Former “General Hospital” star Minae Noji (ex-Kelly Lee) hit the big screen this month in the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film opposite Megan Fox and Whoopi Goldberg, but that’s not all the star has up her sleeves these days! Soap Opera Network caught up with the busy actress just before TMNT was released, and while she spilled the deets regarding the film in Part One of our interview, here, she shares information about her latest project that involves “GH” stars Kent King (ex-Lainey Winters), Ron Melendez (ex-Andy Archer), Dominic Rains (ex-Leo Julian) and Graham Sheils (ex-Cody Paul)!
Being cast as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Karai has been a high point for Noji, who rode the wave of the good news by pouring the positive energy into her new web series, “Love Midori,” which the actress says is about “a perma-single young woman who enters the shark pool of speed dating to look for her soul mate.” Each comedic episode details the up and downs of one speed date, often with hilarious results. And she says she couldn’t have done it without the help of her “GH” co-stars.
“When I was doing ‘General Hospital,’ there are a few of us who were friends in real life, and that includes Kent King and Kimberly McCullough (ex-Robin Scorpio), and we sort of started on this journey where when we would do events, instead of making it about signing autographs and talking about future storylines… we started this journey of facing our fears, documenting them and then sharing them with the fans, and they would share with us what they were scared of,” Noji explains of how “Love Midori” got started. “So that sort of started a journey for me, where every year, I look at my life and I go, ‘Ok, what am I really, really afraid of?’ Because I think there are two types of fears: There’s the fear of like, ‘Ok, be careful. That cliff is steep, I could fall off and that’s dangerous,’ and then there’s the fear that doesn’t serve you, like you see something that can actually make you expand, but you’re so scared to fail or to fall or make a mistake or be a disappointment, so you go the other direction. So every year, I do something that I’m scared of, and I realized that I’m terribly fearful of writing and putting myself out there. So when I got ‘Ninja Turtles,’ sort of the feeling that I got was to use this energy and this opportunity to create more, so I decided to write and produce and direct something that I wanted to challenge myself with. I love comedy, and I wanted to do something different than what I’d been doing, as far as in my career, so I really pushed myself.
“It’s definitely the scariest thing I’ve done creatively, and I’m so glad I did it,” she continues. “My intention with ‘Love Midori’ was to create and put laughter into the world, and that was my main focus, and I just focused on that so I wouldn’t get consumed by, ‘What if people hate it? What if it’s terrible? What if it’s this,’ you know? Because that’s what I think holds people back.”
When it came to casting people like Rains, Shiels and Melendez, Noji says she wrote the episodes specifically with them in mind and kept her fingers crossed. “I wrote some of the characters with them in mind hoping that they would do it, and then I reached out, and it was so sweet, because they all said yes!” she enthuses. “For instance, there’s an episode called ‘Mr. Sex,’ and I specifically wrote that for Graham, and I just think he just did such a great job on it. And then Dominic, I wrote ‘LA Boy’ for, and then Ron, I had him in mind, because we were love interests on ‘GH,’ and we’re still very close friends. [I also thought about Kent], because I just want to work with her every single day of my life. So it was such a great reunion, and I think the fans are going to love it.”
This may be Noji’s first comedy, but it’s definitely not her first foray into writing: The actress maintains two blogs, Words of Wisdom and Rats Have Feelings Too. And yes, the latter really is about the rodent that usually gets a bad rap! “It’s basically a site dedicated to rats and amazingly, they have thousands of followers,” she shares of the site. “Ridiculous, I know, but long story short… I had pet rats, and they are definitely animals that are misunderstood. They’re like the plague of society, so what was fantastic is, when I created the blog, I created it with the intention of love, and what came out of it was beautiful, because I started to get letters from kids and people who felt different, like transvestites, suicidal kids, etc. It was really interesting, and I realized that they connected with the feeling of being misunderstood or an outlier, and they would go to this site to feel better, which I thought was so great, because that was the intention. The intention was to have a place to feel connected and loved, so it has really served its purpose, even though it’s such an odd site with cute rats. I still post every day on that sucker, and I don’t have the rats any more, but they continue to get fan mail, and they continue to get followers. It’s pretty great.”
And, funny enough, the rat blog ties into her current “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” success. “The turtles are misunderstood, too!” she explains. “A lot of the heroes we had growing up were chiseled and dark and serious, and I think why I connected with the turtles so much is because they were mutants; they were sort of misunderstood, and they were so hilarious and funny, but then they still kicked ass and they were ninjas, and my god, who doesn’t love ninjas?! So I think that combination for me really hit home. And what’s great also is a lot of times when you’re young, you feel like an outsider, you feel like you’re misunderstood or you don’t feel like you fit in, and I think that’s what the turtles felt, as well. They lived underground, they were mutants, so I think a lot of kids connect to them because they stand for good… and it’s so much about brotherhood and family and connection and vulnerability and acceptance. All of that is what the ninja turtles are about. So it’s pretty cool.”
Speaking of family, though Noji has seen big screen success, her “GH” clan remains front and center on her mind. “’General Hospital’ was such an important time in my life,” she says, adding that she’d definitely be open to a return. “When things come up, I kind of just sit with it, and if it feels right, then I do it, and if it doesn’t, I don’t. Whatever fuels my soul and allows me to expand and grow as an artist, absolutely I will do. So whether it’s daytime or not daytime, I take it that route instead of categorizing it. In the end, if you can go to work and be happy, then it’s great.
“’GH’ casting director Mark Teschner really brought a great group together, and I have him to thank for [my current success], for sure,” she continues. “I met my best friends, and it was such a blast, and it brings you to the next journey of where you’re at, so it was great. I loved every minute of it.”
To see Noji in action, be sure to catch her in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” in theaters now, or in “Love Midori,” which you can find on YouTube.