Ninja – a person who excels in a particular skill or activity
(HOLLYWOOD) – Turtles unite and save the world or so is the rallying cry of Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael: the beloved masked heroines lovingly known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, out of the shadows, to right the wrongs of evildoers.
Ever the stalwart defender of justice this sequel introduces a few new villains determined to annihilate the turtles. One such foe is mad scientist Baxter Stockman with Tyler Perry cast.
Perry says of his role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, “The thing I love most about this character is that he does all the work but, he’s completely ignored and underserved. I can relate to that, growing up as an underdog, so I immediately sparked to him. The opportunity to play a mad scientist who becomes even madder was a lot of fun. He starts off as a not so bad guy but becomes one of the worst guys.”
Sandra Varner/Talk2SV: Just can’t box you in…Every time I think I know where you’re going in this business you surprise me. Here you are, part of this beloved film franchise, in a role unlike any I’ve seen you portray. How did this come about?
Tyler Perry: First of all, when they (filmmakers) called and asked if I wanted to do it, I thought about my year-and-a-half old son. In a few years he’ll be able to see this film. So definitely, I wanted him to have another opportunity to see Dad doing something else…now, with the Turtles. I thought that would be pretty cool.
Talk2SV: How is it seeing the world through your son’s eyes?
Perry: It’s beyond moving–the world is very different for me now–everything I do is different, everything I say is different; how I treat myself, where I go, what I eat, how I exercise. It’s all motivated by wanting to be around for him (Aman) especially having waited so late to have him even though he was a total surprise. He really has changed my life.
Talk2SV: You are a force in this business, a leader who knows what he wants, and a veritable change agent. On the flip side, where is the kid in you? How do you relate to the Ninja Turtles and to your son?
Perry: I am a big kid–forever a kid–I’m just in a big grown man’s body. To see my life through his eyes is really exciting. Every day I wake up and see him I know that everything’s all right in the world.
Talk2SV: We’ve come to know you as one of the hardest working men in show business. How does one evolve from that identity?
Perry: My son is changing me, he’s making me slow down. Before he was born I didn’t take breaks and worked all the time. Now I build in longer breaks: instead of taking two weeks off it’s a month off or two months off or three months off and we’ll build that into the schedule throughout the years. I can put in 18 hours a day working really, really hard for months at a time, then take those breaks where we go away and do nothing.
Talk2SV: Switching gears a bit, yours is a very unique perspective in this business. Specifically, you’re not only a filmmaker; you also own a successful film studio. When hired as an actor, how do you switch gears?
Perry: When you know you’ve been hired to do a job and you’re being paid to do that job it is very important that you do it and to the best of your ability. You go in and give them everything they are asking for, give them everything they want, it’s not your ship, it’s not your show. If you wanted it to be [your] show you shouldn’t have signed on for it. I come to a job from a total place of surrender when I walk on to somebody else’s set.
Talk2SV: Basically, you’re describing your work ethic.
Perry: Well, I appreciate that.
Talk2SV: When this film franchise began (Ninja Turtles), the success of it blew everybody’s mind, these characters were widely embraced. You are no stranger to the impact that fictional characters can have given your iconic “Madea” character. What does it tell us about the way we live vicariously through these characters?
Perry: For kids to endear these characters (Ninja Turtles) in the way they have is why this franchise is still around. My hope is what this says to all of us is the message conveyed to accept yourself for who you are. No matter where you are, no matter where you come from, you are special. I think it is a great message for kids and I think that’s the impact it can have on all of us–that who we are and what we are is enough.
Talk2SV: How would you describe the heart of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Perry: I think the heart of the Turtles, though they are fun, clumsy, pizza-loving teenagers is their intention. Their intention is always good.
Talk2SV: How would you describe your character in this film?
Perry: Baxter Stockman is a mad scientist who is a bit crazy but also very misunderstood. He is a very nice guy though nobody thinks he is a nice guy. He’s a nerd, but he’s fun.
Talk2SV: Something tells me there may be a little nerd inside of you.
Perry: (Laughter) Stop it…there is a little bit. I geek out about a few things, you start talking about airplanes and engineering, I’m right there with you.
Talk2SV: Have you taken flying lessons?
Perry: I did, I got my license.
Talk2SV: Does that mean you have like 10,000 hours?
Perry: No. You can get them with 40 hours believe it or not. But I don’t fly anymore because of my son. If you don’t fly much then you’re not very good at it. I don’t have time to do it a lot. Until I can retire and can do it every day, all day, that’s when you become very good. You also have to be a weatherman to really be good at it; know what clouds are and what you’re looking at especially if your plane does not get above storms. Because of my son I don’t fly anymore.
Talk2SV: And it was just that easy to let it go?
Perry: I started flying because I had a fear of flying. I wanted to learn more about planes. When my son was born, it was OK. Then I asked myself, ‘If you are over the fear what are you doing up here in a single engine plane for four people?’
Talk2SV: Again, just when I think I’ve got you pegged. What then, for you, is surprising about your adaptability? You live a 360 degree existence.
Perry: I never think about it. I haven’t even thought about it being different degrees. I just don’t feel like I’m in a box and don’t feel like I belong in a box. If there’s something I want to do I’m going to try it whether it works or not. I’m going to know that I gave it my best.
Talk2SV: So is it safe to say that fear is no longer a part of your reality or a lens through which you view things?
Perry: Whatever I’m afraid of, whatever is bothering me, I try to face it; to stare it down so I can get past it. I don’t want anything holding me back.
Talk2SV: The city of Atlanta owes you much.
Perry: Do they?
Talk2SV: I’d say so.
Perry: I think I owe Atlanta a lot, it’s been home, and it’s been wonderful. Had I not seen people do well there I don’t think that I would have been able to do all that I’ve done.
Talk2SV: Do you see yourself moving away from Atlanta at any point?
Perry: No. I have houses in other places but, Atlanta is home, it always will be home. It was the Promised Land for me; it was the place where I felt I could do well and now I have.
Talk2SV: Whenever I share with others that our interviews are more like conversations, sometimes, I see their eyes well up. There is a kinship that you’ve established with total strangers through your work. Do you feel any undue pressure from that visceral connection?
Perry: No because it’s real. I’m just being myself, it’s genuine, and I’m just doing what I do every day. All of my life I’ve tried to maintain and stay true to myself. To have strangers walk up to me smiling and laughing because of something they’ve seen me do on stage or in film makes me feel good, you know.
Talk2SV: Yes, I do. A couple of years ago you had a positive impact on my nephew when you shook his hand.
Perry: That’s great to hear.
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows in theaters everywhere June 3.
By Sandra Varner