The current season of Power Rangers isn’t done yet but fans are already looking to the future more so than usual. Why is that? It’s the 28th season of Power Rangers so it’s not an anniversary. The theme of the season is dinosaurs, which is a nice connection to the past, but not one that builds this much anticipation from hardcore fans.
The excitement actually comes from behind the scenes. Dino Fury has a new executive producer, Simon Bennett. Joining long time producer Chip Lynn, fans are eager to see what Bennett will bring to the table and how he may or may not change the formula of the long running franchise. Not only that but Bennett is shepherding the show as news of a new live-action movie, “non-kid” TV show, and animation are on the horizon. Will Dino Fury be a part of this new rebooted Power Rangers universe?
Bennett sat down with us over Zoom to discuss this, the unique casting process of the season amid COVID-19, gender flipping one of the Rangers from the Sentai, and much more!
DEN OF GEEK: You’ve been directing on the show for four years and now you’re an executive producer. How have you taken the lessons you learned as a director on the show and applied them to your new role as the executive producer?
SIMON BENNETT: I think having directed four seasons means that I understand how the jigsaw puzzle that is Power Rangers works. When I first came on board as a director, it was mindbogglingly difficult.
All the component pieces, how it all fits together, Japanese footage, second unit, main unit, stunts, action, who does what. Any one scene might be broken into three or four parts to different people who manage different aspects of their scene. Working out how they all fit together and communicating with all the various people who are responsible for all the various pieces, is a challenge as a director.
What I’m doing now as showrunner, it’s the same challenge, but writ large, because my purview also encompasses writing the stories, and at the other end of the shoot, post production, visual effects, music, all those elements. I’ve done this before on other shows and I really enjoy having that creative overview.
With Power Rangers, it is so complex and big, the machine, that it’s never dull. I’m constantly occupied from the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep I’ve got questions coming at me about this bit of that episode, or that bit of this episode. I’m rushing into visual effects to approve a shot, or into writing to solve a question, or talking to the directors, or I’m on set helping out maybe with a performance scene that second unit find themselves directing.
So I’ve done a bit of directing on Dino Fury as well, which keeps my hand in. It’s incredibly busy and a lot of fun because at the heart of Power Rangers there’s a kind of joy, because the material is light, it’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s exciting. It brings out the inner kid in everyone working on it. Which is one of the things that makes it a pleasure to work on.
Are there any new focuses behind the scenes to keep all things, as you said in our last interview, consistent behind the scenes?
I can’t go into details, but I can say that a lot of thought has gone into the new season, and it is certainly a development that I think will excite and intrigue and hopefully delight the fans when they see it.
Many of the cast members of Dino Fury have significant social media followings. Was that intentional as part of the casting process or just a happy coincidence?
I think it’s a happy coincidence. We cast the people who have the skills necessary for the roles. We didn’t cast people because of their social media following. So I think that is a happy coincidence.
We’re well into the shoot now. We’re about to break for Christmas in a couple of weeks time. And I have seen, I think it’s safe to say, I have seen eight completed episodes, and I’m very, very excited with how it’s going. I think the cast is fantastic.
The decision was made to gender swap one of the Rangers from the Sentai, which hasn’t been done since the early 2000s. Were you a part of that decision or do you know why it happened finally?
I was part of that decision, and it was really about diversity. It was really about wanting the cast of the show to represent a little bit more of a balanced representation of people than Sentai delivered us. They had five men and one woman in Sentai, Ryusoulger, which we’ve adapted. We really wanted there to be at least one more female character. We’ve been very careful with all the guest characters as well, to ensure that there is a gender balance within the cast.
What was the casting process like amid all of the COVID restrictions? You were casting people over webcams and such. What were the challenges there?
It was tricky. It took longer than it would have taken normally. In an ideal world, I would have gone to the States for the final round of auditions. You start with maybe 4,000 people and then you narrow that down to maybe 30, and those final 30 we’ll get intensive auditions with the executive producers.
That would ideally be in person, but we couldn’t do it in person because of COVID. I know that Chip Lynn went back to the States, and he met at four-meter distance, in a tent, with open sides, in a park, the final candidates to have a meet and greet, and see what kind of people they were. But that wasn’t any type of audition because we actually weren’t able to do (traditional) auditions. The final auditions for the American cast were done by Zoom, basically.
