Movies & TV / Columns Interviews: The Voice of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ Shredder, Kevin Michael Richardson

August 9, 2013 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

If you’ve turned on a TV chances are you’ve seen or rather heard the work of voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson. Currently, Richardson is the voice of the evil Shredder on Nickelodeon’s hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. Richardson also voices Bulkhead on Transformers Prime which recently wrapped on The Hub and will soon be preceded by a TV movie and also Temutai on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness also on Nickelodeon, Viceroy on Randy Cunningham, Ninth Grade Ninja on Disney XD, and Cleveland Jr. on The Cleveland Show. 411mania recently had the chance to sit down and speak with Richardson on voicing Shredder on TMNT which will soon see its season finale air with season two set to debut on Nickelodeon next month.

Jeffrey Harris: How do you like getting to play the evil Shredder?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Oh I love it. I love playing this guy. He’s just all out badass, very cool to play man. I had fun recording with him. I think back to the days in the 80’s in the little minimarts and they would have those old videogames in the back and they’d have those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games in the back. I would play them every once in a while back in the city of New York. Actually being part of it and playing the character, it’s pretty cool. It’s really cool.

Jeffrey Harris: So were you a fan of any of the older animated shows because you were already an adult when the cartoons first came around?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Yes. I remember back at school, at Syracuse, a lot of my friends had the comic books of it. And it was pretty hardcore. And I remember looking at it and going, “Wow. These guys look pretty dangerous.” And to make it even crazier, they were turtles. So I remember just being drawn in. I never really got like the complete series of the books, the comics, but I just remember being pretty drawn in by it. I was pretty excited back in the day. I always liked it.

Jeffrey Harris: This is a very serious version of Shredder. He doesn’t crack jokes. He’s got a scarred face. He’s very maladjusted and angry. And when this evil Shredder attacks, these Turtle boys do cut him some slack because when Shredder first encounters the Turtles, Shredder is more than a match for them. And the Turtles run away after Shredder hands them their hides. So how do you like that Shredder is so formidable and . . . he will cut you? If he doesn’t like what you say, he will cut you.

Kevin Michael Richardson: *Laughs* that’s how bad guys should be played. Especially when I saw the sketch of him and then the drawing, there was no BS about this character all. You saw the helmet. You saw the style. You saw the claws and everything. It’s a very serious tone, and I felt that this character was really going to be more than a whiner like the 80’s character. This version of the character does not whine at all. He has a very serious edge to him, and he’s just basically hell bent on getting his revenge on Splinter and the Turtles. So it’s an old wound that just does not heal with him. This character is just straight to the point, focused on one thing, getting what he wants, no matter how he does it. And he’s going to get his way. A bunch of those Turtles? Forget about it. He will make them history if possible. This character, Shredder, I found to be not really easy, but I started to be a little more comfortable in the role as recording went along. He’s really cool. I think he’s cool. I like Shredder.

Jeffrey Harris: When last we saw Shredder, we saw him allying himself with the Kraang, a malevolent alien race who want to enslave and mutate the human race. Will Shredder have to become a mutant to challenge Splinter and the Turtles? Is this going to be an uneasy alliance with the Kraang? How is this going to work?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Well the Kraang aren’t exactly the most straightforward, easy race to understand. They kind of repeat themselves over and over with a statement and a question. So Shredder looks at them like, they have a source of power that he wants whether if they join him, he wants that power. Knowing what they can do – I can’t give you specifics on what’s going to happen or if Shredder mutates. That’s just another powerful weapon as far as Shredder is concerned.

Jeffrey Harris: Karai, Shredder’s daughter, does not like the Kraang and did not want her father getting involved with the Kraang. So how is that going to affect the dynamic between the two?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Well, what the man says goes. The daughter has to do what the daddy says. So whether she likes it or not, “Go to your room! Do as I say!” She’s just going to have to get over it. You’ll see what happens.

Jeffrey Harris: How do you like that this version of Shredder is a father with a teenage daughter who is actually interested in one of the Turtles, Leonardo? And he has a puppy as well named Hachinko.

Kevin Michael Richardson: Thanks for reminding me about the puppy. I completely forgot. The daughter thing in my opinion to me that is Shredder’s sense of humanity. For Shredder, it’s his daughter Karai. And it’s the closest thing to a soft spot. So Karai means a great deal to him. But he doesn’t treat her like your average daddy’s little girl. He’s pretty tough. But at the same time, there’s a spot in Shredder with his attachment to Karai that is the only soft spot he really has that of course we’ve never really seen.

