By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly acknowledge the great responsibility they carry for fans of Bebop and Rocksteady, the beloved dimwitted mutated henchmen they depict in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” the newest installment in the rebooted franchise. After all, they count themselves among the ranks of devoted fans of the pop culture TMNT phenomenon and the warthog-like and rhino-ish duo, in particular.
By phone, the affable Williams (Bebop) and Farrelly (Rocksteady) explain why they are so excited to have been cast to play these iconic villainous enforcers, who take such glee in their destructive behavior, and bring them to life in a live-action big screen feature film for the first time.
Williams, a voiceover veteran (“Transformers: Robots in Disguise,” “The Boondocks”) from Atlanta and Farrelly, a professional WWE wrestler (dubbed Sheamus in the ring) from Ireland, play goons employed by the super evil Shredder, played by Brian Tee.
When Shredder escapes custody, he joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to unleash a diabolical plan to take over the world. As the heroic Turtles prepare to take on Shredder and his dumb but lethal henchmen, they find themselves facing an even greater evil with similar intentions: the notorious Krang.
Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman created the anthropomorphic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters in the mid-1980s as a comic book. The masked vigilante heroes soon had their own animated TV series, and then expanded into video games, merchandise and animated movies, building a worldwide fan base. Moviegoers shelled out nearly $500 million for the 2014 live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and though generally panned by critics, the film was welcomed by fans, further bolstering the TMNT brand.
Writers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, who co-wrote the original, returned to pen the sequel, which is directed by Dave Green (2014’s “Earth to Echo”). Reprising their starring roles are Megan Fox and Will Arnett with Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek and Alan Ritchson reprising the voices of Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael, respectively.
When Williams and Farrelly demonstrated a solid chemistry on set (in depicting their characters in their human form), the filmmakers thought it best to keep up that banter by having them record their voiceovers together after their “transformation” into mutants, something rarely done in big budget films. The actors welcomed the opportunity to continue working and riffing in the recording studio. They are hoping to continue their comical partnership in a spinoff or sequel.
Q: Did you grow up watching the TV cartoon or reading the comic books?
Williams: I didn’t grow up with them because I already was a grown man when they came out, but I’ll tell you this, when they came out, I watched every single cartoon. I didn’t read the comics, but I watched every cartoon—me and my best buddy—every day. They were on every afternoon in Atlanta where I grew up. So I was a huge fan. Like “Turtles” fans, I was always a huge fan of Bebop and Rocksteady. So when we got this opportunity to bring (those characters) to the big screen for the first time, it was almost like, “Somebody’s playing a joke on us,” and it’s a good one. But, legally, I can’t speak for Stephen anymore.
Farrelly: I don’t think there’s anyone who grew up in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, who didn’t know what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were. I grew up in Ireland and everyone knew what the cartoon was, who the characters were and how much fun they were to watch. It was a huge global phenomenon. They were huge not just in American, but all over the world. Everyone in my class had the Nintendo games and toys.
There’s just such a strong base of characters there. I loved watching (the cartoon). I’d watch it every morning before I went to school. Just the chemistry between the four turtles and on the other side, the villains, like Krang and Shredder, Baxter and, of course, Rocksteady and Bebop, two overgrown mutant kids that would normally be a headache for Shredder and cause more damage to Shredder’s goal of dominating the world than the Ninja Turtles. They were always two of my favorite characters because, like Rocksteady, I was always bumping into things and breaking things—not purposely—just because I was a clumsy kid. So to play Rocksteady alongside Gary as Bebop, is a dream come true.
Williams: Before I ever went to New York, I watched them in the cartoon—them living in the sewers of New York was such a big part of it. So it was kind of like getting a lesson on New York from the Turtles. I never considered until this moment how important a backdrop New York played.
Q: As part of your prep work, did you watch animal videos together?
Farrelly: We did at a coffee shop near our hotel. People would give us weird looks.
Williams: In retrospect, we could have just watched them at our hotel but, for some reason, we didn’t.
Farrelly: We decided to watch animal videos at a café around the corner from our hotel at peak time would be a great idea. We didn’t really care. We were just trying to get more ideas about what we were (playing). We watched the cartoons over and over again. And, when we got together, we just wanted to try and make sure we nailed everything. We actually made animal noises in the café. So we really were in character. It was a real Marlon Brando (Method acting) moment for both of us.
Q: You recorded your dialogue together, which is somewhat unusual for an animated movie. Did that help your performance?
Williams: I think that once they saw us on set bouncing off each other. It was something we’d discussed, that after our transformation when we would have to go in and record our voices, we would try to record together. Once they saw us on set together and saw how much we improv’d and how much they allowed us to improv and how much more fun everything got with us doing that, they realized it would be so much better being there eye-to-eye, playing with each other, every innuendo, every action, to bounce it off each other. That brought it up three more notches.
