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James Avery Interview

Neil a.k.a. “Shredder” of the rec.arts.animation newsgroup has posted his phone interview with James Avery of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame, who is also famous for numerous voice acting roles including the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘s Shredder.

Please note that Toon Zone News is posting the interview as it was posted to rec.arts.animation. While we have corrected some errors to make the interview easier to read, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the content or that the content will be worded, spelled, capitalized, or punctuated properly.

The post follows:

Here it is. Keep in mind I’m still knew at transcribing phone recorded interviews, so I did my best to do it accurately. The -2, -3’s, etc. are my extra replies to his statements.

1) Were you a fan of the original comic, and if not, how did you know about the show before it got started?

I didn’t know anything about the comic. By then I was just looking to get a job as an actor, and I went as a voice at Hanna Barbara, on a live action series they were doing. And one of the people there recommended that I get an agent, and one of the first jobs I got was on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

1-1) I know you were on a few other shows. You were on Real Ghostbusters once, and I think you where on Disney’s Aladdin, but Turtles was your first show?

Well, it wasn’t my first as a matter of fact, but it was my first big show. I guested on some other things, but I went into auditions for that and got it.

2) Did the voice of Shredder go through any changes, and did the producers have any specific type of voice they where going for?

Well, I’m sure they did, but they didn’t know what it was, and I’m sure no one else knew either. That’s kind of how they cast things here.
(Laughs)
You know, nobody knows, and it just kind of goes into other acting. The acting helps the voice. The acting helps the voice. It actually did change, it got a little clearer, a little smoother later on.

3) The pilot is probably the most loved episode of the entire series. Do you have any favorite lines or episodes through the ten years?

Oh my god… Laughs, I can’t possibly remember all that. You know, I enjoy doing the show and enjoyed being with the other people. It was fun, a non-pressured fun thing with very talented, funny people, it was just a great experience.

4) During the early episodes Shredder and Krang were at odds with one another and argued alot, but in later episodes, they seemed to work together more as a team. Which one did you prefer, and did you enjoy playing one version more than the other?

Well, I’ve always liked conflict. I always like having the conflict, but
that can only carry so far. Then every, relationship, everything has to evolve and turn into something else, you can’t keep on playing one note all the time.

4-1) It gets kind of tiring after a while, I guess.

Yeah, It does. You have to know what to do, what to expect; so it’s nice to bring in a change. And a change in those scenes is great, we enjoyed that. I know I sound like a Pollyanna, but we really did, we really enjoyed this job.

5) What was it working like with Pat Fraley and Rob Paulsen and the rest of the cast?

It was insane. Pat Fraley is insane, they weere all crazy. Pat Fraley is
one of the funniest men I have seen in my life.

5-1) I’ve talked to him a few times over email, he seems like a really nice guy too.

Oh he is, and totally insane.

6) Was it a serious bunch of people to work with, or did you good off alot?

Oh, we goofed. We goofed off alot, but we got the work done.

7) Were there any bloopers, or stuff like that that might have been
recorded?

(Laughs) Oh, yea there where. I’m sure there’s an X-rated Ninja Turtles out there.

7-1) I don’t know if you’ve heard them or not, but there’s a bunch of
Thundercats bloopers that are X-rated, where they basically swear alot when they goof up.

Oh yeah.

7-2) And I was wondering if there was anything like that for the turtles cast?

I’m sure there is. But I don’t know if Susan Blu has them or not.

8) Was the cast always together during recording, and did it help to have other actors to base performance off of?

It always did. But I was doing alot of shows when sometimes we’d have to come in at different times, to record things. But it’s always better when you can have the entire cast together, so we can play off each other.

8-1) And were there any adlibs that were kept in, or any changes to the script during the show?

Oh, yeah they where. Sometimes a line would work better, or Pat Fraley would come up with something, or Rob, or somebody would come up with something that was funnier and we had the freedom from that end sometimes.

