In addition to signing on as Kids’ Choice host for a second straight year, Cena is joining the voice cast of the Nickelodeon’s new animated series “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and executive producing new gameshow “Keep it Spotless” for the channel.
“He’s just one of those people who kids love, so why wouldn’t we want to be in business with him?” Nickelodeon Group president Cyma Zarghami said of Cena.
“Nickelodeon and I, we share the same looking glass,” said Cena. “We like to make kids laugh and we like kids to have fun. Nickelodeon doesn’t do programming that doesn’t have comedy in it, that doesn’t have smiles in it. I really enjoy putting smiles on faces.”
One of WWE’s most popular figures, Cena has found increasing media success outside the ring, voicing the title role in 20th Century Fox’s animated film “Ferdinand” and making numerous other film and television appearances. This year, he will star in in the newest entry in Paramount’s “Transformers” film franchise, “Bumblebee.” But he likens hosting Kids’ Choice, which he did for the first time last year, to his WWE work.
“It’s a wonderful environment,” Cena said of Kids’ Choice. “I compare it to a WWE event where the show is absolutely 100% made for the audience. Being in front of a live audience for so long so many nights in a row, I think it prepares you for the chaos of a live television production which is so, so fun.”
According to Zarghami, asking Cena to host Kids’ Choice was an easy decision both times around.
“Kids’ Choice is an iconic and brand-defining moment for us every year,” she said. “Finding a host for that is a very specific brief, because it has to be someone who wants to play. It has to be somebody who really cares about this audience, and it has to be somebody who has something about them that resonates with our audience.”
When Cena first emerged as a host candidate for last year’s show, “There was a resounding ‘He’s our guy,'” said Zarghami, who noted that Cena had tested incredibly well with audiences for the film “Daddy’s Home” and its sequel from Nickelodeon’s corporate sibling Paramount. A sizeable uptick in male viewership for Kids’ Choice — according to Nielsen ratings data, last year’s show was up 19% among boys 6-11 — made a strong case for a return engagement.
“We don’t often have somebody come back two years in a row,” Zarghami said. “But having him come back two years in a row is perfect for us.”
On the new “Ninja Turtles” cartoon, Cena will voice an original villain named Baron Draxum.
“If you were of my age, you know ‘Ninja Turtles,’ you were a fan of ‘Ninja Turtles,'” said Cena, who fondly recalled playing Konami’s 1989 Nintendo Entertainment System game based on the characters. “Being able to recreate ‘Ninja Turtles’ and be involved in the franchise is really special.”
“Keep it Spotless” also takes its inspiration from classic kids’ entertainment, including Nickelodeon series such as “Double Dare” and “You Can’t do That on Television.” Produced by ITV Entertainment and Cena’s Hard Nocks South Productions, and based on a U.K. format from Possessed, “Keep it Spotless” features kid contestants vying for cash prizes as they compete to keep clean while navigating obstacles designed to make them messy.
“It’s like the chaos and the slime-ability of Kids’ Choice meets that crazy scene in the original ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ where everyone is wearing white suits and the kid gets transported through the TV,” Cena said. “It’s gonna be super special to kids.”
“Keep it Spotless” and “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” are set to premiere later this year. The Kids’ Choice Awards telecast is scheduled to air live on Nickelodeon March 24 at 8 p.m.