They would play the scene, often they were at home, and often it was their mom or roommate who was reading the offlines. So the caliber of the audition was variable, trying to get them to set up their phone in a way that presented them in the most favorable light was a challenge.
And so they would play the scene and then I would give them some notes to see how flexible they were as actors. And they’d do it again. And we went through maybe three stages of this process with the final 30 odd actors. We would try them out on a new scene (as well.)
Finally, we narrowed it down to the people that we wanted. I was also running auditions in Australia and New Zealand. And Australia, because it looked in the early stages of COVID as if there was going to be some trans-Tasman bubble, so there would be free travel between Australia and New Zealand.
That turned out not to be the case, so we haven’t cast anyone in Australia. But we ran auditions in New Zealand, and because we’re very lucky here in that COVID is under control, basically our borders are closed. And the only cases that exist are people who are coming into the country, returning New Zealanders go in quarantine.
There’s no community transmission. So it’s strange, but we’re able to operate pretty much business as usual here. So I was able to do in-person auditions in New Zealand, which were very successful. We cast our secondary characters and our guest characters that way.
Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner stated in a recent interview that Jonathan Entwistle, who’s directing the new Power Rangers movie and overseeing the new shared universe, is handling “the kids-oriented TV show that’s in its 27th season.” Have you and Entwistle had any contact with each other?
No. I know as much as you do, because I read about it online as well. It’s completely news to me. I’ve had no contact with Mr. Entwistle.
So right now you’re just making your PR season, there’s no a “you’ve got to think about this movie. You’ve got to think about this animated show.” There’s none of that right now?
No, none of it. We’ve pretty much finished writing the entire season of Dino Fury, and we’re well underway with shooting, and we have interfaced with various executives within Hasbro and eOne and it’s going very smoothly. There’s been no external pressure on the show to make it something other than what it has always been going to be. If that makes sense. But things are going very smoothly.
What’s it like working with the cast? A lot of them have come from America, where we’ve very much had to be dealing with COVID. Now they’re able to live life normally in New Zealand.
Well, they don’t have a lot of time to live normally when they’re here, because they’re usually picked up at about five in the morning and driven to makeup, and on set. They have very long days because the actors playing the Power Rangers, when they’re not on main unit, they’re on second unit. So they will be working from 5:30 (in the morning) until 6:30 at night. Long days.
Then they’ve got to look at learning lines and material for the next day. And their weekends, I think they’re out and about exploring Auckland and enjoying the summer. I mean, what I would say about the cast is that they’ve got a huge amount of excitement, and enthusiasm to their work and maybe the anticipation in the States after they found they were cast and having to keep the secret. Then the two weeks quarantine that they had to go through when they arrived in New Zealand serves to heighten that anticipation, but they certainly haven’t lost the enthusiasm since they started shooting.
I’m aware that in previous seasons, the cast have been able to go home over the Christmas break and spend things like Christmas with their family. And we can’t do that because of COVID, and quarantine, and those kinds of issues.
So I think the cast during our Christmas hiatus, will be traveling around New Zealand and exploring the country and just enjoying the summer. We’re doing what we can to give them a Thanksgiving dinner, or a Christmas dinner, to give them a sense of family as much as we can. But they all get on very well with each other. I’ve heard no complaints, and they seem to be relishing being Power Rangers.
You had mentioned in our last interview that the start of production had to be delayed a little bit because of COVID. Has there been an attempt to catch up to where you would be, or is it just, “Okay, we’re just shooting it as we normally would.”?
Production can’t go any faster than it does because it is a fast show anyway, so that two months delay in starting shooting will have a ripple effect right through production. Post has been squeezed a little bit. We’re trying to actually complete the episodes a little earlier than we would if the two month delay had to trickle down through into the post production period. But beyond that, I can’t say much more because it’s commercially sensitive.
Can you comment on whether there’s going to be more than 20 or so episodes of Dino Fury?
No, I can’t. Because again, that hasn’t been announced, and it is commercially sensitive information.
Is there anything else you want to tell the Power Ranger fans that’ll be reading this?
Expect lots of surprises with Dino Fury and keep the faith.
Power Rangers Dino Fury will debut next year and Power Rangers Beast Morphers will wrap up its final season this Saturday.
Stay tuned for the second part of this interview coming soon where Bennett discusses directing the final episodes of Beast Morphers, including all those returning elements from previous seasons!