Jeffrey Harris: Who is your favorite Turtle character in this group?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Oh man, Michelangelo makes me laugh every time. I believe that’s Greg Cipes’ character. He’s one of my favorites because he cracks me up every time in the sessions. He cracks the whole cast up actually. And so he’s just fun to listen to and fun to watch. Michaelangelo definitely stands out.

Jeffrey Harris: When you have to say to goodbye to a character like Cleveland Jr. on The Cleveland Show, do you get melancholy or do you just move on?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Oh yeah, absolutely, especially a character I enjoy playing. And that was one of my favorite characters to play. Mike Henry, who played Cleveland Sr, and I speak every once in a while. We talk about the show and stuff, but he’s got his schedule. He’s still keeping busy. Thank god, I’m keeping busy. But we definitely miss those characters. We miss those ridiculous songs that they gave us. That was definitely one of my favorites. Lester too. Playing Lester too was a lot of fun. Cleveland Jr. will definitely be missed.

Jeffrey Harris: Another character I really enjoy that you play is Temutai on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, who has become a recurring character. How did you come up with that bizarre vocal tic he has where he speeds up the end of his sentences?

Kevin Michael Richardson: We were just introducing Temutai, and Greg basically just allowed me to have the freedom to record whatever we did. So of course it was this deep, mean character although slightly goofy. Wanting to get his point across of whatever he says, he’s not patient enough to wait for the end of his sentence, so he has to blurt it out. So it just kind of came out when we were recording. I remember recording *the voice of Temutai*, and I just kind of blurted it out. And he laughed and he just said, “Let’s keep that. Let’s keep doing that.” And so it just kind of came up really.

Jeffrey Harris: Sometimes you are recording these animated shows a year or two ahead of when they are actually finally broadcast on the air. Do you ever get surprised when you finally see it finished on TV? Does it ever happen that way for you?

Kevin Michael Richardson: All the time. All the time. You’re absolutely right. Sometimes it’s a year or two ahead of time before we see the final cut. And seeing them, you go, “Oh wow. I forgot I did that. Oh, I remember that.” Sometimes there’s a character that I played that I didn’t realize that was me until my wife or my sons will say, “Hey, that’s you!” And I go, “Yeah! You’re right.” *Laughs* I won’t know it. So yeah, that happens all the time.

Jeffrey Harris: Being a dad and being an uncle, do they have any favorite characters or does playing a character give you any cred with them?

Kevin Michael Richardson: My nephew, RJ, he loves the Turtles right now. Anything to do with Turtles, he loves. He’s definitely enamored by that. My niece pretty much likes any animated character that I did. She really loved Lilo and Stitch where I was Captain Gantu, probably the best of all of them.

Jeffrey Harris: Were you able to get that cool exclusive Shredder action figure from Comic-Con?

Kevin Michael Richardson: Yes, I had the pleasure of receiving one. I was pretty excited about that. The fact that you could remove the helmet, you get to see his face, and put it back on. It went over rather well at the Comic-Con. So I’m pretty excited about that. And I got my collectible.

Jeffrey Harris: In Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, you voice the United States President, who in the movie looks a lot like Barack Obama. Did you know he was going to look like that, and how did you like getting to play the Commander-in-Chief?

Kevin Michael Richardson: I think they wanted something similar to that, and yeah I had a feeling he was going to look a little bit like that. Not really kind of dead on, but really close.

Jeffrey Harris: It looked pretty dead on to me. So that must be a fun feather in your cap for your career.

Kevin Michael Richardson: Yeah I’ve been asked to play him before so that’s very cool. I hope I haven’t offended the man *Laughs*.

Jeffrey Harris: What can we expect from Shredder on the season one finale?

Kevin Michael Richardson: The season finale is going to be epic. You’re going to see a serious, massive fight. There’s going to be mayhem, a lot of destruction, and the Turtle are going to put up a serious fight. Shredder is going to go all out as well as Splinter. You’re in for a pretty epic battle.

The season one finale for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles airs this week on Nickelodeon. Thank you to Kevin Michael Richardson for taking the time to speak with me.

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