Singer and Star of CW series The Vampire Diaries Kat Graham voices the first Black incarnation of April O’Neil for new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle animated series on Nickelodeon.
What does it mean that Graham is celebrity voice behind an April O’Neil of color that is in continuity?
Everything if you’re a young black girl watching the rise of the black superhero this year. For those of you that aren’t Blerds (black nerds), continuity means that when an event or fact is cannon, an actual part of history of story. For young girls seeing a black girl take up the mantel of the powerful, outspoken, and adventurous April, its a big deal. She is the glue that hold’s the turtles together, often the love interest for the turtles, and a powerful figure in TV news in many versions. April O’Neil was the quintessential New Yorker, so its nice that young Black girls can finally see themselves as this kick-ass girl from the same city they are from.
On the last day of #BlackHistoryMonth we're MAKING history! Here's an exclusive first look at behind-the-scenes art from Rise of the @tmnt’s first African-American April O’Neil! She’s voiced by @KatGraham and will be debuting later this year! ?? #BlackGirlMagic pic.twitter.com/ChonoqQ6F1
— Nickelodeon Animation (@NickAnimation) February 28, 2018
Let’s be honest, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are as much New York as New York pizza. They go together like MTA subways and morning delays, a “baconeggancheese”, or a beef patty con queso! Outside of Baxter Stockman, the evil genius but quirky henchman, there aren’t always a lot of black characters or role models to be found in turtle lore. Girls of color from Harlem to Brooklyn back up to the boogie-down Bronx, will finally see that positive role model portrayed by Kat Graham. In this re-imagining of the classic series originally penned in Mirage comics in the 80’s, Graham’s April is as much a part of the extreme change up of the beloved children’s show, than color switch up to appease a broader audience of fans. Each brother is now a different species of turtle not to mention Raphael and fan favorite Mikey see dramatic switch up of their trademark weapons. Even Master Splinter gets a dramatic makeover. In this version the turtles find themselves engulfed in a magically fueled world beneath the gritty streets of city that never sleeps.
— TMNT (@TMNT) February 1, 2018
This important to note that this new April won’t be thrown into blaxploitation narratives, she will be the average girl thrown into crazy situations. In this new entertainment spectrum this gives young Black girls one more hero to look up to that fits their cup of joe. If the Dora Milage of Black Panther seems like worlds away, or the daughters of Black Lightning aren’t their thing, they still have a superhero that leaping rooftops in a big city that looks much like their own.
Trailer and promo art below:
— TMNT (@TMNT) March 23, 2018