It’s been roughly a month since Nickelodeon announced that Kat Graham will be playing the role of April O’Neil in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since then, a lot of fans have noted that this is the first time a black woman has portrayed the character, breaking down ethnic barriers and potentially bringing something new to the character. During a recent visit to TRL, Graham was given the opportunity to touch on this subject and give us her own thoughts on the matter.
“I was really excited, because… I watch the show, but I’ve been watching this cartoon that I never thought they would ever… revamp to have an African American play this cartoon [character], and so many of us watch these cartoons, and we maybe don’t see representations of ourselves on screen – even if it’s animation – so I think this is a cool step in a very progressive direction.”
Needless to say, we couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Although quite a few people have pointed out that James Avery played the role of Shredder, it’s worth noting that this was a villain role for a male character. African American women typically have a much more difficult time being cast in projects such as this, so Kat’s role as April O’Neil is much more significant and important than you might have otherwise thought.
Not only are we seeing the industry open up to more people, but girls of all ages and from all backgrounds are now seeing a lot more representation in the media they enjoy. There’s a lot of work to be done, but as Kat Graham suggests, this is indeed a step in the right direction. Personally, I can’t wait to see what she does with the character, and I’m very excited to see how they choose to write April in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.