[INTERVIEW] Cowabunga! Ft. Worth’s Kenn Scott Partakes In Some Turtle Talk

It is a well-known fact to fans of the franchise that the Ninja Turtles call New York City home. What many people might not know is that one of them has migrated to Texas. That’s right, Raphael is a resident of Fort Worth. While you won't find the mutant reptile in the sewers of Cowtown, you can find actor Kenn Scott among those that live in the city. Kenn did the stunt work for Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and portrayed the character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991).

Dallas Comic Show invited Kenn to join their list of celebrity guests at their final 2019 event. It has been a big year for the actor as he returned to the spotlight by releasing a book about his time with the franchise. His memoire is titled Teenage Ninja to Mutant Turtle: Becoming Raphael. Since we haven’t had a chance to grab the book just yet, we caught up with him at the convention to get a little bit of insight into what it is like to be a Ninja Turtle.

Were you a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan before you were in the movies?

I was not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. I started martial arts in 1979 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out as a comic book in 1985. I didn’t know anything about it. When I started auditioning for the movie in 1989, I had heard about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because people talked about it and I was interested in the comic book world. But, I didn’t know anything about it. I went, auditioned for the movie, and got the first part I had auditioned for. When I was there, I didn’t even know who the people were.

I looked up and was like, “Who’s that?”

And they said, “That’s April O’neal.”

Then I would be like, “Well, who is that?”

They would tell me, “She is the reporter that is friends with the turtles and helps them out.” Then in comes a guy wearing a hockey mask and I’m like, “And who is that?”

They said, “That’s Casey Jones.”

Of course, I am like, “Well, who is that?”

They said, “He’s this vigilante,” and explained it.

I didn’t know anything and it is only through being in the movies that I got immersed in this whole world, and that is how I discovered the whole thing.

How hard was it to maneuver in the costumes?

It was very difficult to do anything in the suits, whether it was just walking around, moving around, or even breathing. Doing martial arts choreography is super challenging and hard enough. Now, they go and put people in these giant Nerf suits and tell them to go do Kungfu or karate. The stunt suits weighed about 30-40 pounds and the actor suits, with all of the mechanics in them, weighed a lot more.

Not only was it challenging to move because you are weighted down and have a lot more bulk on you, but it was challenging to move because you couldn’t see anything either. You only had these small little pin pricks under the bandana that you could see out of. During a fight scene, you couldn’t see somebody run up on the right side; they would have to shout. You practiced during choreography and they would shout out “ay!” Then, you would turn to the right and yell “ay!” Then somebody would run up on the left and yell “ay!” You kind of knew how to do it because of that.

There were a lot of challenges because of movement, a lot because of vision, and a lot because of breathing. You would be breathing in your own carbon dioxide because there was no way for the CO2 to get out. You got really tired very quickly. If you put that all together, it is pretty miserable and you just want to go to sleep.

You had roles in the first and second movies. Did the producers or writers ever explain how Shredder was able to survive being crushed in a garbage compact to come back to hunt down the turtles in the second movie?

Certainly, nobody ever went out of their way to explain how to get one movie into another. That’s the essence of Hollywood cliffhanging in movies. Back in the old days, you would have sworn that the bad guy fell off a cliff, but you’d come back again the next week to find out that they had rolled out of the way. Maybe there is an assumption there that something happened in that direction. Being on the movie itself, you’re not really privy to the bigger picture of information of what is going on in the overall product. Your job is to go out there and play the part that you have to play and know what you need to know.

Did you happen to keep any items from the sets?

I did. I originally kept two turtle hands that were made out of a foam latex. I left them in the attic, but after a year in the heat they just kind of disintegrated into a pile of dust. I kept a full original script from the movie which is pretty cool. It’s a script on one side and a storyboard on the other side. It is like a 200-page comic book of the first movie. I also have my original Sais from the first movie.

They reimagined the live action movies this past decade. Did you see those? If so, what did you happen to think of those?

I am glad they made them. It is good when Ninja Turtles are out in the world. It is good for the Ninja Turtle world, for the industry, and for me. Thanks to the law of attraction in the universe, when something happens Ninja Turtlewise, somebody I’ve met turns to their friend and says that they’ve met a Ninja Turtle once. It is good energy to have out there in the world. I did not see any of the latest movies, but no because I am against them. I think it is great that they are out there. I am not a Michael Bay movie fan, so I’m not interested. I also see Ninja Turtledom from a different direction. I see it from the inside of the costume out rather than looking from the outside in.

Is it weird watching your own movies knowing that it is you in that costume but another person’s voice is doing the talking?

I think that is an interesting question and it would be in some cases. When I think of Sam Jones who played Flash Gordon and realize that his entire voice is a voiceover, I feel for him as an actor. As a Ninja Turtle, I never had any expectation that I was doing anything other than being inside of a suit.

In the first movie, I was doing the stunt work for Raphael. I was doing the fighting and Kungfu and, as far as I was concerned, that was the coolest thing that I could be doing. Then, in the second movie, I was the actor and I knew that it wasn’t going to be my voice. Even when we were filming the movie it wasn’t me doing the voices; it was the puppeteers from Jim Hensen that were doing them. They controlled the heads from these amazing stands that looked like they could fly a space shuttle. They also had these headphones on with a laser that pointed to the lip and cheek. Whenever a puppeteer would say, “Hey dude! What’s going on?” the lasers would pick up on that and move like it. It was never me doing the part so it never really felt weird, like it wasn’t me. That said, I do understand why actors think that it should be them.

Did you happen to ever meet Jim Hensen on the set of the first movie?

As you may have read in my book Teenage Ninja to Mutant Turtle: Becoming the Reel Raphael, which is recently an Amazon best seller, I mention that Jim Hensen showed up on set while I was working on the first movie. I was a stunt guy at that point, so there was no cause for me to have any direct contact with him. He came walking onto the sound stage as we were rehearsing one day and one of the guys I was working with tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, look it is Jim Hensen!”

I looked up and it was like seeing a Greek god walk into the room. It wasn’t just because I had seen him on tv and associated that with him, but you could feel his presence. He was like this incredible Bob Ross religious figure. He was incredibly calm, serene, creative, and you could just feel his love. I was lucky enough to have a brief interaction with him. He said hello and we talked just a bit. Then, he went about his business and went on to watching the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, it was just a few months later in the year that he passed away. Having been a huge Sesame Street fan and a fan of The Muppet Show and knew his voice from Kermit the Frog, it was just an amazing experience to hear him talk and was a real blessing.

What all does your new book entail?

The book is the kooky story of how I became Raphael the Ninja Turtle with all of the behind-the-scenes stories of what it took to shoot the first two movies. We talk about where the Ninja Turtles came from, how the actors switched, how the stunts were done, what it was like working in the suits, and a bunch of crazy stories that people have never heard before about what went on. I think it is a super fun story. It is almost a coming-of-age story where I set out with my goal to become an action hero in the movies to wearing a rubber suit and having the best time of my life.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to meet Kenn Scott at Dallas Comic Show or to see one of his panels, there is always the opportunity to grab his book. You can purchase the book and find lots of other behind the scenes material at turtleconfessions.com.