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Interview w/ Keno from TMNT II, Ernie Reyes Jr.

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.com: I’ll save you the agony of suffering through the typical Turtles fan questions:
1.) How did you come to work on TURTLES (1990).
2.) How you go from playing Donny to Keno in TURTLES II (1991)? I was more curious to start off this interview by asking you some specifics about the Donny suit which you wore in the first Turtles movie.   Did they have to do a mold of your body?

REYES JR: They did, yep. I flew over to London and went to the Jim Henson Creature Shop there.   They did a full body cast of me. It was completely form fitting. As uncomfortable and cumbersome as it was–on the inside–it was completely fitted.

I found a photo online from the first movie of you standing around the set in the suit but without Donny’s head on–and damn, you’re so young. Being so young, and having to do all of those stunts–you seemed to be so fearless and gutsy..

REYES JR: Thanks for saying that. It was a great time. I had grown up working in martial arts films and I had done Sidekicks on television by then–but going over to London was like the first time I had gone away from home. It was between my junior and senior years in high school and I was out having a ball.  I didn’t have my parents around and I was out exploring the world. I had grown up admiring Hong Kong stuntmen and the movies of Golden Harvest–so it was really awesome by apart of it all.

Being a martial artist and having to work with Donny’s head on and being unable to see fully–does that hinder your natural movement? Did it do anything to your hand-eye coordination?

REYES JR: You just had to rely on feel and not be so focused on what you were seeing. You had to rely on the feel of where you body would normally be. It was really difficult work. Plus, we were shooting down in North Carolina in the summer and there was 100% humidity all the time. It was tough. But we were also having  a great time. It was one of the first times that Hong Kong stuntmen had come to work on an American production. I mean, these were guys that worked with Jackie Chan.

You choreographed some of the fight scenes in the first Turtles movie as well as in TURTLES II: SECRET OF THE OOZE….

REYES JR: I did. Pat [Johnson] was the Stunt Coordinator and he pretty much let us do what we wanted to do.

I know Bruce Lee was an influence on you when you were growing up…How much of an influence do you think martial arts films–even the Turtles films for that matter–have had on Westerners becoming interested in studying martial arts?

REYES JR: The films that have come out Hollywood and Asia, I think, have influenced kids. Everyone knows something about martial arts today. There are more people today practicing martial arts than they are kids in the United States that are playing baseball. It all started here in America with Bruce Lee and from there it goes into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I think the movies have made an impact, for sure.

Speaking of Bruce Lee…I just rewatched TURTLES II: SECRET OF THE OOZE the other day, and there’s a scene where your character ‘Keno’ is fighting a member of the Foot and in a certain moment he catches Keno’s foot during a kick. Keno then stops the action, looks at him, and shakes his hand back and forth–almost saying: “No, no, no…” That seemed to me–as a fan of Bruce Lee myself–like it was right out of ENTER THE DRAGON (1973). You know that moment were Bruce is in the middle of that underground fight? He stops the fight when he realizes he’s just been cut–he pauses, tastes his own blood and then attacks again!

REYES JR: Oh yeah. My entire career has been a Bruce Lee homage! Even as a small child I was trying to be Bruce Lee!

I just ran across an interview with the screenwriter of TURTLES II, Todd Langden, in an old issue of Starlog Magazine from April of ’91–he says that “Keno is an excellent martial artist, but he has an attitude.  He likes to fight and maybe a little too much.” In rewatching the film recently, I didn’t see Keno as a character that really displayed a specific attitude, in particular- a bad one at that…. Was that how you viewed the character going in to play him as a actor?

REYES JR: No I didn’t. I saw the typical teen angst in him though. I think there’s some of that in Rapheal as well. With Keno–he was ambitious. He wanted to be something and at the same time he was only a 16-year-old kid. That’s really in the writing of the script. I think that works perfectly for a teenage character who plays alongside four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Keno had to have that teen angst and if he didn’t–then there would’ve been something wrong with him.

What did you think of the recent Michael Bay TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014) movie?

REYES JR: I think they did a good job with it. It must have been tough to be in that situation–where you’re trying to make something new out of these characters that are so beloved when all the fans have so many expectations. I thought the movie had a great balance to it, and the Turtles will live on and another generation will now be able to grow up with these new Turtles too! I’m excited to see what they do with the next one.

The Author

Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung is a film researcher/writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has written for such print publications as Shock Cinema, Fangoria, Paracinema, Whoa, Bijou and Phantom Of The Movies' Videoscope.

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