Interview: Cast and Crew Give Us the Scoop on ‘Power Rangers’
Get ready for the new and improved Power Rangers!
In the little seaside town of Angel Grove an ancient evil has awoken. It’s an evil that has the potential to destroy not only the town, but the planet itself. With disaster imminent, fate must step in to bring together five very different teens – teens who will have to form an unbreakable bond and overcome some real issues – to become the next generation of Power Rangers and save the day.
The Rangers, along with friendly guide Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), nemesis Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), director Dean Israelite, and writer John Gatins sat down to talk about what happens when The Breakfast Club meets Transformers.
On the balance between honoring the old show and telling a new story:
Dean Israelite: I grew up with the show. It was my childhood too. That made me feel like I had a true north all the time in terms of what I would want to see in a reboot of it. I got this question a lot: Were we nervous? Honestly I don’t think we let that factor in. We were excited to be bold in how we were going to reimagine and reinvent it, and I felt that if we kept the spirit of what the original show was in terms of the feeling, in terms of the kind of warmth and joy and heart that I think epitomizes the original show, if we were true to that, then I thought we would have a lot of latitude. So, we were just excited about the reimaging and hoped that if we did all that properly and stayed true, that the diehard fans are still going to appreciate it.
John Gatins: All that I would add to that is that we wanted to honor the original series but also try to put it in a world that the audience could kind of recognize themselves in as well.
On adding references and Easter eggs in the film:
Israelite: It was all about conceptually ‘does it fit in the movie?’ So if there was a reason for it, and a philosophy behind it, and it was germane to the movie, for all those fans that would get those references it would mean a lot and for everyone else it still feels organic and won’t knock you out of the movie. So that was our approach.
Gatins: We definitely wanted to honor all the things that the fans loved for so many years. Like Dean said, there’s Easter eggs in there, but there will be a younger set that may not get those, but they will be invited back into it.
On actors re-watching the show for inspiration or just letting the script speak to them:
Dacre Montgomery (Red Ranger): I just want to say thank you to Dean and the studio. 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’s pretty fortunate and we’re pretty lucky to have had that opportunity to put our own little spice into the roles.
Becky G (Yellow Ranger): Me and Na [Naomi Scott] talked about it a lot, that we kind of made a conscious decision to not revisit those things because I wanted to take that impression that it first made on me and how it inspired me and stuck with me and then build off of that.
Naomi Scott (Pink Ranger): Yeah for me, I wanted to kind of start afresh.
Ludi Lin (Black Ranger): I didn’t go back to the original American series but I did go back to watch a few episodes of the Super Sentai series from the Japanese TV show and the characters inspired me to think about how different things could be, because in that show the yellow ranger—
G: The yellow ranger was a guy!
Lin: Was a guy, right. So it gave me a lot of motivation to actually put my own creativity into this character.
Elizabeth Banks on how costume played a role in getting into character:
Banks: I wear prosthetics in this film, which I’ve never done before…and may never do again. [laughs] You know, I like to sleep in the makeup chair because I’m there for four hours. And when I wake up and look in the mirror, there is a totally different person sitting there! I don’t feel like the character until I’m walking in their boots, until I’m carrying the staff. It changes your body language and how you’re perceived in the world and everything. [jokes] It also made my ass look really good.
Lin: I can attest to that actually.
Banks: Thank you!
Lin: What I meant to say was the first time I met Elizabeth she was in costume, great ass and all, and she said it affects her performance but it definitely affects our performance as well.
Bill Hader on playing a CGI character:
Hader: I’m being totally honest here, I watched these guys acting and it’s just like we were in a scene together. I was just reacting to what they were doing, and they were REALLY good. I kept saying that to Dean. There’s probably tons of audio of me in the middle of things going ‘Ah, that was good,’ ‘Oh, that was great!’
Israelite: I thought you were talking about your performance.
Hader: [laughs] Yeah, I am fantastic! No, but they were really good. I’ve done a lot of animation, and it’s hard when you’re in a little room and they’re going ‘Ok, it’s a spaceship,’ but being with these guys made it really easy.
On the diversity of the Rangers:
RJ Cyler (Blue Ranger): It was exciting to be able to play a character that was on the spectrum. It challenged me to learn about something that I had no idea about. Also, it rekindled a friendship from my high school years because I called my friend Andre to get some insight. Andre is on the spectrum but he’s one of the most brilliant minds that I’ve ever came into contact with. It was really cool to step into that world.
G: I feel like this movie is so diverse in so many ways. We deal with self-identity issues, cyber bullying, Billy being on the spectrum…and that actually has a special place in my heart too because my little brother Alex was diagnosed with autism at a very young age. To know that he’s going to watch this movie and be like ‘That’s me!’ and he can identify himself in that character…that’s all we can ask for, to share a positive message like that right now. It’s truly an honor to be a part of all of this.
On how the female leads avoided making their characters clichés:
Scott: My responsibility was to do the character justice. When I got the script I thought who’s Kimberly and what’s she going through? She’s not perfect, she does something she regrets, but it’s how she learns from that mistake. These aren’t perfect characters and they’re all going through things. We’re not all one stereotype; we have layers going on.
G: Building Trini had a lot to do with seeing how Na was building Kimberly. I think we always talked about the ‘sisterhood’ and how do we make that real and not like we’re pitted against each other. Because I think two women can be successful and it doesn’t have to be one is better than the other or one is prettier than the other or one is cooler than the other. I love the contrast between our characters and then how they come together. Total outsider and queen bee!
On criticism of Rita Repulsa ahead of the movie’s release:
Banks: Oh, I didn’t read any of that. What was it? What did they say? She is ugly and old and—
G: I’d like to say this is the sexiest we’ve ever seen Rita Repulsa!
