‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’: Seth Green on voicing Leonardo

Sept. 25, 2014 | 5:11 a.m.
tmnt season 2 finale press art 3b Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Seth Green on voicing Leonardo

The Turtles are up against a Kraang invasion in Friday's Season 2 finale of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." (Nickelodeon)

napoleon c Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Seth Green on voicing Leonardo

Napoleon Bonafrog (Jon Heder), left, will make his debut in the third season of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." (Nickelodeon)

napoleon g Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Seth Green on voicing Leonardo

The Punk Frogs are featured in the third season of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." (Nickelodeon)

Fans of Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are in for an otherworldly Season 2 finale on Friday, but they won’t have to wait long for more from the mean, green fighting machines. The cartoon’s third season debuts next week, with “Robot Chicken’s” Seth Green taking over the role of the Turtles’ leader, Leonardo.

Friday’s two-hour finale pits the radical reptiles against a Kraang attempt to transform New York City into their own version of Dimension X.

Check out an exclusive clip from the episode in the video below.

After the events of the finale, the heroes in a halfshell find themselves without a master, without a home and on the run. Hero Complex readers also get a first look at Green’s performance as Leonardo in a scene from “Within the Woods,” Oct. 3’s season premiere, which sees Leo struggling with an injury and Raphael (Sean Astin) captured by a new mutant. Watch the video below.

The third season also marks the show’s introduction of several fan-favorite characters from the popular animated TV series that ran from 1987 to 1996, including Mondo Gecko (Robbie Rist) and Turtle allies the Punk Frogs, including Napoleon Bonafrog (Jon Heder). Check them out in the gallery above.

Green, a self-professed fan of Kevin Eastman’s and Peter Laird’s Ninja Turtles comics in the early 1980s, takes over the role of Leonardo from Jason Biggs. Hero Complex caught up with him to chat about his turn as the leader of the Turtles.

Hero Complex: How did you get to be a Ninja Turtle?

Seth Green: They approached me about taking over this role, and I was really excited because I’m a longtime fan of this property. I’ve already been recording for a few months.

HC: When was your first exposure to the Turtles?

SG: The black-and-white comics were the first thing that I saw, because I was into comics when I was really young. And that was the kind of property that got attention, both because it was an independent black-and-white comic and because the characters were so distinctive and unique. And also, I don’t know if you know this, but they’re ninjas, and ninjas are something that little boys get very excited about.

Seth Green, right, and his wife Clare Grant. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Seth Green, right, and his wife Clare Grant. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

HC: Which turtle was your favorite when you were a kid?

SG: When I was a kid, I more related to Michelangelo, because he was kind of a spaz, and a little bit goofy, and even though he was awesome, he was like a prankster and a trickster. But now I get to play Leonardo, and Leonardo’s a very different role than Mikey. Leo, he’s the leader, so he’s got this responsibility of leading everybody and being better than them, being sharper than them, being more prepared than them, more adult than them. And you know, they’re all teenagers, so they’re very difficult to wrangle, and Leonardo has this extra burden of being the conduit between the sensei and his brothers. So he doesn’t get to fool around, he doesn’t get to enjoy himself, and there’s very rare moments where you actually see him smile or enjoy himself.

HC: When Jason Biggs left the role, was there pressure to do the same thing or take it in a new direction?

SG: Ninja Turtles is a property that’s been around almost 30 years, so almost 10 different people have played each of these roles. I think there’s a sense of responsibility to stay true to the property itself, but each actor’s gonna bring their own interpretation.

HC: So what are you bringing to it?

SG: I take this role really seriously. Leo is a complicated character, so I’m thoughtful of all angles of that in my performance.

HC: Did you have to do any research — reading comics, watching the old cartoons — when you took on the role?

SG: Hahaha … I’m well-versed in the Turtles. This is the great thing — something my wife and I share is a longtime love of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The best thing for me is that her favorite is Leonardo. Like, well before this was even a possibility, I knew her favorite was Leonardo. So when this opportunity came through, I was like, this is definitely going to score me points with my wife.

