As soon as Greg Cipes picks up the phone for an interview with The Weekender, it's clear why Nickelodeon cast him as the voice of Michelangelo in its new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.
He sounds exactly like his animated counterpart without even trying.
The young actor, musician, and professional surfer fell into voice acting with the encouragement of his agent, scoring the role of Beast Boy in the Teen Titans animated series.
She's like, ‘You should do animation.' Of course I'm down! Are you kidding me? I always do voices. I'm a big prank caller kid. Jerky Boys was actually one of my favorite things to listen to growing up, Cipes recalled. The Jerky Boys inspired me, for sure, to mess around with voices.
The inspiration for many other aspects of his life, however, came from Michelangelo, the fun-loving radical dude he watched in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that launched the worldwide popularity of the heroes in a half shell, so when he was cast in the 2012 relaunch of the series, it easily became his favorite role.
It's the coolest part I ever could have got because Mikey had such an influence on my life. I grew up watching the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.' They taught me how to meditate, got me into martial arts, inspired me to be a skateboarder and a pro surfer. Actually, a couple years later after the Turtles got me into martial arts I became East Coast champion martial artist. I got to be a red and black belt, and to this day I'm still practicing martial arts. I'm a ninja because of the Ninja Turtles, he enthused.
I never could have imagined that I would be playing him, so it's such a blessing to be able to offer this to this next generation and for those of us that grew up with it.
All of the character's classic traits remain intact, he noted, allowing him to easily step into the sewers.
He's the class clown, the goofy one, the one who was always having the best time, and I naturally gravitate towards just having a great time and being happy and carefree and all of those qualities Mikey had…I also liked his weapons the best. I thought nunchucks were the coolest weapons, and orange! I have to say orange is probably my favorite color, he explained.
The Turtles have been rebooted and re-imagined many times over the years in comic books, movies, and television shows, but Cipes believes the cast and crew of this version have nailed one of the best adaptations yet.
It's the artists involved. It's the executives. Everybody has really put their heart ands soul into this, and it's coming through and you're feeling it. It's a very healing show to watch. It's so fun. I have grown-ups, I have 30-40-year-old people coming up to me saying, ‘Dude, it's the best show on TV,' not even just for their kids, he pointed out.
The show also boasts an all-star cast of Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings as Raphael, American Pie actor Jason Biggs as Leonardo, and Rob Paulsen as Donatello, the actor who voiced Raphael in the original series.
Some changes were made in the new series, such as Mikey's nunchaku converting into kusarigama when necessary, but the most obvious update may be his signature battle cry from Cowabunga! with Booyakasha! though Cipes insists it was handled with the utmost respect.
They asked me if I had a catchphrase idea during a recording session, and they said give it a shot. From the depths of who I am came ‘Booyakasha!' and I felt like the whole world shook at that moment. I remember looking out of the recording booth into all the executives and everyone was laughing and smiling and cracking up and I just knew that ‘booyakasha' was going to be the new ‘cowabunga,' he said.
It means ‘All glories to the most high,' or ‘Praise be.' Basically, it means ‘love.' It's another way to say love, and love is the fiercest and sweetest thing there is. And that's what the Turtles are. ...You can't beat love, and that's why the Turtles will never be beat.
Cipes felt like a Beatle when he was mobbed by eager fans at New York Comic Con a few weeks ago, but it was his turn to be the fan when he met the original Turtles comic book co-creator Kevin Eastman, who just so happened to be doing a Turtles-themed gallery at a comic store next to his favorite vegan restaurant on the day he was cast.
It's him. He's sitting there drawing and hanging out, and I'm like, ‘Dude, I'm Mikey!' He's like, ‘No way!' It was just serendipity. The whole thing has been serendipity really. His blessing and his encouragement and his friendship has definitely helped everyone, and especially me.
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' airs Saturdays at 11 a.m. on Nickelodeon.