There’s been a lot of excited talk about the veteran actors cast in the upcoming Power Rangersfilm, and for good reason. Both Bryan Cranston (who will be playing Zordon) and Elizabeth Banks (who will be playing Rita Repulsa) are major draws — both critically and commerically — for this budding Lionsgate franchise.
However, when it comes down to it, this movie will rise or fall based in large part on the young cast who play the Power Rangers themselves. We got a chance to sit down with a few of the Power Rangers’cast members last week at San Diego Comic Con and were wildly impressed with the young cast’s maturity and enthusiasm for the project. Here’s everything we learned about the project that could launch the next big young adult franchise…
Meet the Power Rangers.
One of the highlights of our Comic Con was getting to speak with the charismatic cast of the Power Rangersreboot: RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Naomi Scott (Terra Nova), and Ludi Lin (Marco Polo) who play Billy, Kimberly, and Zack, respectively.
Though they all hail from very different backgrounds, the group shared a love for this project, an affection for one another, and a respect for their director, Project Almanac‘sDean Israelite. Whatever happens with the Power Rangers reboot, these young actors are ones to watch…
Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger)
Naomi Scott will play Kimberly, aka the Pink Ranger. In this incarnation, Kimberly has the label of “The Queen Bee,” Scott explained to us — but she is much more than that. As Scott said:
Kimberly, at the beginning of this movie, comes across as The Queen Bee of Angel Grove. Yes, The Popular Girl. However, is that who she is? Not really. You get to see the geeky side of her. You get to see that she when she does something mean, [it] doesn’t necessarily mean that she is mean, right?
Because, when you are a 17-year-old, you are figuring out who you are. That’s the whole point. So, for me, as a female as well, I’m not just The Popular Girl. No, I’m just a 17-year-old girl, and and she’s strong, she’s sassy, and she’s funny. And all of us are smart in our own ways. That was really important, I think, for each character.
Ludi Lin as Zack (Black Ranger)
Ludi Lin will play Zack, aka the Black Ranger. Speaking about his character, Lin said:
The [film’s] message is about togetherness and how that completes each other’s weaknesses, you know complimentary characteristics. For example, Zack the Black. He’s wild, but, for me, the black means depth and the sensitivity that’s hiding underneath the wildness and adventure on top.
But he’s not able to let that out because there are so many things that are blocking it right on the surface, so many challenges that he’s facing that he can’t handle alone until he meets the friends that he has some safety [with], a place that he belongs. He only finds that through other friends that he meets and once they get together.
Speaking more generally about the characterization of this iconic characters in the reboot, Lin highlighted that these characters might be different from the ones you remember, saying:
We literally all blew up the stereotype of what each color should be. So people are looking forward to Jason being this hard jock who has nothing but testosterone — that’s all that Jason has to offer — when it’s really is Jason is this deeper person who has other things [going on].
RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger)
RJ Cyler is the reboot’s Billy, aka the Blue Ranger. Cyler said of his character:
Billy is very to himself and he’s quiet and he’s very evasive. He doesn’t like confrontation. But then, under that, he wants to be around other people, but he’s very shy. He has a lot of things that he thinks about, like over-thinks.
Speaking more generally about the casting and character development process, Cyler said:
It was almost like running into my childhood because I was just getting more and more childish as this conversation went on, and then [Dean and I] were talking about Billy … and I had so many ideas about Billy because, when we were young, and we played Power Rangers as Halloween characters or whatever, we played our rendition of what those characters are, right?
For the cast of Power Rangers,their characters seem very much inspired by their own personalities and the unique characteristics they can bring to the film.
An emphasis on “coming-of-age.”
“Coming-of-age” was the real watchword in this press room, with multiple cast members using the adjective to describe the film. This thematic emphasis obviously comes from director Dean Israelite himself who had a very clear vision going into Power Rangers, one he shared with his leads during the casting process and one that they obviously understand very well now that they have fully inhabited their characters.
Scott spoke about how Israelite’s character-based vision of the film was “a big part of my trust in him,” comparing the relationship-centered story to Israelite’s previous film, Project Almanac.Scott said:
Again, it’s about these kids. It’s about their relationships. And it has to feel real. Even down to the hand-held aesthetic of what it looks like, it’s as if you’re following them around. It’s very scrappy, you know. Same way in [Project Almanac] where they kind of banter and they kind of bounce off each other.
That’s where I was like, ‘Oh, he knows how to bring that out.’ And that’s exactly what he did with us. So, that’s his priority. His priority was us bringing out the friendship and the reality of that.
Project Almanac was a found footage film, but a sci-fi found footage film, you know? It’s clearly something that’s not going to happen in real life, but he made it seem real — and that’s the look he’s going for with Power Rangers. He has a very specific vision in mind, and we believe in it, too.
What it means to be part of a diverse franchise.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Power Rangersreboot film is the conscious decision it seems to be making to have a diverse cast — in other words, to have the film’s heroes represent what the world really looks like. In a sea of superhero blockbusters so often populated by white men saving the world, it is a refreshing, much-needed choice.
As the cast explained, even though their was a commitment to casting in a diverse way, there were no specific ethnicities attached to character. In speaking about the diversity in the film to People back in March, Israelite said:
From the very beginning, diversity was a very important part of the whole process. We switched all of the races around, but we made sure that the essence of each of those characters are who they were in the original show, and this really will be an origin story of those characters.
Speaking, personally, about what the diversity of the film’s superhero cast means to them, Cyler said:
It’s really cool. I feel like Power Rangers as just a franchise and as a message in itself is taking down the barrier of putting a certain look to a certain thing, right? Even for the audition, when we got the breakdown for the characters, there was no ethnicity column. They just wanted to see actors, you know? And some people will make it a thing, like they made Ludi Zack because it’s a poltical reason or they’re trying to be politically correct. I’m like, ‘No, how bout Ludi’s a great actor who knows what he’s doing?’ We all have these things that we bring to these characters.
Scott originally auditioned for the role of Trini, pointing out that the fact she was later cast as Kimberly goes to show “they were looking for characteristics, rather than ethnicity,” adding:
I think it was a conscious decision to be diverse. However, where you disperse that diversity was not necessarily [a conscious decision]. Which I think, personally, is the best way, because it’s important, as you said, to showcase, to represent. However, it wasn’t specific to the character. It was just about the character, which I personally think was the best way to go about it.
I love the diversity because, for me personally, I was born in China. I am Chinese. I speak fluent Mandarin. And I go, ‘Man, it’s about time a Chinese person could step up to a Hollywood screen, and international screen, and help save the world. It’s a positive message for all because I think this world is not going to be saved by a single nation or a single person. The message is: we need to come together to create something lasting and positive.
Power Rangers will be released in the United States on March 24, 2017.