Napoleon Bonafrog (Jon Heder), left, will make his debut in the third season of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." (Nickelodeon)

Napoleon Bonafrog (Jon Heder), left, will make his debut in the third season of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” (Nickelodeon)

HC: Do you record with the other actors, or separately?

SG: It just depends on the scheduling. They do a really great job of getting us there, if we’re in scenes together. It’s been awesome getting to record with the other guys — you get a slightly different energy. This group, everyone is so excited about doing it. We can’t believe we got this job. We all really love Turtles. We get to have fun together. And there’s this other side of it for any of us who grew up on Turtles — this is a really important mythology to pass down generationally, and so we’re in the position of giving it to this generation of kids the way it was given to us, and I love that. I love getting to be a part of passing it on, and making sure that it’s attended to correctly, that it’s of the same quality and has the same ideals that the original did, the one that I thought was so informative to me.

HC: Why do you think it has endured?

SG: The characters are super-unique in the way that they look. Ninjas are inherently exciting. And then, they’re a different kind of family. They’re all brothers, so they’re a legit family, but they work together, they play together, they depend on each other, they take care of and protect each other. All of the morality and the ideology of the show is incredibly positive and collaborative and about discipline. I think those are all things that bring truth, and it’s easier to digest those lessons when they’re given in a cartoon that feels more fun than educational. I will say this to fans of the show: I love it the way that you love it, and we are diligent about protecting it.

HC: You’ve been involved in lots of franchises that fans feel intensely devoted to. What do you get asked about the most?

SG: It’s all over the place. I’ve been at it a long time, so depending on how old someone is or where they’re from, that’s usually how I can pinpoint.

HC: So high school kids would ask you about…

SG: High school kids all saw “Scooby Doo.” So I’ve got this really weird thing where people are like, “Hey, what’s up, it’s Velma’s boyfriend!” Or they saw “Without a Paddle” when it was on cable all the time. The nice thing is that we’re finally starting to surpass the generation that believes “Entourage” was a reality show. For a minute there was this very strange thing where this clever send-up I did, this thing I thought was really funny because it was a joke, got interpreted as what a whole generation thought about me as a person. ‘Cause they didn’t know me from movies. They only knew me from “Entourage.” It’s really funny.

Seth Green | Then: Willow's rocker boyfriend and werewolf Oz. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Seth Green as Oz in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

HC: Which people ask you about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”?

SG: “Buffy” is all over the place. Not only is it one of those things that meant a lot to people when it was happening, but because it’s available on so many streaming formats, each one of those mythologies has gotten passed around. So people seem to always be discovering it, which is exciting. There seem to be a whole crop of kids around the same age as our characters in it who are discovering it.

HC: You also voiced Howard the Duck in “Guardians of the Galaxy”…

SG: That was just because me and [director James] Gunn know each other, and he let me be part of his awesome movie, haha.

HC: It seems like you are constantly juggling four or five projects. Do you ever sleep?

SG: Well, you know, I’ve got a wide variety of interests, and I’m lucky enough at this point in my career to have all those opportunities, so I just try to put a team together so I’m not the sole person being relied upon. And then, no, I don’t get a lot of sleep.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

[For the record, 7:15 a.m. Sept. 25:  An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Townsend Coleman is the voice of Mondo Gecko. Robbie Rist voices the character.]


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20 Responses to ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’: Seth Green on voicing Leonardo

  1. Marissa Evans says:

    It takes like 5 seconds to get used to it, and already I love him. :) My biggest complaint is that they didn't get him from the very beginning.

  2. SCH says:

    "I take this role really seriously. Leo is a complicated character, so I’m thoughtful of all angles of that in my performance."