Q: Where did you record?
Williams: In L.A.
Farrelly: I did one session on my own in New York. I flew myself to L.A. between WWE shows just so I could be there with Gary and make the most of the voiceover stuff. That was really important. There’s huge difference when you do it on your own and when you get to do it with someone else. Especially because the characters are so close, it’s important to be in the studio with the other actor.
Williams: It is rare to do that. I do a lot of animation and its rare to record (with the other actors) because it’s hard to schedule it so that everyone can be in the room together. But it makes so much difference. I can watch a cartoon and go, “People in the room together for that” or “People were separate for that.” The energy is so much different. So they were smart to put us together to record and I have to applaud them for making sure that we had an opportunity to get together on that.
Q: What was it like working with Tyler Perry? Did you know him prior to making this film together?
Farrelly: I’d never met him before. The first thing that blew me away was the fact that he’s nearly seven feet tall. I went in there thinking, “I’m big Rocksteady.” I’m the big guy. And then I walk in there and I’m looking up at Tyler Perry and he’s looking down at me. I had no idea how big this fella was. I’d seen him in the “Madea” movies which are so much fun as well. But he’s really tall, and really professional, very nice. We did a couple of scenes together but when we met it was on set.
Williams: I have to second Stephen. That dude is huge. Also, he is not someone who had to be there. The guy runs an entertainment empire. So I watched him. Normally, he’s in charge of everything. He does the directing; it’s his show. This was one of those laid back times for him where he was there only as an actor and, as Stephen just said, he’s at work. He was watching other people and learning from other people and doing stuff. People were learning stuff from him. But he was there in the capacity of an actor. I don’t know how many times he’s just that. So it was definitely interesting seeing him in that light. But even more interesting was seeing this dude, who is one of the tallest guys, because you don’t expect it. If they had said, “Hey guys, Super Tall Tyler Perry’s going to be here today,” then we would have known.
Farrelly: He should add that to his IMDB page: Super Tall Tyler Perry. Then no one would be confused.
Q: Stephen, is this your first on-camera film role?
Farrelly: It’s my second. The first one was a movie called “The Escapist,” which was a small, independent movie I did in Ireland. I did it before I joined the WWE. I had a small part in it. It had Brian Cox, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes and Liam Cunningham—a lot of great actors—in it. It was about a prison break and it was filmed in Ireland and the U.K. It was just a complete different scale (from “TMNT: Out of the Shadows”) and completely different experience for me. I was blessed to do the two I’ve done. They were so much fun. We had a great crew, great cast, but nothing compares to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” It was a great experience I’ll never forget and I hope to do a lot more. Gary and I are pushing for a Bebop and Rocksteady movie. We know we could pull this off. All right my man?
Williams: Absolutely. Plus, we can always blackmail them. As far as Hollywood goes, that’s the best way to do it.
Farrelly: In this movie, there’s an introduction to a lot of new characters, not just ours. So, going forward, it gives them way more scope to build on that.
Q: Where would you like to see them go?
Williams: There’s so much more for these guys to destroy. In the comic book, Karai, who is played by Wendy Ishibashi in the movie, is Shredder’s right hand woman. She’s kind of in charge of them. She kind of babysits them. So I would love to see Shredder just let us loose on any situation. They’re so notorious in the comics, in the cartoons, for their just sheer stupidity, destruction and fun. They are as fun as they are dangerous. Just to unleash that idea on the world would be terrific. And it can only happen if we use great blackmailing techniques.
Q: How do you think you’ll blackmail them?
Williams: I don’t know. Everybody was so nice on the film. It’s too bad.
Q: Do you do motion-capture for your characters after they transformed?
Williams: During the transformation itself, that was both of us in motion capture outfits. It was really physical scene where we’re both transforming. Stephen’s character knocks into an air tank and he bangs into a wall and we bang up. After that transformation, it was the stunt guys who are incredible. They watched us during our live-action work to capture our movements. They were not only great at the stunts but they also were great at the physical acting thing of mocking our movements. They were able to seamlessly step in there and kill it for us.
Farrelly: We had the best stunt guys, really amazing.
Q: You had a lot of fans that came out to see on the red carpet for the film’s premiere in New York. What was that experience like?
Farrelly: It was unbelievable, amazing.
Williams: To see it with an audience with kids, adults and Turtles fans, it was absolutely amazing.
Farrelly: Unexpected applause broke out even before the movie ended. The whole theater burst into applause 15 minutes before the movie ended.