As a kid who grew up in the 90s, I practically lived and breathed Saturday morning TV, and nothing said get up early to watch shows than the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. It has been nearly a quarter of a century since the American version of the popular Japanese Super Sentai aired. Since then, over 20 different themed Power Rangers shows have aired and two different theatrical films were released.
Now, a whole new version will hit theaters next week in Power Rangers. Directed by Dean Israelite (Earth To Echo), the film is a callback to the first show that aired in the U.S. But this time there is a whole new group of kids: Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G), and Zack (Ludi Lin) who will morph into a new team to fight a different kind of Rita Replusia (Elizabeth Banks).
We were fortunate enough to sit down with a group of our fellow journalists to talk to the cast and crew about making the film and appealing to the older fans while also drawing in new audiences. We also learned about the fight training and what it was like for the young cast to star opposite Banks. Check it all out here below.
There are obvious similarities to look back on considering that Power Rangers is based on the first iteration. The characters, zords, and colors are very much the same. However, this new film was also an opportunity for the cast and crew to address new themes and current issues. Darce Montgomery, who plays Jason, credits director Dean Isrealite and Lionsgate for letting them put their own spin on the film. “We’re pretty lucky to have our own opportunity to put our own spice onto the roles,” said Montgomery.
For Becky G, who plays Trini, and Naomi Scott, who plays Kimberly Hart, they did not look back at the original, so that so as to not affect their performances. “I made the conscious decision not to revisit those things just because I wanted to take that impression that it first made on me, and how it inspired and stuck with me, and build off of that,” said Becky G. “Although these names may sound familiar, you are meeting them for the very first time. It’s taking place in 2017, with relevant and current issues to now, which is what a lot of kids can identify with and some how relate to.”
Scott agreed, as she “just wanted to start fresh.”
But Ludi Lin, who plays Zach, was clearly a fan of the show and knew some of the differences between the Japanese version and the American version. “For the TV series, I found that people had a lot of time to grow to love these characters through each episode,” said Lin. “But within this movie, you really have to dig deep to make them fall in love and relate to the characters, in this movie.” The actor did have a different approach to viewing the show. Instead of looking back at a few episodes of the American version, he looked at the Japanese one. He cited one difference where the Yellow Ranger in the Japanese show was actually a man, as opposed to a woman in the American one. He says that is what gave him the motivation to put a new spin on the characters.
On that note, the actors also addressed how some of these characters are not like their original counterparts. For instance, RJ Cyler plays Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger, a character that is on the spectrum. Not only did it challenge the actor to learn something he had no idea about, but it also rekindled a friendship he had. “I called my friend, Andre, to get insight,” said Cyler. “Andre is on the spectrum, but he’s one of the most brilliant minds that I’ve ever come into contact with.” For him, having a character like that in a movie of this size gives an opportunity for the audience to empathize with and help them have a better understanding of the situation. “Just to be able to show how the world reacts to people that are on the spectrum, and also how people on the spectrum react to the world,” said Cyler.
Trini is going through some difficult times as well. In the film, she feels like an outsider to her parents, who are desperately trying to understand her. So the actress wanted to be sure that she is aware of the message that she is taking on. “I feel like this movie is so diverse,” said G. “But more importantly, it’s going to have a positive impact on audience members who are still trying to figure out their identity. 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,'” said G. As far as her character goes, G says the identity issues are a reflection of what is happening now. “We deal with self-identity issues and cyber-bullying,” said G. “Billy being on the spectrum has a special place in my heart.” The actress said that her brother 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 identify himself in that character, it’s all we can ask for as people to share a positive message like that. We need that more now for sure.”
As for the overall message of Power Rangers, Lin said it was important to know that “it’s okay to be yourself.” He added, “Your imperfections are the things that make you unique and the things that make you stand out. As long as you find people around you that are good, that accept you for your imperfections and accepts you for yourself, you can get together and do something better.”
Power Rangers hits theaters on March 24, 2017.