Townsend Coleman Interview
Sindy:: Hi Townsend, I have to tell you—I grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so the six-year-old version of me is pretty excited that I get to talk to you now.
Townsend: (laughs) I’m glad to hear that, that’s sweet. It’s been an awesome ride doing the show—I’m one of the luckiest guys on the planet.
Sindy:: I feel like you voiced my childhood! You did ProStars!
Townsend:: No way, you remember that? Nobody remembers that! What else did you watch?
Sindy:: Hrm, there was Jem and Fraggle Rock.
Townsend: I wish they’d come out with the animated version of the Fraggles because we only did the one season. We had to do voice matches from the original muppet version so that was wild—actually that’s how I heard about Ninja Turtles! The guy who was voice directing Fraggle Rock was casting Ninja Turtles and he showed up one day with a copy of the comic book and we all rolled our eyes thinking “how long is that going to last?” It was way out there—we didn’t even think it would get as far as the casting. Then when it went as far as it did, we all just shook our heads—how lucky were we?
Sindy:: Would you say you have anything in common with Michelangelo? Do you identify with his crazy personality??
Townsend: Well yeah, I can be pretty goofy at times, especially if I’m in a mood. I can get going and yeah, I like pizza! But I’m not a surfer dude and I’m not the surfer/skater type but yeah, I can definitely be a little goofy.
Sindy:: Were you channeling anyone for the voice?
Townsend: People have asked me that before but the only influence I had back at the time—because I only moved here (California) from Ohio—was Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli character from Fast Times at Ridgmont High. I wasn’t too familiar with the surfer lifestyle and surfer/skater kind of Valley dude thing. I didn’t want to make Michelangelo sound too stupid or too out of it, so he’s just really positive all the time and likes to have fun.
Sindy:: Did you ever have any input on the writing?
Townsend: Not really, no. From time to time we’d do some ad libs but on a show like TMNT there’s a whole group of people working on it and the script has to go through multiple approval processes with the network and the toy companies. The creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had approval over everything whether it was design feature for the action figures or the script so I think that tended to keep consistency with the writing.
Sindy:: For sure. What about episodes—which was your favorite to record?
Townsend:: Gosh, that’s a hard question to answer because we did close to 200 episodes and at the time I was doing a lot of other series, so the way my brain works—I just don’t retain it well. I saw some episodes recently that I liked—some on youtube actually—that made me laugh out loud. Rob Paulsen as Raphael really cracks me up—he’s such a quick wit. There were a couple lines of his that had me laughing right out loud.
Sindy:: Would you record alone or with the other Turtles?
Townsend:: We’d almost always record ensemble in a studio. There may be eight or ten of us in the studio at the same time, so the chairs are set up in a semi circle with mic stands and mics and we all record together. It’s way better that way because you can play off each other and there’s more energy and spontaneity. Voice actors who do animation tend to be very funny people—not including myself—and they’re so brilliant and witty. Most of them are comedians or have done stand-up, or just have a great comedic sense.
Sindy:: If you didn’t do comedy, how did you get into voice acting then?
Townsend::I just lucked out—I was on the radio as a Rock Jock but I left because I felt like I’d sucked Cleveland dry so I wanted to make a break for either New York or Los Angeles to try my hand at acting. I came out here to Los Angeles to do on-camera acting and pursued that for 2 or 3 years, just beating my head against the wall, getting nowhere and hating the process, but in the mean time I got a voice-over manager almost immediately and I started booking stuff right away. I auditioned for Corporal Capeman on Inspector Gadget and got it, and from there I just started booking shows. I gave up this idea of being an actor actor and boy it was like letting a hundred pound weight go and really freed me up to do more of the voice-over stuff and it really took off. Had I known what was entailed in voice-over work and the high caliber and level of talent of people I’d be working with and competing against, I probably never would’ve tried!
Sindy:: Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
Townsend:: Definitely and in this case it certainly has been bliss.
Sindy:: Awesome, thanks so much for the chat, Townsend.
Townsend:: Thanks Kidzworld!