Power Rangers and the Franchise Fresh Start

IMG_0436‘It’s morphin’ time!’ or you would sing ‘Go, go, Power Rangers!’ Premieres tomorrow, March 24, Power Rangers (Lionsgate), a reboot of the super heroes created by Haim Saban. The film follows the journey of five teenagers who must look for something extraordinary when they realize that their small town Angel Grove – and the world – are on the verge of suffering an attack that the villain Rita Repulsa plans for a long time. Chosen by fate, they will find they are the only ones who can save the planet. But for that, they must overcome their personal problems and join their forces to become the Power Rangers, before it’s too late. Directed by Dean Israelite, the feature stars Dacre Montgomery, singer Becky G, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Bryan Cranston, among others. Actress Elizabeth Banks plays villain Rita Repulsa and is very well on paper. The script was written by John Gatins.

Here are some questions discussed during the press conference that happened in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago. The attendees were actors Dacre Montgomery, who plays Jason Scott, the Red Ranger, Naomi Scott, who plays Kimberly Hart, the Pink Ranger, RJ Cyler, Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger, and singer Becky G, who plays Trini, the Yellow Ranger, Ludi Lin, who plays Zack, the Black Ranger, Elizabeth Banks, in the role of villain Rita Repulsa, Bill Hader, who borrowed his voice to the robot Alpha 5, director Dean Israelite and screenwriter John Gatins.

This is a very action and stunt heavy film. What sort of training did you have to go through, to get physically conditioned for the role?

RJ Cyler – We all trained in our respective living environments. I trained at 8711 with Becky, and it was mostly physical training. The stunt training consists of being able to respect distances and also knowing that your partner in the scene is your partner and both of your safety is important. You want to keep everybody safe, without bloody noses. And then, we got to Vancouver and we trained for choreography. Our stunt team was really good. They made us safe, and they made us feel safe doing our stunts, even though harnesses are one of the most uncomfortable things.

Naomi Scott – Becky and I trained before we actually got to Vancouver, which was more to do with the stamina to get through the shoot. I don’t think it was necessarily purely an aesthetic thing. It was for us to get strong. At the end of the day, we’re all playing teenagers in school, and not every teenager looks like Ludi Lin.

Ludi Lin – That’s because Ludi Lin is not a teenager!

Naomi – We can only try! So, I think that was really important. For Becky and I, as girls, wanted to look like normal girls.

Dacre Montgomery – I wanted to look as ripped as possible. No. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t come from sports, or a physically fit background. Spending two and a half months in Perth, training in the lead up to shooting was amazing. I learned so much about my body, my flexibility and my diet. It was for the stamina to go through the shoot, but also to learn how to be safe, on set. The choreography and the stunts were so important.

Becky G – I think we should take a moment of silence for all of the teenage girls that fainted, every time the boys posted a shirtless selfie. I grew up in Inglewood, so the concept of fighting was very natural. No. The person you’re working with is not your opponent, they’re your partner. So, learning how to fight for the camera and learning about safety zones was very new, for a lot of us. But it was so much fun, more than anything.

Ludi – I don’t take training as training. It’s not something that’s hard for me to do. I can do it, all the time. I can do it for half an hour, if I have it, or I can do it for six hours, if you give it to me. But, I learn that sometimes I over-train. The first day on set, when we did some camera tests, they had some problems with my man arms.

Did you guys just work with the script that you were given, or did you go back and re-watch the show for inspiration?

Dacre – I just want to say a big thank you to the director Dean and the studio because there was a huge incentive from the creatives to add our own touch. I’m a newcomer, so what do I know, but I think that was pretty fortunate. We’re pretty lucky to have our own opportunity to put our own spice onto the roles.

Becky G – I made the conscious decision not to revisit the show because I wanted to take that impression that it first made on me, and how it inspired and stuck with me, and build on that. What intrigued me the most, when I first had a conversation about the script and my character with Dean, was that, although these names might sound familiar, you are meeting our characters for the first time. It’s taking place now, in 2017, with really relevant and current issues to now, which a lot of kids can identify with and relate to one of our characters, in some way.

Naomi – For me, I just wanted to start fresh.

Ludi – I grew up with the original Power Rangers series, and when I read the script, it struck me as an origin story. We get to go deeper into these kids’ backgrounds. For the TV series, people had a lot of time to grow to love these characters through each episode. But within this movie, you really have to dig deep to make them fall in love and relate to the characters, in that timeframe. I didn’t go back to the original American series, but I did go back and watch a few episode of the original Japanese TV show and it inspired me to think about how different things could be. On that show, everything was different. The Yellow Ranger was a man. That gave me a lot of motivation to actually put my own creativity into these characters, rather than follow some convention or memory.

One of the great things about Power Rangers is the diversity, and this film continues that, as we see one character on the autism spectrum and another character who might be questioning their sexuality. What was it like to be a part of that?

RJ – It was exciting to be able to play a character that was on the spectrum, mostly because it challenged me to learn about something that I had no idea about. It was kind of like starting school over. Also, it rekindled a friendship from my high school years. I called my friends Andre to get insight. Andre is on the spectrum, but he’s one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever come into contact with. It was really cool to be able to step into that world and do the role justice. It’s something a lot of people don’t understand, but we’re affected by it, in some way. It’s cool, just to be able to show how the world reacts to people on the spectrum, and also how people on the spectrum react to the world.

