Peter Sudarso is living the best life a geek could hope for. A long time fan of Power Rangers, he tried out for the series three times until he landed the role of the Blue Ninja Steel Ranger, Preston. While filming has wrapped viewers are only now seeing the second half of his filming in Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel.
We sat down with Sudarso to discuss his experiences on set, his first time morphing, other properties he loves to geek out over, and what to expect as Super Ninja Steel goes on.
We’re about halfway through Ninja Steel overall. Talk about your experiences on the show as a whole.
Ninja Steel was a great experience. At the end of the day I got to be a Power Ranger. That was my first experience being a Power Ranger. It was a lot of fun. And very rewarding. It was also my very first long-term acting gig.
A lot of times I got really, really tired. It was a very hard experience. I was working nearly fourteen hours a day. Working five to six days a week with one day to memorize scripts. It was very difficult. At the end of the day, I came back with a lot of more skills than I have in the past.
There are some things that I wish would have paid off a bit more, in terms of the story line. I remember seeing the scripts coming out at the start and I was like, “Whoa, these are really, really dope. This would be really cool if this happened.” And then they just kind of never really did. But, besides that, I really enjoy Preston. Preston’s a fun character to play.
How did you play Preston? What’s your headspace while playing him?
Preston was, to me, a very standard, exuberant, nerdy kid. He was what I was when I was a kid. He was just this kid who was pure passion. Everything that he did was just about excitement. It was just about being excited about being nerdy. Excited about magic. The reason why he’s so into magic is because it mystifies him.
As a kid, you’re into everything that mystifies you so, dragons, magic, Power Rangers, monsters, all of it, he was like, “Whoa,” But also he’s kind of scared of the world because he’s a nerd. I think that’s kind of the vein I tried to play him in. I also made him a bit more effeminate, because I’m effeminate. I just wanted the kids to see that you can be an effeminate ranger and still be cool.
Was there anything that was scripted that didn’t end up on screen?
Most of that is interactions we (the actors) did in the background. I wanted to make it that Preston was really close with Calvin. A lot of the moments in the background him and Calvin are very affectionate with each other. They’re both just really close friends. Me and Chrysti wanted to make it a thing that Sarah was into Preston but Preston was just too naive to see it. So we put that in the background but a lot of it got cut out so we didn’t really get to see too much of it.
I’ve noticed in the background sometimes you’re doing little poses from the Japanese series Ninninger. That’s all you, right?
That’s all me, yeah. They just let us do whatever we want in the background. I wanted to put in little things from the Japanese stuff that I’ve watched because Preston would be into that stuff.
Of the episodes that have aired, which would you say is your favorite?
It’s very narcissistic of me to say but the epsiode where I got to talk with my dad. (The Ranger Ribbon) As an actor I got to flex my acting chops. I got to be emotional on screen. I got to play vulnerable and hurt. It gave Preston a lot of back-story. It made you realize that Preston grew up without a mother.
A lot of his developmental skills, like why he’s so funky and nerdy, is because he wasn’t raised with two parents. He was raised by one who was always busy so he had to deal with things himself. That’s why he’s a little bit weird because he grew up by himself. He literally grew up off of cartoons. So he started acting like a cartoon.
Why, in that episode, does that ribbon just magically fly down out of nowhere?
It’s actually a timed ribbon so… No… There, that… I have no idea.
What was it like to do your very first morph for the show?
I cried. Some of the other people actually made fun of me for this but I don’t even care. I remember being cast and coming out to New Zealand and doing all that stuff, and it was like, I’m an actor, so I’ve been on a set before, so when I got on set, I was like, “This is a job.” It was five weeks until I actually morphed.
My first morph was a flash morph. So I actually got to see myself morph, instead of just being like, “It’s morphin’ time,” and then we leave and that’s it. We had to do freeze, move out of the way, and then the Rangers would step into our position. On the playback they cut us walking off, so all you see is me (doing the morph pose) and then it just cuts to the Ranger suddenly being there.
