The Chinese-Canadian newcomer steps into the role of Zack Taylor, aka Black Ranger, in the remake of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. This latest re-imagination still has an ethnically diverse cast, but the storyline is a bit darker, and the Ranger suits are nothing like you’ve ever seen before.
Did you watch Power Rangers at all while growing up?
Definitely. My first action figure was actually the Yellow Ranger. I would make my own TV show on the kitchen table, in the shower or in the bath. Power Rangers was the only reason I woke up early on a Saturday morning, so I would say I’m a big fan.
So as a fan, what was your first reaction when you got the part?
OH MY GOD, YES! My first thought was that I wasn’t a complete failure as an actor [laughs]. It can be scary but you need to step up and take the role. Gladly, I chose to take the role and embrace it.
How did you prepare yourself, physically and mentally, to wear a Power Ranger suit?
Mentally, I went deep into myself and leaned about Zack’s history to figure out why he does what he does and what drives him. Mainly, it was a process of falling in love with the character. Zack has to deal with enemies and forces of evil. It’s an issue of injustice that has to be released from within. That’s where his fighting style comes from, and that’s how I found a style that could possibly fit his character.
Do you and Zack have anything in common?
To make him real, I needed to find something that we had in common. Zack does crazy things that I admire, and I have to do them myself on set. I think he would admire the crazy things I do and, in real life, we can actually call ourselves brothers. When you watch the movie, you’ll realize he has issues he has to deal with just like I do or people to confront. I hope this character would touch a lot of people out there.
How was your experience doing your own stunts? Have you trained in martial arts before?
It’s incredible, really. I tried to do much stunts as possible and we have the best stunt team in the world. My stunt double Bryan Ho and the others did so much work to make sure everything was safe and that I didn’t get myself killed [laughs]. I studied Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu and wushu. I think leaning all those helped me prepare for other types of martial arts. One of my heroes, Bruce Lee, once said that there shouldn’t be any form of martial arts because it should come from within. How you feel is the best way for you to face your challenges, and that’s the “art” in martial arts.
What’s your take on the movie?
I think we work with a genius because he [Dan Israelite] has a specific vision for the movie like no one else. He believes in it so much; [he’s] like a kid that plays with an invisible friend and makes the movie happen. If you see the trailer, the whole movie is different and it’s worth watching because it’s gonna be different from other superhero movies or other films in the theaters right now.
So what makes this new Power Rangers movie different? Where does its charm lie?
What’s charming about it is that [the characters] are real. They may not be the most beautiful or good-looking people but they feel real and we can relate to them. It feels like they live in the world we live in where they face and deal with the same problems. What they find in each other is the most attractive thing about them.
We saw the trailer and noticed that the suits you wear are different from the suits in the original series? Can you tell us about them?
They’re not made out of spandex, for sure [laughs]. The suit signifies how they acquire their powers in the movie. Power is not just given to them. Rather, it comes from within and the suit is all about the journey; through it they discover their power by working together.
Can you tell us about the atmosphere on the set?
It’s different from days to day. Sometimes we would shoot in the studio with a green screen. There would be construction—like a spaceship, as big as a football stadium—so you feel like you’re watching a real thing and not a toy. It was such a blessing sharing this experience with a great cast and crew who worked themselves to death, and it’s all for you to watch and enjoy.
Power Rangers opens 23 March.