    Thank you, Seth, it's reassuring to know they brought in someone who will put in the effort to do him proper justice and gets that. And even more-so to know Mrs. Green is a fellow Leo fan to add weight to the importance of doing well by him. ;)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I like Seth but he doesn't seem to fit the voice to well. Even though I have heard Donnie say's its because Leo's hurt in the new episode, but still. But anyways, this seems like a different kind of episode to watch, its dark, and I like it. But Leo has been out for 3 months!

  4. Miguel says:

    Is not the same Leo or that the new voice sounds like 39 years old leo! They should got some one younger. The turtles are teenagers not old!

  5. Miguel says:

    They should canceled the show. Is not the same with out Jayson Biggs. It had a good run. Nickelodeon tmnt is not the same.

  6. Miguel says:

    Leo voice sucks! Is sounds like old guy! I’m not gonna watch this show again!

  7. @slundy99 says:

    Booooo….need to bring Biggs back. He's got the perfect voice, seth green's voice was immediately identifiable and just does NOT fit the character. I don't know the circumstances why biggs left, but bring him back. Leo is not the same now, and myself and my kids do not like it at all. Even Biggs changed his voice a bit to do the role, seth, nope, same old tired stoner voice…

  8. Tim says:

    Seth is horrible he used his crappy voice on so many things he needs to stick to Adult Swim, leave this voice to a Teenagers this Leo voice sounds like an over age loser trying to hang out with high school teens.

  9. teamblue says:

    Why didn't they select an actor who sounds like the original Leo? Seth Green does NOT sound like a teenager. He sounds old.

  10. Raymoney says:

    They need to get Biggs back pronto. Boycotting for now. Seth Green is funny as hell but not right for this part. They would have been better off finding someone who sounded like Biggs.

  11. bryancoleman44 says:

    Nickelodeon screwed up TMNT! I hate their take on TMNT, you can’t replace the original TMNT cartoon!

  12. SHINA says:


  13. Tayla says:

    So is Seth Green going to be Leo's voice in the new up coming video and well he be Leo's voice in tell season 3 is done with or in tell they want Leo's voice to be different

  14. Brandon says:

    I agree with Seth, Michelangelo was my favorite turtle, he still is but I still love all the turtles, but Master Splinter is my favorite. But one thing I don’t know and if anyone knows, please reply, but why is Jason Biggs not in the turtles anymore? Honestly, I like Seth better than Biggs, I just wanted to know.

  15. stevi says:

    I have seen a lot of comments on rhe web about nick’s rendition of nickelodeon and whether or not it’s true to the old. Here’s what people need to realize; this is not the old turtles. This is a new batch for a new generation. Unlike in prior renditions (I will state now I am a fan of ALL turtles past, present.) they actually did their job of making the boys real ninjas. I an an avid anime fan and to see Nick do their research like with the Avatar series, I get very happy seeing the results of their homework. Although I will admit that I was a very big fan of Jason Biggs as Leo, I already have accepted Scott as the new Leo. They needed to bring something different after the extremeness we faced in season two’s finale. Leo was seriously injured, so if they felt his voice needed to be changed to bring ib some authenticity, so be it. A lot of the arguments and negative comments I have seen are so close minded it’s not even funny. Boycotting for the return of Biggs who probably chose to leave instead of being fired is a poor choice that will result in nothing. I am ready for the new season to continue, and I so love sharing my brother, my fiance and my favorite childhood cartoon in new format with my son. Not only is he a huge fan of the new TMNT, he’s also a huge fan of the old. My son is three going on four and can tell the difference, but instead of being close minded like everyone rlse it would seem, he doesn’t discriminate. Instead he supports and is open to all ideas. The way people should be.

  16. kimmie says:

    Seth Green is definitely not the right fit for this voice. Just sounds too old, too slow stoner sound, just seems like his regular voice. Does not fit well into the conversations with the other voices. Its waaaay out of place and screws with the continuity of the whole show. A poor cheap fit if anything. He does not have the acting voice range to pull off a semi-serious character, you know right off the bat who the voice is and the character is lost. Just a total super suck makes you want to change the channel. Sad.

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