Cyler: Yeah it was like ‘AH! Rita Repulsa!’ [raises eyebrow flirtatiously] ‘Ohhhhh.’
G: Yeah like ‘Lowkey, can I get your numba?’
Banks: [laughs] This script was pretty different. We conceived the character in a really modern way. She was so campy in the past. I loved the Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, etc. because she’s so larger than life and insane and has this crazy laugh. I wanted to preserve some of that energy in the character but also deal with what was on the page in front of me. I thought it was really important that these guys [gestures to Rangers] felt like they were up against real stakes and that she really was threatening and didn’t give a flying crap about them, the earth, cars, their parents – none of this makes any sense to her! She’s an alien! She’s 65 million years old!
Hader: I have to give Elizabeth huge props here. She learned that [alien] language. She could fully speak that language. I had to do it phonetically and I could NOT do it, and the whole time Dean was like [imitating Dean] ‘Elizabeth learned it.’
Banks: I skyped with a woman whose entire job was to create that fake language.
Israelite: Bill didn’t skype with her.
Banks: I only did it because I was told – and this might not be true – that Bryan Cranston learned the language.
Hader: No, he did it phonetically and it did not sound the way you did it! That was awesome!
On stunts, fight choreography, and underwater scenes:
Cyler: I trained at 87eleven [Action Design gym] which also Becky trained at. It was mostly physical training and also stunt training which consists of being able to respect distances and knowing that your partner in the scene is your partner and both of your guys’ safety is important. Keep everybody safe and don’t break noses! Then we got to Vancouver and we trained on choreography.
Scott: It wasn’t purely an aesthetic thing. At the end of the day we’re playing teenagers in school. I mean not every teenager looks like Ludi Lin…
Lin: [quips] That’s because Ludi Lin is not a teenager.
Scott: But, I think that was really important, especially for us as girls, we wanted to look like normal girls.
G: We wanted to look real.
Montgomery: [jokes] Well I wanted to look as ripped as possible! But I didn’t come from sports or a physically fit background. Spending two and a half months in training in the lead up to shooting was amazing, and I learned so much about my body, my flexibility, and my diet.
G: I grew up in Inglewood so the concept of fighting was very natural! [laughs] But like RJ said, this person isn’t your opponent; they’re your partner. To learn to fight for camera and stacking and safety zones and safety boxes, and announcing ‘Okay, I’m getting on the wires now and I’m heading up!’ – all that was very new for a lot of us. But it was so much fun more than anything!
Lin: For myself, training is not hard to do—
Lin: I can do it for half an hour if I have it, or I can do it for six hours and it’s good to me. I learned that sometimes I over-play and over-train though. I believe the first day on set when we did the camera test they had a problem with my ‘man arms’ so obviously I over-played those too much—
Hader: Yeah, I had that problem a lot.
Banks: [jokes] Yeah, when you think Bill Hader, it’s ‘man arms.’ If he has six hours, he’s training those six hours!
On best and worst school memories:
Scott: I kind of enjoyed school. I did have a little moment when – I think everyone has been in this moment – you know when that one friend isn’t at school that day, so you don’t really have anyone to hang around with? So you like walk around at lunchtime like purposefully, but you have nowhere to go because you have no one to hang out with? You have to look like you’re going somewhere! But I was in drama club and music and I was friends with everyone, so yeah I had a few of those moments, but other than that it was pretty good.
Montgomery: My experience was pretty different. I didn’t have many friends and I was pretty overweight. I guess when you first meet Jason at the beginning of the film you’re like ‘This is the stereotypical jock’ but I think that’s what’s so lovely about it because it doesn’t evolve that way. I hope I was able to mold my own experience and give you more, to make him more multifaceted and multidimensional and fun to watch so that people fall in love with him.
G: My school experience wasn’t always the best. I actually always changed schools and I was always the new girl. That’s something I talked about with Dean because a lot of people maybe expected me to play a Kimberly Heart girly girl because I am in real life really a girly girl but on a soul level, as far as knowing what it’s like to be alone, I connected to Trini.
Lin: High school for me, like for a lot of people, was bittersweet. The first thing that came to my mind is not deep or profound at all. I finally got up the courage to ask this girl I had a crush on for the longest time – so Jessica if you’re out there, this one’s for you! – and all my friends were gearing me up to ask her out. I planned this whole thing. I bought movie tickets. I was going to buy a rose, but then I thought ‘I have to hold this rose for the entire movie!’, so I got a fake rose with these cool plastic water droplets—
G: I remember those!
Lin: I thought it was a good idea. And later we’re at her house at a party but she wasn’t really talking to me, and so I went up to the roof to be that lonely philosophical guy – in high school you think that’s attractive – and she actually came up! It worked! I played the sympathy angle. I go ‘I think you’re purdy. I really like you.’ I gave her the rose and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. So for all you kids out there, for a five-dollar fake rose, you can get a kiss on the cheek! And I was the happiest kid walking home that day. But then I don’t hear from her for another week…
Hader: Oh no! It’s turned! It’s turned!
Lin: Yeah, so the bitter part is the next time I see her is when I went over to my best friend’s house very early in the morning.
Hader: [in a mock talk show host voice] Well, Jessica is here!
On the overall message the Rangers want to send to kids with the movie:
Lin: I do hope kids go and see this movie and they feel what I felt when I watched superheroes on screen as a kid and that through this movie they get something more. The most important message I want them to get is that it is okay to be yourself. Your imperfections are the things that make you unique and make you stand out and as long as you have people around you who are good and accept your imperfections and accept you for yourself, you guys can get together and do something better!
Saban’s Power Rangers opens in theatres March 24th.
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