Artist Q-and-A
July 26, 2013 • 10:40:37 a.m.

St. Charles native nabs lead role in Ninja Turtles movie


Pete Ploszek (Provided photo)

Cowabunga! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are making a comeback to the silver screen. And filling the shell of the blue-bandana’d, katana-wielding lead role – Leonardo – is former St. Charles East High School football star Pete Ploszek.

The St. Charles native, who appeared in episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “Shameless” before nabbing the lead role in the new TMNT film, is acting alongside “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” actor Alan Ritchson (Raphael), “Breaking Bad’s” Jeremy Howard (Donatello),  “Twilight’s” Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Megan Fox (April O’Neil) and William Fichtner (The Shredder).

The Ninja Turtles reboot – backed by Michael Bay’s production company and distributed by Paramount Pictures – is scheduled to be released in summer 2014 as the fifth film in the series.

Ploszek, 26, graduated from St. Charles East High School in 2005 and attended Princeton University, where he played on the varsity football team for four years. Ploszek said his first big break in acting came when he got in to the University of Southern California’s School of Theatre, where he received a Master of Fine Arts in 2012.

With filming underway, Ploszek has been putting his athletic prowess to the test. Ditching the bulky bodysuits and actor voice-overs seen in previous turtle films, the turtles reboot will utilize interactive Weta Digital animation and motion-capture technology seen in films like “Avatar” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

During filming of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on July 10, Pete Ploszek designated some time during his lunch break to Kane County Chronicle features editor Kara Silva to discuss the movie, his hometown and life as an up-and-coming Hollywood actor.

Kara Silva: I wanted to talk a little bit about St. Charles since it’s your hometown. How long have you lived there?
Pete Ploszek:
I’ve lived in St. Charles since the fall of ’98. My folks are still [in St. Charles].

KS: Where do you call home now?
Well, my heart is always in St. Charles, but home, now, is in Los Angeles. I live there with my wife.

KS: Did you always want to be an actor growing up?
No, that’s a great question – no. I had interest in it. I had an older brother who had done a few musicals in high school, and that kind of exposed me to it.

I always considered myself a fan of movies and theater and entertainment on all those levels. But it wasn’t until college. I was playing football, and I got a chance to explore all of the offerings that a university has, and that’s when I took my first acting class – sophomore year of 2006.

Ever since then, it kind of took off. I pretty much fell in love with it. It was a nice sort of break from the football season. It’s such a year-round sport at the college level that [acting] was a great outlet. I got to try something new and exciting and challenge myself in new ways. They’re so similar – athletics and acting – to be part of a play on production or be part of a team. The disciplines are so similar, which has helped me so much.

KS: What would you say was your first big break as an actor?
My first big break would be getting into grad school. After Princeton it was really the only clear next step for me. While friends of mine were going on to Wall Street, consulting and banking, I realized that wasn’t for me.

This new art form was where my heart was, so getting into graduate school and being able to study at the masters level was the first big break. I had to take the time to learn what I’m doing and study [acting] and understand it as a craft that needs to be studied.

KS: You’re starring as Leonardo, the leader, in the new Ninja Turtles film coming out next summer. So, what was the audition process like for that, and what kind of qualities do you possess that helped you land that role?
What I really loved about the [audition] process itself was that when it came time to test for the roles, they brought all of the actors that were in the running for the part, and we weren’t working against one another. There wasn’t a competitive nature to it, which there normally is when it comes to this type of casting. It was a chemistry testing to see who could be brothers and who could have that camaraderie and that relationship.

In terms of Leonardo, it’s funny, I say, ‘I still can’t believe it that I’m stepping in to fill the shoes of this character.’

But Leonardo being the leader of the group and the eldest of the brothers, I fell back on my athletic upbringing and understanding what a disciplined and regimented style could do in terms of performance and in terms of succeeding and propelling you to the next level, wherever that may be.

And being one of five kids with three brothers, that certainly helped. I’m not the oldest, but that dynamic is quite familiar to me. And I’ve been tapping into that as much as I can.

KS: What has it been like working with big names like Megan Fox and Will Arnett – people who you’ve seen on the big screen and are now working with?
That’s been such a surreal aspect to this experience but one that you make yourself at home with. You realize that you’re all in this together and you all have to tell the story. So, with that comes wonderful relationships.

KS: In previous Ninja Turtles films, stuntmen would be wearing turtle suits and actors would be doing the voice-overs, but now you’re using a technology similar to that of ‘Avatar’ what has that process been like?
That has been such a wonderful, eye-opening and educational experience. The technology that we’re using is sitting at the frontier of movies. It’s such an incredible technology in its ability to capture facial movements and physical movements – our voices and choices as actors, and it has really allowed these turtles to come to life. It’s going to be a wonderful evolution of this story in the franchise.

KS: If your own acting career could mirror anyone else’s at this point, who would it be?
I think what I’m most looking forward to is carving out my own niche and place in this industry.
It’s easy to look at other actors and see a film that you would have loved to do or a story you would have loved to tell, but I’ve discovered in my short time being in [the entertainment] industry that everyone has their own unique path, which is representative of who they really are.

So, I look forward to that journey of discovering and uncovering what that is and what I can share.

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