POWER RANGERS Q&A with JASON DAVID FRANK, WALTER JONES, KARAN ASHLEY, & ROBERT AXELROD (PART 1)
The Power Rangers franchise started in 1993, an Americanization of a Japanese franchise known as Super Sentai which was launched in 1975. In 1992 Japan aired the 16th entry in the Sentai series, called Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. In ’93 Japanese footage was combined with newly filmed American footage and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was born. Since then, there have been 16 iterations of Power Rangers, several video games, a couple movies, a live stage production, and about half a dozen different comic book series.
While attending DragonCon, I got to sit in with a bunch of actors from the original series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for some awesome Q&A sessions. Below is a transcript of the afternoon of fan questions and cool stories from the lovable cast members. There was an awful lot to cover, so I’ve split the Q&A into two parts.
So without further adieu, here’s PART 1 –
Q: Did you ever imagine, going into a project like Power Rangers that your involvement with the series, or with your character, would have the longevity that it has had? I mean, could you have foreseen being at fan conventions this far after your initial involvement?
J: I’m so happy. I’ve been blessed with so many fans. And it just seems to be getting bigger. And part of the reason seems to be that the fans are bigger (audience laughs). Seriously, you guys were half your size when I first encountered fans at our public appearance at Universal Studios. I love that the fans have embraced it. I never thought I’d be at a DragonCon. I had always heard great things about these conventions, so I’m happy to be here to celebrate with you fans!
Q: In terms of martial arts, what inspires you, or what calls to you insofar as what you enjoy in doing martial arts?
J: Martial arts has been my life. I don’t know where I’d be without martial arts. I mean the code; the brotherhood, dedication, respect, cooperation, discipline, confidence, attitude, and self-respect. I love Muay Thai. I went to Thailand and got certified as a master in Muay Thai. When you go out to train, and you hit that bag, you can feel that stress. There are three things I do to de-stress or stop worrying and that’s fighting in the cage, going to work out and train, and skydiving. One of the things that drives me though is you guys. My fans are my friends. I love seeing your posts on my Facebook page and everything, reading all your motivating stories. You can never get tired of seeing that.
Q: How was it coming back for Power Rangers Super Megaforce to do that reunion and seeing people from past and present iterations of the show?
J: It was … uh … like, I was singing the VeggieTales song: “It was weird; he had a beard” (audience laughed). Seeing all the seasons represented, it was overwhelming but it was fun. That was a weird answer. Sorry guys, I’ve got ADD, so my mind goes all over the place. Good news is you’re never bored, right?
K: Well, I just wish they had been able to work in a way for the rest of our characters to appear as well, not just the costumes.
W: I’m just excited to see it’s still going strong. Twenty years of Power Rangers! (audience roars in applause)
Q: Having played so many rangers through the years; Green, White, Red, Black, what was your favorite?
J: I definitely liked the Green Ranger; it was fun! You know, it was the first … and you always remember your first.
Q: Robert, you provided many voices for the series. Did you ever appear on screen in any of the suits, for Lord Zedd for example?
R: I was just the voices. The costume for Lord Zedd was worn by a stuntman named Ed Neil.
Q: Jason was it ever planned for you to return as the White Ranger, after losing your powers as the Green Ranger in the show?
J: Well, I think it’s cool to die in a show or movie, to have that big moment as an actor, and so I asked the studio if they could kill me off like they kill characters in the Japanese footage and they said no. So, after I stopped being the Green Ranger, I started work on Cybertron, which would eventually become VR Troopers, and kids wrote tons of letters and started petitions to bring me back, so Saban called and said we gotta bring you back.
Q: Speaking of, did you all look at VR Troopers as sort of the enemy at times?
W: It’s funny, because they were right next door to us at the time! When they started, we were like “what’s up with that?” And we would visit the set. And when they start, it’s a business, so they want to be a success so they’re like “we’re gonna take over”, “we’re gonna be the top show!” I think that mentality of “we’re gonna be the best” is also how each new cast comes in with this series. They’re like “Alright, we’re going to be the best Power Rangers ever!”
K: Well I would have thought the same thing if I were with them. But yeah, they were literally right next door to us, so we would go over to their set all the time. We’d all hang out with them whenever there was any downtime, and we became really good friends. But yeah, they should want to be the best, for all of you, the fans!
Q: Insofar as the Green Ranger being killed off in the Japanese series. But the American show was kept very G or PG. Is there anything you wish the show had done, or things you wish you could have done as an actor but never got to on the show?
K: Well as an actor you crave the drama, you want to do it, you want to cry. So, in the movie when Zordon died, and we had to get worked up and get the tears flowing.
