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POP! Exclusive: Kat Graham inspires fans through character ‘April O’ Neil’

Fans who loved Kat Graham as Bonnie in the CW series “The Vampire Diaries,” are in for a treat as the actress returns to TV as April O’ Neil in the Nickelodeon show “The Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

(From Left to Right) Photo Credit: Turtlepedia, Newsbuzzters

In this exclusive interview with InqPOP!, Kat Graham gets personal with us about her career in the film industry, her new series, her role in inspiring fans as April O’ Neil, and her special message for Filipino fans.

Here’s what the American actress shared with us:

On her acting and music career

At 3 or 4 years old, Kat Graham told her mom that she wanted to be an actress. But unlike many aspiring thespians, Graham didn’t find her inspiration from movie actresses and actors; rather she found them through female singers. She names Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Jennifer Lopez as the artists that influenced her decision to be a part of the entertainment industry.

Though her interest in music did not come out of nowhere. As Graham tells InqPOP!, her career in Hollywood actually began as a singer.  

“I got into music when I was about 14. [At that age,] I was making music, engineering [songs] and also, producing. I started singing when I was probably 16 or 17. And that’s when I started working with Will.I.Am. – I toured with him for a while. And then, I went solo and that’s when I got signed to Interscope. After releasing a couple of dance hits, I decided to go independent – then, that’s when I started working with Babyface,” Graham shares.

However, she never forgot her love for acting and she returned to landing roles in the film and television industry.

On “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

Kat Graham admits that she’s been a fan of the Ninja Turtles growing up.  

“I’ve watched almost every single incarnation of Ninja Turtles. I grew up watching it in 2D,” the actress exclaims. “It was just about these four brothers that come together to fight crime and it just felt superheroic. Children should be able to have a show like that on TV.”

And being a part of “The Rise of the Ninja Turtles” series elevated her excitement in reliving happy childhood memories. She says, “When I found out that they had made our show 2D, I was very excited ‘cause I remembered the classic, iconic 2D toons.”

Graham adds that fans of the franchise will be pleased to know that some aspects of the pre-existing Ninja Turtles films and series have been retained in the new Nickelodeon show.  But she hints at some surprising differences, as well.

“We still have a lot of the classic elements to it like the colors, but the animation is different. Even the set they’ve drawn for the show is very different. The villains are also super colorful and really interesting. Obviously, April is African-American now and that’s different from the pre-existing April. But it’s weird, cool, and wild – and there are just so many new and amazing things to watch out for in this show!”

On inspiring fans through her role as April O’Neil

When it comes to choosing roles, Kat Graham takes three things into consideration.

“I look at the people that are a part of it (movie or television production). I look at the script. And then, I ask myself, ‘is this a character that girls are going to be inspired by – that women are going to be inspired by?’ – I look at all that before I decide to take on anything or any job,” Graham explains. “It has to have a much more deeper, more profound root. It has to grow into something that will mean a lot to someone.”  

So when she was given the role of April O’ Neil, she was ecstatic to play a character that would be able to inspire a generation of young girls everywhere.

“April was a part of everything that the turtles would do, but she also stood on her own and had her own sense of self. And I just love how powerful she seems. [And] because she’s a young girl, I think it’ll really inspire a lot of people if I did it right.”

When we asked how she felt about representing an African-American April O’ Neil in television, the actress says, “I hope I’m bringing a different dimension to the character. I think there’s no one way to be black and showing this character as a young woman, who dresses how she dresses and is very much her own person, will inspire other girls of color.”

On her Filipino fans

Before we ended our interview, Kat Graham shared this special message to her Filipino fans:

“I always felt that I was an honorary Filipino. And I hope you will feel connected to April O’ Neil. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing a kickass girl fighting crime alongside these super iconic, heroic characters. Lastly, I hope you’ll see yourselves in her and feel super empowered.”

Filipino fans can watch the actress lend her voice to April O’ Neil in “The Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” on Nickelodeon.

For more details on the series, visit www.nick-asia.com.

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