Fans of the popular Supah Ninjas know Ryan Potter as Mike Fukunaga, the unassuming – but fierce – crime fighting lead character with the mad martial arts skills. But what some might not realize is, it’s no act – Ryan‘s been training in Kung Fu since he was a young boy. That’s right, he’s a ninja in real life.
Ryan talked exclusively with Celebrity Teen Scoop about his hit Nickelodeon show, how he trains for those epic fight scenes, and about working with the actor who plays his grandfather, George Takei. And in case you’re wondering, this is one fighter with a heart – the 17-year-old talks about how his gratitude over his success has lead him to start his own charity.
Celebrity Teen Scoop: Congratulations on the success of Supah Ninjas! Tell us a little bit about the show.
Ryan: Supah Ninjas is an awesome action packed half hour of comedy about ninjas, crushes and high school. Mike Fukunaga, my character, discovers in the first season that he comes from a long line of ninjas and is drawn into a shadowy world of ninja crime fighting. Mike’s best friend Owen [Carlos Knight] and his secret crush Amanda [Gracie Dzienny] join him in trying to save Empire City from terrible villains.
CTS: Give us some background on your character, Mike Fukunaga.
Ryan: Although described as “average,” Mike is anything but. He has lightning fast ninja skills. He’s amazing at martial arts. Mike is nerd smart and he’s a loyal and honest friend. Mike seems like the underdog but time and again he proves he has what it takes to save the day.
CTS: We hear you’ve trained in the martial arts since you were young. How do you use these skills in the show?
Ryan: Martial arts are a big part of Mike’s character and the show. When they were originally casting for the part of Mike they wanted someone with a lot of martial arts experience and that, in all honesty, was what drew me to the show. There aren’t shows like this for kids and it in many ways is a dream come true. Doing what I love, on Nickelodeon and with the greatest cast ever.
CTS: What do you do off the set to keep in shape for your fighting scenes?
Ryan: I still train in White Tiger Kung Fu. And I also train in martial arts tricking. I have been doing this since I was 8 years old, and although I’ve just recently started tricking, I am highly competitive. If one day I am able to do a trick I couldn’t do before that day, the very next day I want to go harder and do something different. I am competing with myself to get better and be the very best I can in these sports I love so much. Staying in shape is just a side benefit.
CTS: We understand your first language is Japanese. Were you born in Japan?
Ryan: I was raised in Japan until I was 7 years old when my family moved back to the United States. I grew up in Tokyo and consider that my second home. I really love Japan and my heritage.
CTS: How did you first get started as an actor?
Ryan: I’ve always loved movies and animation. When I was little I was always pretending to be some alter ego super hero. For years it was Ultraman, ninjas, Spiderman and other cool super heroes. I think auditioning for Mike really brought up an interest and love for acting.
CTS: Your grandfather is played by George Takei. What was it like working with this iconic actor?
Ryan: George is amazing. What an honor. He was the very first Japanese-American to be cast as a series regular on Star Trek back in the day. And now being in the same TV ‘family’ with him is kind of mind blowing. He is a pioneer and an inspirational role model for Asian Americans and all actors really. He does not let others define him. He has opened so many doors for Asians in Hollywood. The opportunity to work with him goes way beyond what I learn from his as an actor. He teaches by example. George is kind, respectful of himself and others. He comports himself with grace and humor. And his role as a humanitarian for human rights really inspires me.
CTS: Please tell us about your charity.
Ryan: I started Toy Box of Hope back in 2011 in order to give back. I have been so blessed by the opportunity to work on Supah Ninjas that I was moved to do something to help my community. I truly believe in the principle of paying it forward. Toy Box has held events to raise awareness and money for homeless youth in the Los Angeles area. This past Christmas we set our goal to double our toy collection of the year before, and we did! Thanks to the awesome support of my Nick friends like Carlos Pena, Rachel Crow and others we were able to give toys, warm jackets, and stuffed animals to over 1200 young people at the holidays. I am really looking forward to what we are going to be doing this year.
I’ve also had the honor of being named a National Spokesperson and Brand Ambassador for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and I’ll be doing fundraising events with them as well this year. 2013 is going to be great.
CTS: Can you give us a sneak peek at what’s coming up in Season 2 of Supah Ninjas?
Ryan: Season 2 of Supah Ninjas is filled with way more action, comedy, and romance. There are new villains and some surprise guest stars. Owen has bigger laughs and funny situations. Amanda has more romance and cheerleading. And Mike, well Mike gets a lot more action than ever before!
CTS: What’s coming up next for you?
Ryan: I’m in my Junior year of high school so that keep me pretty busy. I’m looking at colleges. I’ll be doing a college tour later this year. Lots of martial arts training. Some travel. And hopefully, fingers crossed on this one, a Season Three of Supah Ninjas.