W: That’s true, they kept it very kid friendly. But even so, the stuff we did about bullying, all of the PSA type stuff were still very poignant, because they had to be, they had to resonate and teach a lesson.
Q: Do any of you carry around a “mighty morpher”?
J: Are you asking if that’s a Morpher in my pocket? No. I’m just really excited to be here (big laughs from the crowd).
Q: Well, if we’re getting risque, as a ranger how would you hit on chicks? Would you say something like: “hey, ya wanna make my monster grow?” What would you do?
J: I … um … well, I would say “You want me to morph in your mouth, not in your hand” (big laughs from the audience) … but then I might get sued by the M&Ms people. I dunno. I’m sorry guys, I’m crushing your childhood. But hey, Kimberly fell for it (another big laugh).
Q: When you were offered the opportunity to be on the show, Power Rangers, what made you decide to take it, to audition, what made you want to do the show?
J: Well, I was really passionate about acting. I didn’t even care what the project was, I just wanted to act. None of us really knew what the show was about. It was called Phantoms when I read for it. I thought I might be some sort of forest ranger, and we were reading the script going “what’s a Zordon?” and it was all really weird. But I didn’t care. I just really, really wanted to get a chance to act, to be an actor, to get in front of the camera. Man, I would have done that show for free to be honest with you. I was just excited to be a part of it. And when I learned what it was, people were telling me that it was cheesy and it was going to bomb. But I love cheese! Cheese sticks, cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese. And kids love cheese! And it was cheesy then and it’s still cheesy now and still going. I’m sorry; did I answer your question? I can get a little weird. Like I said, I’ve got ADD.
Q: Walter, with your history in dance, was that aspect of the character something you brought to the character? Also, I know that the show inspired kids to take up martial arts, but do you think that your character also inspired some to take up dance?
W: It was something the studio was looking for, and something I could bring. I think I did inspire some, because I get a lot of fans come up to me that dance, and sometimes they’re like “hey I wanna battle!” And it’s cool, because I don’t dance as much as I used to, poppin’ and lockin’ and breakin’ and all that stuff, but watching them it’s cool to see what has evolved from all that. I feel like I was a part of that evolution. Adding break dancing to fighting, almost a hip-hop style of Capoeira. It’s crazy to see people do all of these kicks, flips, twists, and so on.
Q: Walter, what were your thoughts about leaving the show?
W: Well, I left at the height of the show, right before the film really, so my biggest regret is not doing the film, not being part of that experience. But I’ve been working steadily as an actor for the last twenty years, so I’m still happy. So, I’m happy with what I’ve continued to do with my career, but I do wish I had stayed on for the film.
Q: On the opposite end of the spectrum, what was it like for you Karan, coming onto this project when you did?
K: It was very daunting, you know, taking over for such important characters. It’s not like the Yellow Ranger was a side-kick. They were all generally equally popular characters. The way the show was written, each character had a chance to take center-stage. So, I felt every day, that I had to find a way to differentiate myself from Amy (Jo Johnson (Kimberly)), but also from the original Yellow Ranger (Thuy Trang). You know, I didn’t know I was replacing someone when I auditioned. I didn’t find out my character was a replacement for another character until halfway through the audition process. My thought as one of the new characters was that hopefully the kids will accept us.
Q: What was your favorite moment, episode, or storyline in the series?
J: My favorite moment was coming back as the White Ranger. I was floating, suspended up there on wires, awash in the white light, while the other actors and to look up and go “aahhh!” it was a lot of fun. I can tell you my saddest moment too. It was as the Green Ranger when my character lost his gold shield. I loved that shield. I felt naked without it. I can tell you one of the reasons I loved that shield was when I got to wear it on set, I would just turn side to side and lean a bit and randomly poke the other people.
R: My favorite was the episode where Lord Zedd was introduced. Because I had already voiced several characters, but now I was Lord Zedd. And he had such great lines. Like once I’m shouting at Baboo (drops into Lord Zedd’s voice): “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you!” (the audience cheers).
K: I really liked the Wild Wild West episode. Because, I’m from Texas, and I got to talk in a Southern accent, which was a lot of fun!
W: I have so many that I enjoy, but one of my favorites is when I challenged Bulk to a dance competition at the Juice Bar (audience chuckles). And I had learned a lot dance as a kid, from jazz to tap to ballet. And I did a septuple pirouette. I had never done more than four in a row before. And I just did seven, like bam bam bam, and I nailed it. And I was so excited, I was like “did you get that on camera!?” And now it’s forever.
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed being there, asking my own questions, and recording the fun! I hope you check back in for PART 2!!!