Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Is Gender-Swapping Its Villains

The usually male Wingnut and Leatherhead will instead be voiced by women in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

By Phillip Moyer | Updated

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Anyone who likes to get worked up about gender-swapping can start reaching for their pitchforks, because the newest film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Paramount‘s upcoming animated movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, has cast women to play two formerly-male characters. Of course, the characters are a mutant bat and a mutant alligator, neither of which are known for having notable gender characteristics, but that’s beside the point. The time is ripe for the easily angered among us to pretend we always cared about the integrity of Wingnut and Leatherhead’s portrayal across adaptations since actresses Natasia Demetriou and Rose Byrne will be playing the two characters.

After all, some fans are already upset about the movie, since Mutant Mayhem’s April O’Neil has committed the horrific crime of not being white. Of course, the franchise’s most recent animated TV series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, already had a Black April O’Neil, but it’s not like these supposed TMNT super fans could be bothered to know about that. After all, they’re busy pointing to Megan Fox‘s portrayal of the character in the widely-reviled 2014 adaptation as some sort of high-water mark for the series. 

Wingnut, for those who don’t remember the character, is a mutant bat that usually partners with Screwloose, a mutant mosquito. The character is sometimes portrayed as an enemy of the Ninja Turtles, and sometimes as an ally. While the duo has appeared multiple times in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, they only ever appeared in two episodes total across all TMNT TV series – Once in the 1987 series, and once in the 2012 series.

It’s actually conceivable that there are people out there who care about Leatherhead, however, since the mutated alligator is a much more prolific character. Leatherhead has appeared in three of the four animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series and multiple video games — including last year’s retro throwback game Shedder’s Revenge. Like Wingnut, his portrayal changes based on the adaptation, either being a villain (like in the 1987 series and every single video game) an ally (like in the 2003 and 2012 series), or something in between.

Not much has been revealed about Leatherhead and Wingnut’s actual role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, so it’s entirely possible that the characters will end up as allies of the turtles, rather than villains. Neither character shows up in the trailer. In fact, the only non-turtle mutants we see are brief glimpses of Master Splinter (played by Jackie Chan) and the recurring villainous duo Rocksteady and Bebop (played by John Cena and Seth Rogen).

Other characters that are confirmed to appear in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem include Baxter Stockman (played by Breaking Bad star Giancarlo Esposito), Ghengis Frog (played by Spider-Man: Homecoming actor Hannibal Buress), and Mondo Gecko (Played by Ant-Man star Paul Rudd). Ice Cube will be playing a character named Superfly, who may or may not end up being Baxter Stockman’s mutated form.

Interestingly, the current cast does not show anyone playing the part of longtime TMNT villain Shredder.