By Gill Pringle

When the Michael Bay-produced reimagining of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles barreled its way into cinemas in 2014, fans of the cult source material (which started out with comic books before expanding outward with TV cartoon series, video games, three live action feature films in the early nineties, and a CG animated flick in 2007) had more than a few problems, be it with the rejigged mythology, the physical changes made to the eponymous crime fighters, or a multitude of other cinematic sins. One of their biggest gripes, however, was the absence of Casey Jones, the hockey mask-wearing street vigilante and Turtles ally who dispenses his own brand of criminal justice courtesy of a golf bag filled with baseball bats, golf clubs, cricket bats, and hockey sticks.

That absence, however, is now rectified with this year’s upcoming sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. And pulling on the hockey mask is none other than actor, Stephen Amell, who knows more than a little about superhero vigilantism through playing Oliver Queen on the popular TV series, Arrow, which is now into its fourth season. “It’s an accident,” Amell laughs of the obvious similarities between his small screen version of DC’s Green Arrow, and the rogue crime fighter that is Casey Jones. “I played a lot of bad guys in the early part of my career. Oliver Queen is a vigilante, and Casey Jones is a vigilante, so it certainly wasn’t by design. You can’t plan things like this, but I definitely have an affinity for them, let’s put it that way. Casey Jones, however, is not serious. He’s angry once in a while, but I wouldn’t call him serious. He’s on the edge, and he’s seeing things that are constantly pushing him over the edge, and he is encountering things that just don’t make any sense. His life is not working out that well. He is simply not a normal dude. Casey Jones is a little crazy.”

Despite his army of Arrow fans, Amell isn’t about to bum-rush the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show – this movie once again very much belongs to Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, the pizza-loving heroes in a half-shell who rise from the sewers of New York City to put the rising crime rate in a choke-hold. “I’m very much a supporting player in the movie,” says Amell, whose principal human co-star is Megan Fox, who plays plucky investigative journalist, April Jones. “But for me personally, just within my character’s arc, it’s an origin story of the Casey Jones that fans of the comic books and films have come to know and love. Casey and April have always had a thing in the comics, and we’ll see what happens there! One of the things that pushed it over the top for me, in terms of getting this job, was when Megan very graciously came to the screen test that I did. I’d like to think that our chemistry working together was important to the movie.”

When FilmInk visits the New York set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, the engagingly loquacious Stephen Amell is amusingly cagey about revealing any plot points of the new movie (“Casey works in some phase of law enforcement in this,” the actor smiles upon getting prodded for intel. “I’m a corrections officer, and I’m involved in an early part of the movie in the transportation of some very important prisoners”), but happily talks up the character in more general terms. “I don’t know if we’ve seen this version of Casey Jones, because he is such a work in progress,” says Amell, who didn’t exactly immerse himself in the old TMNT comic books and cartoons. “I don’t rely on source material per se. I didn’t rely on source material when it came to Oliver Queen on Arrow, and I haven’t relied on source material when it comes to Casey Jones. I rely on the fact that when I had my first meeting with [director] Dave Green, I could tell based on that meeting that he was a huge fan of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Casey Jones, and where he fits into that universe. I come in, and I have my choices, but I tried to be – especially in the early stages of playing the character – open to suggestions and direction.”

The experience of playing Casey Jones on the big screen is one that Amell can’t safely compare with hunting bad guys through the mean streets of Star City in Arrow. “It’s different,” Amell says. “I wouldn’t have gotten this job if I wasn’t on Arrow, or hadn’t had some of my jobs previously. This is different. It takes real patience. There are shots that happen on films like these that would never happen on television because of (a) complexity and (b) how long they take to set up. There is a preciseness on these films which I don’t really see on TV, and close-ups too, which just really don’t happen that often on television. On TV, you work with two or three cameras a lot of the time, while the vast majority of filming on this set is with one camera, steady hand, so it’s very different.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows also allowed Amell to mix it up with some new co-stars, particularly Megan Fox, with whom he shares most of his scenes. “Megan is great,” Amell offers. “She’s curious. She’s always asking me questions. First off, there were a lot of questions that pertained to astrology. She was trying to figure me out. She actually knew some stuff about me, which she had researched before we got to work together…she knew where I was born! She’s been fun. She is professional, and always knows her stuff. She has experience on this scale of movie, and that has been really valuable to me. When we first met to do our chemistry test, she was actually fighting a cold. So it was like, ‘Hi, I’m Megan Fox, nice to meet you…don’t touch me though, I’m sick!’ She knew that I had a kid, so she said, ‘Don’t get your kid sick.’ We still did the scenes though, and she really brought it.”

Also bringing it was Oscar nominee, Laura Linney (Mystic River, The Truman Show, John Adams, The Big C), who plays Police Chief, Rebecca Vincent, in the film. “We have a scene together in the aftermath of what I call the ‘trigger point’ for Casey Jones in the movie, where he tries and fails, and there’s not a lot of sympathy on the B side for that failure, and he’s trying to explain himself,” Amell offers. “He’s trying to explain the things that he saw and experienced. That was a good experience. That was a good scene to shoot. Laura Linney, three-time Oscar-nominated…not bad to work with! My character didn’t want to fail, and I felt the same. Then off-screen, it was like, ‘That’s really good, Stephen!’”

Failure, however, is not an option for Stephen Amell, who is now truly locked into the iconic hockey mask of the rough-and-ready Casey Jones. “I’m signed on for three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies,” the actor smiles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows will be released in cinemas on June 9.


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