adventures with Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, and Whitman's new inter-operation of the character should still have the reporter's signature edge — just with a 21st century twist. "It's almost as if she's the same girl, just younger. She's so vivacious, so smart, and really kind and loving. She's a part of the family. For me, I wanted to make sure I kept that. She's very intellectual. She's… not funky, but independent and energy and life. She comes up with ideas. And she's the only human counterpart for the Turtles, a view to the outside world. And a female energy, which so important (especially as a kid who grew up with Ninja Turtles). "
Unlike most of her contemporaries, Whitman has been working in the voiceover business almost her entire life. Daughter of voiceover extraordinaire Pat Musick, Whitman got her first taste of the business when she joined her mom on USA's Duckman. The rest is history. "They would record [Duckman] at Klasky Csupo [the company behind Rugrats, early Simpsons, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters] and that was the coolest place ever to go. I was in the voiceover circle even has a little kid. I became friends with all the directors and all the people who worked at the studios. It was fun to go. I remember going there and having fun."
Whitman is part of a close-knit group of performers in the voiceover community who she still looks up to. "There are definitely heavy-hitters who are all-stars in the voiceover world," says Whitman. "These people are just so talented. Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulson… people I work with constantly. You have a guy like Dee Bradley Baker who worked on Avatar with me and he can do any animal ever. They'd be like, 'Hey Dean, make a water buffalo sound for us.' And he was like, 'North American water buffalo or South African?' These guys are just talented."
With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Whitman adds another property to her roster of respected TV shows with rabid fanbases. What might be overwhelming for the uninitiated is just something new for Whitman to be excited over. "Every time I go to Comic-Con, I'm jacked. I want to dress up and walk the floor and answer questions, because I'm excited about it. It's like making new friends. That goes for all of it. Arrested Development — I'm like the biggest fan ever of Arrested Development. To be a part of it is incredible. Same goes for Parenthood. To be a part of that family, it's exciting to me to find new friends, new people who share your interests. It's like speed dating! Now it's Turtles." That's not to say Whitman is hoarding fan-friendly projects. "I only have room to do things that I have a love for in my life. To me, all of these projects I have going on… I feel really lucky. I feel really passionate about them. They help me connect with the other people involved: fans."
Having interacted with so many types of fans, Whitman is a bit of a geekdom connoisseur. "Everyone is super hardcore in their own way. Arrested Development fans are subtle and cool, but are still die-hard fans." One group stands out to Whitman as truly diehard: "The ones that really resonate with me the most are the Avatar fans. We went to Comic-Con, Dante [Basco], who plays Zuko, and I, stopped in on a small fan-run panel. These people were going crazy, it was awesome. Dante especially — girls were dying over him, screaming 'Zuko!' He's a heartthrob. There is so much energy. It's positive and great. To be swept up in that positivity over something you love, it's the ultimate gift."
Thanks to the massive success of the sequel series The Legend of Korra, Avatar fever is even hotter than ever, and although Whitman did not reprise her role as Katara on the first Book of the show, she's hoping there might be an opportunity in the future. "I would not be surprised if that's something we could eventually make happen. We all care about each other, we're a family. I would definitely not be surprised if that was something we could make work. I would be horned to be a part of it. I'm so glad there's a continuation of that energy. It was beautiful and serene and important. A really special energy. I would love to be involved."
To this day, Whitman still fondly looks back at her own TV favorites from growing up. "I've seen every Hey Arnold! episode ever, but it would have to be between Pete and Pete and Doug. Doug got me through so many hours of being annoyed about homework." Knowing Whitman's own history, it's not hard to imagine that her work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will do the same for today's kids — and perhaps, inspire the future generation of voiceover actors.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kicks off Saturday, Sept. 29, at 11AM on Nickelodeon.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Nickelodeon; WENN]
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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
An all-star lineup of top recording artists made an early morning trek to the Beverly Hilton Hotel's Grand Ballroom to help announce this year's crop of nominees for the 44th Annual Grammy Awards, a trek most found worthwhile.
The most bleary-eyed of all was Motown's soul songstress India.Arie, who was suddenly wide-awake after hearing her named nominee in some of the top categories. All in all, Arie snared seven nominations for her debut album Acoustic Soul, including the prestigious Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist categories, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Album.
Equally excited was the pint-sized, ponytailed pop phenom in pink standing next to Arie, singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado, who squealed excitedly after she earned four Grammy nominations (Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Female Vocal Performance).
Joining the two songbirds onstage for the announcements were an eclectic assortment of recording industry standouts who also earned their own nominations: girl group Destiny's Child (Best R&B Album, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal), Train lead singer Pat Monahan (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal), rapper Ja Rule (Best Rap Album, Best Rap performance by a Duo or Group, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration), rock goddess Stevie Nicks (Best Female Rock Vocal Performance), country chanteuse Jamie O'Neil (Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Song), fabled R&B producer Jimmy Jam (Producer of the Year), actor/writer/director Carl Reiner (Best Spoken Word Album) and R&B sensation Usher (Best Male R&B Performance).
"That's good news, isn't it?" asked Usher, grinning ear-to-ear as he took the podium.
Though not present, U2 and Alicia Keys dominated the nominations as powerfully as they dominated the sales charts over the last year.
The Irish supergroup's acclaimed album All That You Can't Leave Behind provided fodder for eight nominations in several coveted categories, including Record of the Year ("Walk On"), Album of the Year, Song of the Year ("Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"), Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Stuck In a Moment..."), Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Elevation") and Best Rock Album. The group also faces stiff competition from itself, as two of its songs, "Elevation" and "Walk On" will be vying for the Best Rock Song honor. Since 1987 U2 has walked off with 10 Grammys out of 20 nominations.
Meanwhile, singer/songwriter Keys--easily the most heralded new talent of the past year--was singled out in six categories for music from her debut album Songs In A-Minor and her smash hit "Fallin'," including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Performance, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Album.
The late singer/actress Aaliyah may be gone but was not forgotten, garnering two posthumous nominations, for Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Several Hollywood stars and projects earned intriguing nods. Comedian Steve Martin was nominated for his banjo work on the jam "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from Earl Scruggs and Friends. His fellow comics Ray Romano, Margaret Cho and George Carlin received nods in the more logical Best Spoken Comedy Album slot. And it's good to be the king: Mel Brooks was tapped for Best Long Form Music Video with "Recording the Producers: A Musical Romp With Mel Brooks."
Ann-Margret was honored for Best Southern Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, while Vanessa Redgrave and Tim Curry were each nominated for dramatic performances on albums in the Best Spoken Word Album for Children category. Rob Lowe, Noah Wyle, Joan Allen and Tom Brokaw were singled out in the Best Spoken Word Album for their voice work on War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars.
Nominees for Best Score Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media include A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Men of Honor, Planet of the Apes and Traffic.
Competing for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media are Bridget Jones's Diary, Moulin Rouge, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Shrek and The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs.
The 44th Annual Grammy Awards will be held Feb. 27 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast at 8 p.m. PT/ET on CBS.