That’s when it hit me. All of my hard work, all of my passions as a child watching this show for twenty-three years. It was the culmination of all that paying off. I cried not because I’m like, “Oh, I’m a Power Ranger,” but it was a reminder that some things do pay off for the nerds. Sometimes we’re super passionate about something and we get no payoff. It’s what the nerd life is. But this, I was excited about it for so long. I tried out for Power Rangers for freaking three seasons. All of that paid off right there when I got to morph and see myself morph.
So you’ve been watching Power Rangers your whole life. When did you start?
I watched all of it but I was really young when most of it happened. So even In Space, the only thing that I really remember was Andros. Like, Andros and Astronema and Andros killing Zordon. But all of that time was blurry for me because I didn’t speak English. I remember the colors, that’s it. I started being more sentient during the Disney days so that’s what I grew up on. Ninja Storm. Mystic Force. SPD. Even Overdrive. I quite enjoyed Overdrive. There were a lot of things in there that I thought was actually really good.
If you had to pick one favorite season what would it be?
SPD. I like the dynamics. I like that there was growth with the characters. They took one of the more cartoony seasons of Sentai and made it more realistic. It felt like a procedural show, like a cop show with aliens and yet the main heroes are cops who can transform into super cops.
I like the fact that Red Ranger was not accepted right away. I like that Blue Ranger was always checking him for his authority and then eventually accepted that and actually stood in line with what he had to do. The characters were nuanced. Everyone wanted different things. I really liked the story line.
I know you’re a writer so if you could craft your own ideal Power Rangers season what would it be?
I would adapt Zyuohger to Power Rangers and I would make it the premise of Jumanji. These kids get an animal themed video game and then they get sucked into this world of half-human half-animal things and they have to save the world but they also get turned into adults.
That way the adult actors who are playing them have a reason to be childish. They have a reason to have child-conflicts, like, “Oh no, you took my stuff.” Whereas in Power Rangers, even in Ninja Steel, as adults you see it and you’re like, “I don’t know if I would care about that.” Even teenagers wouldn’t quarrel over some of the things that Dino Charge or even Ninja Steel would quarrel over.
What can fans look forward to as Super Ninja Steel goes on?
More character development. A lot of character development. I said it at the beginning, before Ninja Steel even came out, it was one of the most dramatic seasons. The finale will surprise you. It’s quite emotional. It’s probably one of the most emotionally fulfilling episodes. It’s less about just Rangers and more so about human beings, which I like. It’s about the character’s being human beings and not just, “Oh, big bad evil villain monsters, let’s kill it. Yay.” It’s more of a, “Oh no. This big bad monster has affected our lives. What are we gonna do?”
In our previous interview about Power Rangers HyperForce you had mentioned “I’ve always wanted to work with all these past Rangers.” Does that mean we’re not seeing past Rangers this season?
Well, I don’t want to get your hopes up but I can’t really say much. That’s all I can say.
What are some things you geek out about that aren’t Power Rangers?
I geek out a lot about DC Comics. Anything DC Comics related. As of late, Marvel, too, because Marvel makes amazing movies.
What are your favorite characters, under both?
For DC Comics, Booster Gold. Batman Beyond. Supernova is cool. Static Shock. From Marvel, I really like Amadeus Cho. New Superman from DC is really cool too. Marvel I don’t really know that much. I’m not gonna lie. I’m a DC fuckboy. When it comes down to it, I’m such a DC fuckboy.
I’m also a huge fan of Digimon. Davis is my favorite character. Davis and Veemon. Avatar. I have a tattoo of the Fire Nation on my finger. Just to remind myself, be careful before you point your fingers. I like Avatar and Legend of Korra a lot. Voltron. Trollhunters. So many things. At the end of the day that’s the beautiful part about being a geek. You get to be part of different fandoms.
What is it like for you, being somebody who’s a geek and now is getting to live that geeky life? Whether it’s being a Power Ranger or doing Power Rangers HyperForce, what is it like to basically take your fandom and then make it a career?
I’m lucky. I’m probably one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to do that. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank god that I get to be in this position. I have nothing to say besides I’m lucky and thank you everyone who put me in this position.
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter!