On the Line with Matt Hill

Matt Hill has put in a lot of hard work to make television, film and the world a better place. He has taken on many voice roles, most notably as Ed from Ed, Edd n Eddy, one of the most popular and successful shows that Cartoon Network has ever had. Interestingly enough, he acted in the Raphael suit for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the third film from the legendary live-action trilogy of the early nineties. But roles like this is just a fraction of who Matt Hill is and what he has done. In 2008, he and his friend, Steph Tait, ran through Canada and around America (eleven thousand miles) in a one year journey entitled “Run For One Planet”. (The video detailing his travels and messaged can be found at the bottom of the page) Matt was able to fill me in on his experience as Raphael and on the set of the film, giving “Single D” his identity, what Run For One Planet means to him and more.

Alex Obert: When you were a kid, which cartoons were you watching on TV?

Matt Hill: I was a huge fan of early Superman and I loved Mighty Mouse. Watched a lot of Scooby Doo. I loved Super Friends, that was a big one for me. Massive. There was a period that I didn’t actually watch a lot of television because I was playing a ton of sports. For a while, my folks didn’t believe in the TV. My jumpstart into voiceover was really when I decided I wanted to be an actor myself. I’d watch television, everything from The Partridge Family to Donny & Marie. At one point, I thought it’d be so cool to join a band and take my family on the road and be like them. I thought maybe I could do this on TV too. Everything just started to happen in Vancouver at that point. I just made the decision one day at thirteen years old, my life is passing me by. I better make a career happen. Went downtown, got an agent and the rest they say is history.

Alex Obert: Through breaking into the industry, did you meet someone that left you starstruck?

Matt Hill: I’m a huge fan of The Six Million Dollar Man. I had a massive crush on Lindsay Wagner, she was The Bionic Woman. Interestingly enough, one of the very first shows that I was ever a special skills extra in, I got cast in this made for TV movie that Lindsay Wagner was doing. I remember just being so enamored by her. I was completely starstruck and I couldn’t talk to her, but I still had such a huge crush on her. I was standing next to her in the food line and the only thing I could say is “Hey…how’s it goin?” (laughs) She was so kind and asked me if I was just starting out. I told her I was and she said to just keep going and follow my dream. Fast forward about fifteen years later and I got cast in a made for TV movie. Interestingly enough, I ended up playing her assistant in this role. She was at the disease control center and I was her trusted assistant and we were trying to save all these sick passengers from a cruise ship that had a bad case of food poisoning on it. So there I was acting it up with my childhood hero. We just had a blast together. It’s neat to hear a nice comment like that and then fifteen years later, we’re working side by side. It was pretty cool.

Alex Obert: It’s quite notable that you had a major acting role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III as you wore the costume for Raphael. What was the feeling like inside the suit?

Matt Hill: Have you ever been in a really, really, really tight and dark cave where it’s super hot? You can’t see, you can’t really hear anything, except for your own heartbeat that is screaming that you might die at any moment. (laughs) There were really many moments where you had to be comfortable being in a really tight, dark space. That’s for sure. Most of the time, we were acting blind and deaf and dumb. If it weren’t for our trusted puppeteers literally screaming in our ears and telling us to go left or right or straight, we’d be falling off of ledges and all sorts of things. The first couple of weeks of Ninja Turtles was quite funny, the outtakes of us wiping out into each other and falling over things. It was quite comical. Interestingly enough, our bodies got really adapted to having all this foam and latex on us, it kind of ended up feeling like a second skin. It’s a feeling that you are one with this character when you put the Ninja Turtles suit on. Quite a metamorphosis.

Alex Obert: Do you have an estimate as to how much the suit was worth?

Matt Hill: That’s a good question. I have no idea, to be honest with you. But I do know they were obviously very valuable to the production company because at the end of filming, we had three suits. One was considered our A-suit, it had everything on it, all the real expensive stuff. And then we had two sort of utility ones with less stuff, but we could use them back and forth if something broke. One of the costumers said we could just take one of the extra ones because they’re not gonna want it back. Fine. So we originally went home with a good portion of our one stunt suit. I had one of the heads and then about a month later, I got a cease and desist letter from the lawyers of the production companies saying to send them back and that those are theirs. (laughs) I boxed it up and sent it back pretty quick.

Alex Obert: So if you are in the costume and someone else is doing the voice of the character, how was the audition process handled?

Matt Hill: Well you know what’s interesting was they totally treated it as if it was a Shakespeare audition. We had to learn the lines verbatim. I literally watched Turtles 1 easily twenty, thirty times because we were then told that for our callback, we were gonna be with the main producers from Hong Kong. I just remember Raymond Chow asking if I knew how to do a flip. I remember thinking inside going “I have no idea what he said, but I think he said a flip. Yes! I can learn how to do a flip.” I knew how to do all the other stuff. “Oh yeah yeah yeah! No problem!” Then he asked if I was claustrophobic. And I’m like “Claustrophobic? What does he mean by that?” Little did I know was that was because the suits were so heavy and claustrophobic, you really had to get good at doing all that stuff. I did the audition where I literally had a paper bag over my head for the second callback and I was doing these scenes from Turtles 1, these big fight scenes with Casey Jones. I remember the one with “What’s that, a Jose Canseco bat? You kiddin’ me?” It was literally like being in Kabuki Theater. I had a bag on my head and I was doing these big movements, but trying to imitate Raphael as best I could. I guess I did it the way they wanted and they thought I’d make a good Raph. But when I got the nod to actually have the part, they put me together with a gentleman by the name of Shishir Inocalla, who was also the stunt turtle for Michelangelo. So we trained together for about seven months before we started filming. I went from not being able to basically do anything to being able to do flips and kicks, some of the big moves that I ended up getting to do in the movie. But then they also had the world class martial artists that went in when you saw all the high, high, high, high level stuff. It was all them. They would just cut back and forth between us and them.

Alex Obert: You are well-known for your role on Ed, Edd n Eddy as the voice of Ed. What was that audition like?

Matt Hill: Ed, Edd n Eddy was probably then and still the longest audition process I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding you, it probably had twelve callbacks for that thing. Danny Antonucci, who’s the genius, brilliant creator behind the show, just knew what he wanted. As we were getting closer and closer to the voice that he had in his head, before I knew it, I kept going back and auditioning with the same two guys, Sam and Tony. By the time it was just the three of us always going back, we had about another six auditions together where they literally just threw us in a room with the mics going. They would tell us to find a way to do it differently or do this or that. I remember probably about the seventh audition, just before we got the nod, I kept thinking there’s no way I was gonna make the next callback. I didn’t think they could stand what I was doing. Out of just sheer frustration, I literally touched the top of the microphone where it makes a big “pff! pff!” on it. I just looked at the mic and said in Ed’s voice “How do you get water from this thing here?” And Danny just shoots up from his face and his hands and is like “That’s Ed! That’s him right there! Do THAT! If you do that, I’m happy! If you don’t do that, you’re fired!” (laughs) So fully coming from left field, that’s when Single D was born. It was so cool because as we went along, Danny would say “Don’t read your scripts the night before. Don’t prepare. I want Ed to be completely unaware and out of left field.” For an actor, it was really hard because I’m always preparing everything and reading these scripts. For Ed, Edd n Eddy, I was allowed to basically show up and just let it happen. It was pretty brilliant. We worked so hard and it pays off because it’s one of those ones that people are still discovering. Kids who watched it then are now having kids and they’e letting their kids watch it. I think it’s just so cool. It’s nice that my buddy, Ed and the other two are all living on in perpetuity.

Alex Obert: There was a boom during that time period on Cartoon Network where they delivered with new content like Ed, Edd n Eddy, Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Powerpuff Girls and others. There was also competition with shows from Nickelodeon. What do you feel separated Ed, Edd n Eddy from the other cartoons out there at the time?

Matt Hill: I think there was just something, maybe it was in the water. I have no idea. (laughs) I think there was just something that was so unique about the three Eds and the rest of the cul-de-sac gang and the way we were all encouraged to play these characters. Danny just had this vision that I think really started to grow, it just came out. It was good timing because I don’t think anything had been on the airwaves that was kind of like that at the time. With all the good things that happened, I think they all just collided at the same time. Me, Tony and Sam ended up becoming great friends from spending so much time together. We went through so much. But me and Sam, we still get to work a lot together on lots of different shows and that’s good. Tony left the biz a few years ago and last time we heard, he owns part of an oil patch up in northern Canada.

Alex Obert: How did you feel about the series finale in the form of a TV movie? It was especially effective because one, they finally introduced a new character and two, they finally get accepted by the cul-de-sac gang.

Matt Hill: I think it was a nod to Danny and his creation. I was all for it. I thought it was cool. I think it was neat that we ended it the way that it was. People still think there is a possibility that it’ll come back. But who knows, fellas…who knows? (laughs)

Alex Obert: Which episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy would you say is your all-time favorite?

Matt Hill: I still think the Christmas special is still one of my all-time favorites. I also like the Halloween special as well. But Christmas is my favorite time of the year and Ed was kind of like a reflection of me. He’s putting out stuff for Santa and basically get so excited, he pulls Double D through the wall and all over the place. He’s like “I am a good boy!”

Alex Obert: I understand that Run For One Planet has been a significant part of your life over the past few years. How has this whole journey changed your general outlook and attitude on life?

Matt Hill: It was so interesting because when going on the run, I wanted it to be about the run and not about “Hey, here’s a guy who does cartoons and TV!” But yet, it was interesting as we went along because it was by bringing in all the cartoon characters that I’d been playing that really helped us connect with the kids instantly. It helped them feel like they already knew me. It was a really interesting experience to be able to embrace what it was that I’d been doing for so many years. It helped to share these messages inspiring people to make healthier choices for themselves and the planet. It was a real big gift for me because I really got to see every single day, not only through the inspiration of running a marathon each day, but at the same time, meeting these thousands of kids and their parents that were saying “Oh my god, Ed, Edd n Eddy has absolutely helped my kid get through a tough childhood.” Or a kid will come up to me at a school and say “Aw dude, I love Ed! Single D is the best!” I remember this one teacher in Houston at this huge inner-city school that we ended up at, he was a giant man. I thought he would crush me with his big finger. He came up to me afterwards and he actually had a tear in his eye when he came to shake my hand. And I’m like “Hey brother, what’s up?” He goes “Man… I just want you to know, the Ninja Turtles, they were it for me. Raphael really made me feel like I wasn’t an outcast. He made me feel like it’s okay if you’re not understood, you can still have a big heart and be generous towards people.” He said he had a really tough childhood and the Ninja Turtles, in particular, really helped him believe in himself. It just brought it all back home, it made me feel blessed that I get to do what I do. I always felt really grateful for the work that I got to do, but I never really knew the full impact of it on people’s lives in a positive way until we literally went to run around North America. Going into it, I had no idea it was gonna be like that. I mean I knew it was gonna be wild because we were running so much and I was gonna get to literally talk to people every day. I love running and I love the metaphor of small steps add up. But in terms of being able to bring my cartoon characters along, my god, what a gift!

Alex Obert: What was going through your head and what was the feeling like each time you saw the “Welcome To” for a new state or province?

Matt Hill: Aww man, you just nailed it. I remember the first couple while going across Canada, running out of our town. There was the border of British Columbia into Alberta, from our first province down. I felt like “Oh my god, this is the farthest I’ve ever ran in my life!” And then I remember looking out towards the rest of the provinces and going like “Wow! We have a huge country!” We literally just ticked each one off and seven months later, we entered into America. We entered in Maine and ran into Bar Harbor, it was crazy! Again, same thing, tickin’ off all these “Welcome To”. Massachusetts. Welcome to Connecticut. I remember running into New York City and it literally was on the eve of the 2008 election. You remember what it was like being an American for that, right? It was such a huge time for Americans and I felt so honored to be witnessing this. We were literally running into Times Square, there was a part of the video where it showed us running in on a Friday night. And it was like the coolest thing I’d ever experienced cause not only were we there, but we ran there! (laughs) Getting to witness America absolutely have this huge outcome, it didn’t matter what political party. It was absolutely amazing to see traffic cops and bridge workers and street sweepers and people in shops all the next day going “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!” It was really wild. The spirit for change was just so huge. We call it running like hell because we knew at that point, it was November and once the snow hit on the East Coast, we’d be totally hooped. It was so hard after New York to get down to South Carolina, so we ran for thirty days straight and literally ticked off the miles. We arrived in a little town in North Carolina called Chocowinity, it was probably still one of the best school events we ever did and it was the poorest town we ever ran through. The teachers said that ninety percent of the town had been thrown out of work. These kids had never got to have a tour, let alone a couple people from Canada run and speak at their school. Imagine having run thirty days in a row and plus all the running we’d done previous to get that point. We ran into this little town where everyone’s on food stamps and assistance. They raised more money per capita than we had. They went town to town, door to door. All these kids going like “I love Ed, Edd n Eddy!” (laughs) Me and my friend, Steph, we become these two superstars for the day. It was literally like that kind of floating magic carpet ride, all that running and all the things that went wrong, helping to make it right.

Alex Obert: What was it like to finish the journey and end up back where you began it?

Matt Hill: So it took a year and four days, three hundred and sixty nine days to run across Canada and around America. We started in Vancouver on May 4th, 2008 and arrived back home in Vancouver on May 8th, 2009. And that was literally the biggest homecoming rush of energy I’ve ever felt in my life. We got the nod from our own city by the mayor declaring it “Run For One Planet Day” on May 8th. So every year, it’s declared Run For One Planet Day here. We give out a legacy for kids with the Green Dream Grant. We’ll donate a couple of grand a year, essentially doing this for the rest of time.

Alex Obert: Upon getting back home, what did you notice about the overall improvement of your health from the running? Did you check in with a doctor?