Becky G – As a new actress, I want to be very aware of what messages I’m taking on, and what message the character is carrying. I feel like this movie is so diverse, in so many ways. First of all, the colors of our skin and where we come from is very different, and that isn’t even mentioned in the movie because it doesn’t matter. We’re all equal, and I think that’s amazing. Not only that, we’re diverse, as far as gender goes. You have two female leads in the Power Rangers, who are working with three male leads, and we say, “Together we are more. Without one, we’re not the same.” I think that’s awesome, as well. Being all about that girl power, I think it’s awesome to know that there’s going to be young women watching this and saying, “Hey, she looks like me!,” or “I can do that, too!” And then, as far as Trini and her identity issues and figuring out who she is, I think that’s something very relevant and current to our generation. We deal with self-identity issues and cyber-bullying. Billy being on the spectrum has a special place in my heart. My little brother, Alex, was diagnosed with autism, at a very young age. Knowing that he’s going to watch this movie and be like, “That’s me!,” and that he can see himself in that character, is all we can ask for, as people, to share a positive message like that. We need that, right now, more than ever, for sure. It’s truly an honor to be a part of all of this.

How did you guys avoid making these characters too cliché?

Naomi – For me, my responsibility is just to do the character justice. When I got the script, I was like, “Okay, who’s Kimberly and what’s she going through?” She’s not perfect. She does something that she regrets, but it’s about how she learns from that mistake. These aren’t perfect kids. They’re all going through things. That’s how I view it. I just want to do the characters justice. It’s about how she learns from her mistakes, rather than just being one thing. We’re not one stereotype. We have different layers going on.

Becky G – Building Trini actually had a lot to do with talking with Naomi and seeing how she was building Kimberly, and one thing we always talked about was the sisterhood and how to make that real. We also didn’t want to be pitted against each other. Two women can be successful at the same thing. It doesn’t have to be that one of them is better, prettier or cooler than the other. I love the contrast between our two characters and how, at the end, they still come together. Especially as young women, that’s how we broke down that barrier.

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Your characters go through a lot in their school lives. What are your own best and worst memories from school?

RJ – My best high school moment has to be my 10th grade talent show. That was the first time I felt like I was going to get out of the friend zone. But the worst thing was when I found out that that doesn’t happen, getting out of the friend zone. I’m gonna go cry now.

Naomi – I enjoyed school. I did have a little moment that I think a lot of people have had, where that one friend isn’t at school that day, so you don’t really have anyone to hang around with and you walk around purposefully at lunch time, even though you’re not going anywhere because you have no one to hang out with. I’ve been there, a few times. I was always in drama club or doing music, and I was friends with everyone, but I didn’t have a clique. Other than that, it was pretty good.

Dacre – My experience in school was very different. I didn’t really have many friends and I was pretty overweight. When you first meet Jason in the film, you think he’s the stereotypical jock. What’s lovely about it is that it doesn’t evolve that way. I hope I was able to mold my own experience to that and make him more multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and interesting to watch, so that people hopefully fall in love with him.

Becky G – My school experience wasn’t always the best. I wouldn’t say I had a greatest day. There isn’t a day that sticks out because I was like, “Wow, that was really cool!” The best way to explain it is that I was in a classroom full of monkeys and I’m a fish, and the lesson of the day was how to climb a tree. I could see it and I knew how to climb it, and I could tell the teacher how to do it, but I just couldn’t do it. Everyone else was climbing the tree and the teacher was like, “Why aren’t you climbing the tree?” And I was like, “‘Cause I’m a swimmer. I’m really good at swimming. I’m just gonna keep swimming ‘cause I’m really good at it.” I would always change schools and I was always the new girl. I connected to Trini because of that. I definitely took a lot of my childhood experiences from school and channeled it. It was pretty shitty, to be honest.

Ludi – For me, high school was bittersweet, like it was for a lot of people. I moved around a lot, so I was the outsider, a lot of the time. I connected to Zack because he’s an outsider. The first thing that comes to my mind is when I finally got up the courage to ask out this girl that I had a crush on, for the longest time. Jessica, if you’re out there, this one’s for you. All of my friends were gearing me up to ask her out, and I had planned this whole thing. I had bought movie tickets, and I was going to buy a rose, but I thought about having to hold the rose for the entire movie, so I got a fake rose with these cool plastic water droplets. I thought that was a good idea. The rose was so realistic that it had spikes, and I was sitting on a plastic spike, the whole time. And then, that night, we were at her house at a party and she wasn’t really talking to me, so I went up to the room to be that lonely philosophical guy. In high school, you think that’s attractive. And she actually came up, so it worked. The sad fat kid sympathy angle worked, and she came up. So I went, “I think you’re pretty and I really like you,” and then I gave her the rose and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. For all of the kids out there, for a five dollar fake rose, you can get a kiss on the cheek. I was the happiest kid, walking home that day, but then I didn’t hear from her for another week. That was the sweet part. The bitter part is that the next time I saw her was when I went over to my best friend’s house, very early in the morning, and she was there.

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