Alan Ritchson on “Catching Fire,” “Ninja Turtles,” Fame and Privacy

Alan RitchsonRitchson is starring as Raphael in next year’s TMNT reboot.

TBL: What about with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

AR: I actually didn’t read any of the comic books– and I really hope I don’t offend anyone saying that– but for me, I think we all know who Raphael is. He’s known as the angry hothead of the group. He is quick tempered and quick to act. He is less thoughtful of people’s feelings and emotions and consequences. That’s something I can relate to as a person. I am very quick to act, like, ‘okay, decision’s made, let’s go for it.’

So I can relate to him in that sense, but I think just zoning in on who that guy is and then understanding the back story… how these guys were formed in the context of our story and where they came from, and the feelings of abandonment or betrayal. All those very real human feelings are something that are contained within that world, and I think we did a good job of creating a setting and a foundation for that.

I had everything that I needed to create that character right there. So I didn’t rely so heavily on somebody else’s perspective of Raphael twenty years ago, which to be honest like many of the cartoons, this dude is just smiling a lot. You know, they all look the same. There is a much greater level of individual personality in this new reboot, you know that we haven’t seen before. So there wasn’t a lot for me to relate to, but I don’t know if people will understand where I am coming from, maybe until they see it, I don’t know.

I think as far as Ninja Turtles, I played a comic book hero [Aquaman] before, so I had some experience with trying to bring a character like that to life. It’s challenging because a comic book can span decades and there is an infinite number of authors to go to. The source material changes and these characters’ identities change. We still see it every day, like Superman is gay now in comic book nine hundred and eighty one, it’s like ‘okay well, that’s different then than the guy that started out in number one.’

TBL: Have you kind of gotten a sense with these big projects that people really want to know more about your personal life?

AR: Yes and I haven’t gotten used to that, maybe because on a personal level I tend to not want to know about people, their private life outside of their career, whatever it is. I think that’s maybe because I know what that’s like and I don’t want to put out in the universe that energy of [being] invasive because I don’t want that to happen to me, but it’s going to take some getting used to. People wanted to know about what I ate for breakfast and what I do with my free time, what I believe in, my thoughts on global  warming or whatever. What has that got to with what I do for a living?

TBL: Is it a challenge to change people’s perception of you from past roles or your modeling career?

AR: It’s immensely challenging to change somebody’s perception of who you are as a person when there is an online world that consumes your identity. I think people have an idea of who I am as a person based off the characters I play. I am sure other actors have talked about this. I am sure it’s an age-old dilemma.

There is a certain level of privacy you still wish for. There are certain things I wouldn’t talk about. You know, politics and religion and stuff. I’m an actor, if you want to talk about acting and my roles I am super happy to divulge my feelings and thoughts and experiences. There are certain things that I just don’t think are helpful. It’s not my agenda to go out and make the whole world feel what I feel about certain topics, and I think its fine that we all don’t agree on everything.

So there is a level of privacy that I am perfectly fine with. However, when it’s sort of a case of mistaken identity or people perceiving me as, say, Thad Castle…he’s fun. He is over the top. He is chauvinistic. He’s the quintessential frat guy. I think every frat in the country would love to have me come party with them for a day. I think what people don’t know is that’s not really who I am. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think people just naturally form a connection with somebody, and the same thing holds true for the online image, which is basically captured through pictures and it’s incredible. I always thought, okay. I am going to work as a model, great. There would be jobs that I take to pay the bills and support me and feed me. There are many times when it was so lean that I could barely eat.

The work that I did, I mean, I am not ashamed of. I’m very proud of the work that I did. The work for N2N, this is a male lingerie line. A lot of people don’t understand that. I mean that’s what I did. I advertised products and I think I did that to the best of my ability. The problem is when it’s taken out of that context of time and place it then looks like something almost comical and I’m associated with that and one, trying to go a different direction with career choice, I mean if I’d stayed a model, I don’t care, that would be great…the Internet is this entity that can’t be conquered or changed. It’s immoveable and it grows exponentially.

TBL: And how long ago was that period?

AR: Almost ten years ago. I have worked especially hard recently to really control my image in a way that demonstrates who I am today and what capacity I work in today and I’ve realized in doing so, it’s just this matrix that just grows exponentially. One person picks up a picture. You click it. You reblog it. Right now, it’s in 10 places then and a few people see it and it’s infinite. I mean, it’s like how do you change an online image? It’s very difficult to do.

Alan RItchson wife
Ritchson with wife Catherine– they’re expecting!

TBL: Going back to Catching Fire, is there a thin line between good and bad for Gloss?

AR: Yes. It makes mention of that in the novel where Katniss speaks about Gloss when they are deciding who they can trust and ally with, and he was kind to her in the training center, which throws her off and then all bets are off.

It’s a story of survival. So when they are in the arena he’s brutal and I think perhaps we all would be to some extent if thrown in the same situation. I don’t think there is a drop of evil in the guy, but I think sometimes when people do what they have to do to survive it brings out something primal in us. I think that’s where his humanity lies, somewhere in that region right there. So it’s a challenging thing to bring to life. It’s a world that so many of us can’t relate to, myself included.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire lands in theaters this weekend. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is out in Summer 2014.

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