9) During the course of the show, there were lots of lost episodes, like where the turtles traveled to Europe. And there was recently a bunch of scripts found that apparently didn’t make it to air like one titled Shredder in love.

Oh….

9-1) Where there any shows that were filmed that haven’t made it to air yet?

Um, I don’t know… There’s a new Turtles thing that’s come out.

9-2) Yeah, the 2003 Show…

And Amazingly I got to audition for Shredder and didn’t get the job…

9-4) Oh, you did?!? I didn’t know that…

Laughs, Yeah.

9-5) I aksed Cam Clarke if he wanted to come back as Leo, and he’d love to do it…

Yeah, they didn’t use any of us…

9-6) I was hoping they would, but it really was a great cast from the first show…

Oh it was, it really was. We thought so.

9-7) And I also suggested to the New Leonardo last year, Mike Sinterniklass, that they should do a 20th anniversary show with both the new and old casts, so I don’t know if something like that would come about…

No no, producers don’t know about this…they think they know everything…

9-8) It would definitely be fun though.

Oh, it would be great.

9-9) And I know there’s a new Krang on the show, a new character called Krang, but it’s a different voice actor.

Yeah, Yeah. Well, most of the actors are different.

10) Since you left the show, you’ve had three replacements. Did you have any input on who replaced you?

No, I didn’t. And I think our contracts just ran out. I didn’t leave the
show necessarily.

10-1) Oh, I was just wondering why you left he show, I mean, during the middle season of 1993, there was a different guy. Did you want to do Fresh Prince more, or….

Well, I was working on Fresh Prince, and it became increasingly difficult to get in.

10-2) I was just wondering if you got tired of the show and was looking for a change or something…

Hah…. Neil, I’m an actor. I do not get tired of work..

10-3) Oh, just wondering, you never know…

Laughs… We do not get tired of work.

11) And would you be willing to record the episodes you missed for an extra DVD audio track if they asked you to?

Sure.

11-1) Because I know some of the other actors would, as it’s just not the same without the entire cast there.

I would do anything to be with the entire cast…

11-2) I mean, Raphael had a different voice actor during the final season. He did a great job, but it just wasn’t Rob Paulson.

Oh no.

12) Okay, you’ve recently had a job on the Enterprise show as a Klingon Warrior.

Yeah.

12-1) Well, what was the makeup for the klingons like, and what was the atmosphere on the set knowing that this was probably the final season of Enterprise?

We still had a good time. The makeup process was a nightmare. It took three hours to put it on and an hour to take it off. And the atmosphere was fine, we’re professionals, you do your work. You still do the best you can, you know?

13) It’s been rumored the cast is a bunch of jokesters.

Oh yeah, yeah, they are. Scott Bakula was insane. He’s crazy.

13-1) Were there any jokes pulled on the set you can tell us about?

Oh yeah, there were a number of pranks pulled. For instance, for me, it was funny, because they didn’t have boots to fit me. The boots that I had were three sizes too big with a hook on the top of them, and I kept on tripping and stumbling and… (laughs)

13-2) That doesn’t sound too good…Especially with the makeup, was it hard to see in the makeup?

The makeup wasn’t a problem necessarily, it was the prosthetic teeth. It’s hard to get your lines around those teeth, so one had to practice a bit.

15) Is there any type of acting that you prefer? Whether it be voice acting or theater?

I like it all, I like it all. I like to work.

16) Is there any show you would like to guest start in that you haven’t been approached for? Like a reality series or live action series?

Oh, I’d love to do, uh….uh…oh, Law And Order. And Stargate.

17) Final Question. Are there any future projects you’d like to tell us
about, or perhaps a return to Enterprise if there is a fifth season?

Well, if there is, I’ll probably be in. They’ve scheduled me to, you know, sign me for something if they come through. And I don’t know, I’m still waiting to see what’s going on. We’re just out here kind of looking around. Always going out on auditions and looking for stuff.

Thanks for your time Mr. Avery!

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