Leaving the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, I found myself thinking two things. First, that it’s better than the first…but still pretty bad and kind of boring. Second, who’s the red-head? I asked my friend at the press screening while walking out, who immediately informed me that he’s known as Sheamus, and he’s a wrestler with the WWE. I wouldn’t say that surprised me because if you look at “Sheamus” before being turned into the version of Rocksteady we know and love…yeah, he totally looks like a wrestler. He’s a big, tall, muscular guy who seems like he’d be really good at fighting (certainly showed those skills in the movie).
But the thing that surprised me is how good he is in what’s essentially his first acting job. I stand by my comment that TMNT 2’s pretty bad. And it’s bad despite having a lot of charismatic and funny people participating; frequently good actors like Will Arnett, Stephen Amell, even Laura Linney don’t come out of this movie unscathed. And the turtle performances are all pretty unmemorable, despite casting legitimately good actors. But among a lot of bad in this movie, it has moments when it’s actually enjoyable, almost exclusively because of comic Gary Anthony Williams (yes, I know him) and especially Farrelly, as the henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady.
And while I’d be declaring this regardless, turns out I’m not the only person who feels this way about Farrelly standing out as the movie’s bright spot. Despite generally bad reviews, Farrelly’s getting some good notice for what he brings to the role. Attending the press conference, he was by far the person press seemed most excited to talk to…and the other actors with him often turned conversation back to him. The cast seemed elated when Farrelly declared his craving to “fight” costar Stephen Amell. Williams especially took great joy in the idea that Farrelly’s reaction to meeting a potential new friend is to fight them.
And while I haven’t gone down the WWE wrestling rabbit hole on YouTube, I did take a look to see if there were signs that Sheamus had the potential to move this positive reaction into an acting career in the future…and after a few clips, I’d take that bet. In the few clips I looked at from the WWE he strikes me a performer willing to go pretty far…and is more than willing to make himself look a little ridiculous. He shows a total delight in the act of performing, comic chops, and almost childlike sense of wonder (he fits a little too perfectly with Muppets). He’s charismatic as hell in interviews (especially his totally enjoyable appearances on Conan where he takes too much pleasure in antagonizing him). Yes he’s got a fierce, brawling personality, but there seems to be almost a cartoonish, childlike quality that comes through…like a kid with too much energy who has no idea how strong he is.
When we think about the WWE performers that have successful acting careers, they share something with Sheamus/Farrelly. Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista, Roddy Piper…they all have an infectious enthusiasm for performing, self-deprecating charm and a distinct personality. The same is true of performers like Jason Statham and Terry Crews (both former professional athletes), both guys who just ooze charisma in comedy and/or action. I don’t think I’d call them “great” actors when they made their first screen appearances, but they had an undeniable magnetism that endeared audiences to them right away. And eventually, they developed their acting skills so they were able to step into more substantial roles. It’s easy to forget that the first time Johnson really made a splash was in the small role of The Scorpion King in the sequel to the Mummy…a role he showed just enough potential that he got a spin-off.
I honestly don’t know how good an actor Farrelly is, because he’s asked to do so little on-screen in TMNT 2…before being turned into a rhino. When voicing said rhino, however, he gives the character more personality than most of the actors playing CG characters (he and Williams both have voices strong enough for animation). But in his few minutes of screen time, Farrelly shows genuine potential. He has a wonderfully expressive face, commits 100% to the role, and creates a genuine connection with the other actors on-screen he’s reacting to (key to developing an actual career as an actor). In this movie, he’s really only given small moments to really shine (elevating the movie before it goes right back downhill), but he shows enough in this first time out to suggest he can do more on-screen if given the chance.