Matt Hill: It’s interesting, that’s where I wished we would’ve had the technology set up before we left to do all that blood work and do all that sort of stuff to see what all our numbers were. Unfortunately there was just so much to do beforehand. But I definitely know that when I got back, I just kept running and running and running cause the train for me was so far along the tracks. I think it was around Christmas when I finally realized “Oh…we stopped. Okay.” (laughs) I stopped my running every day for a bit. But yeah, it was a big change coming home after that huge rush of finishing. All those questions from people, it’s all well-meaning, but it’s like well when’s the next one? When’s this? When’s that? Like I said, it took me six months to realize that we were even home. After that, we spent quite a bit of time on the road then doing keynote talks around North America, talking at leadership conferences and different groups about the tour. So it really wasn’t about until a year later that I landed back in Vancouver full-time and was saying “Okay, what’s the next part look like here?” Back at the cartoons I went. I mean I was still doing cartoons while we were away, but there were a couple that I recorded while we were on the tour.

Alex Obert: I have to ask, what’s the story behind the car on fire in the video?

Matt Hill: (laughs) We had just taken a break and we were about to head back out and go for the run. This car goes screaming by and pulled up in front of us. It was a young kid that had just bought the car about an hour earlier and I guess something caught on fire. We called 911 and kept everybody back. It was quite a sight cause we realize moments like that, we seem to always dodge just being out of the way of danger. We knew full well what we were getting into. But for the most part, we really only got ran off the road I think three specific times throughout the whole year, which was pretty scary. Woah…that car’s really coming towards me. Oh my god! I’ve gotta get out of the way! For the million of cars that must’ve passed us, most everybody was pretty darn courteous and polite. They gave us a lot of room. We’d get a lot of stares too, especially when people found out where we were from, people from the deep South or Texas. They’d be like “You’re from Canada?! You ran here?! …On your feet?” (laughs) They’d think of us as crazy Canadians!

Alex Obert: Can you fill readers in on the process of putting all of these great stories into a book you’re working on about the journey?

Matt Hill: It’s an interesting transition. I’ve had a few periods where I did some writing on it before my brain started forgetting some of the details. But it’s kind of cool because now, I’m really feeling strongly about the message to be what lights our fire. We’re all on such a journey, look what you’ve chosen to do and share that with the world. You started this site and imagine the lightbulb moment you had when you wanted to start it up. It’s the same thing, it’s honoring what that song is inside you. “Yeah! I’m gonna do this and I’m also gonna do that.” For me, I’ve always had this dream of being an actor and at the same time, I’ve always passionately believed in a healthier world and leaving as positive a stamp on the planet as I can with the time that I’m given to be here. When part of the journey that I’ve always wanted to do is write the book. I’ve been involved in putting some other ones together and helping with compilations, this will be my bonafide first “Penned by Matt Hill”. (laughs)

Alex Obert: With all the great things you’ve done, has appearing at conventions been one of them?

Matt Hill: Yes, I have. I’ve been invited to quite a few, actually. It’s so neat to be able to be able to meet the very people who are the reason that I have a job because they love the shows that I get to work on. But then again, it’s another extension of the gift that I found on the Run For One Planet tour. And that’s being able to talk to people about living an inspired life. Instead of just sitting at a table and reaching out and shaking somebody’s hand, I get asked to talk to people at the conventions. I’ll basically do a mini keynote where I pretty much get to talk about my life as an actor, an hour of taking questions. I get lots of questions once they find out about the tour because for some of them, running is so foreign. It’s so neat for me to be able to go “Hey you know what, you can do it too! You can essentially do anything you want.” So that’s what I love. Every new cartoon I get is another opportunity to not only be gainfully employed in my industry, but at the same time, being asked to go to more conventions. It’s so neat to be able to continue that cycle and to keep talking about being really, truly blessed to live this life that I get to live.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, can you fill in readers on your current projects?

Matt Hill: On Netflix, Dinotrux just premiered in the middle of August. That’s from DreamWorks Television. I play Ton-Ton. And then I’ve got Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, I think that’s on Netflix as well. And then for all the little preschoolers, there’s a new one called Kate & Nim Nim. That’s on Disney Junior in the states.

Alex Obert: What else do you have planned ahead into 2016?

Matt Hill: I just did my eighth Ironman Distance Triathlon recently, so my plan is to keep swimming and biking and running. Start and finish this wonderful book that I’ve begun. Me and my fiancé are taking the next steps towards being officially husband and wife. I think that’s gonna happen in early 2016. And just to continue to work as much as I am possibly given the opportunities to. I’ll get out to as many conventions and things like that and meet as many people as I possibly can.

Alex Obert: Sounds wonderful. I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Matt Hill: You bet, man! Thank you so much. I sure appreciate it!

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