In the canon of geek children’s culture, Power Rangers sits somewhere between the decline of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the arrival of the Pokemon as the global phenomenon that drove parents crazy and kids crazier. When the series debuted in 1993, the Power Rangers quickly became huge and, like all sufficiently popular youth phenomena, were the subject of everything from Christmas toy rushes to media-manufactured moral outrage.
But unlike the other franchises we mentioned, the stars of Power Rangers weren’t animated, and that means their lives, careers and association with the property couldn’t last forever. The series continues to run with the latest version – Power Rangers Dino Charge – marking the 22nd instalment.
So while Power Rangers never really went away, the announcement of a movie reboot of the series pushed a few nostalgia buttons. If, like us, you stopped watching Power Rangers a few years into its original run, here’s what happened to the characters you knew and briefly loved – as well as the actors who played them.
Austin St. John: Red Ranger / Jason Lee Scott
A martial artist since he was five years old, Austin St. John’s first acting role was as the Red Ranger – the team’s de facto leader – in 1993’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. The success of Power Rangers was beyond all reasonable prediction, however, and in a theme that’ll recur several times within this article, St. John was one of the three original cast members who departed in Season Two due to contractual and payment disputes.
In-show, the character was bundled off (along with his two co-stars) to be Angel Grove’s representative in an international “Peace Conference.” Before he left he transferred his powers to Rocky DeSantos, who became the second Red Ranger. Jason returned to the show a few times thereafter, initially as the Gold Zeo Ranger and later as a guest star in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. He also reprised his role as the original Red Ranger in the franchise-crossover tenth anniversary episode, Forever Red.
With only one acting credit outside of the Power Rangers franchise, St. John’s acting career never quite took off, though he is due to return to the screen in a post-apocalyptic action thriller called Survival’s End.
David Yost: Blue Ranger / Billy Cranston
As the original Blue Ranger, Yost was the only cast member to appear in every episode of the original three-series run and though he eventually surrendered his Ranger powers, Billy remained on the show as an unpowered technical advisor to the Rangers during the fourth season, Power Rangers Zeo. His character left Earth to remain with his love-interest, Cestria, on the planet Aquitar and was never seen out of costume again, although the original Mighty Morphin’ Rangers did appear in the season finale of Power Rangers Super Megaforce, and since he was the only Blue Ranger in that series it’s assumed that this was Billy.
Like many of his co-stars, when Yost left the franchise it was under something of a cloud. His final episode used stock footage and a dubbed stand-in to cover Yost’s non-participation, and in 2010 Yost revealed that he had left due to homophobic harassment from the crew which had driven him to thoughts of suicide, and led him to attempt conversion therapy thereafter – though he has since accepted his sexuality.
While Yost continues to occasionally work as an actor in TV and film, he also worked as a licensing manager for Geneon Universal Entertainment and as a producer on shows such as The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills and Temptation Island.
Walter Emanuel Jones: Black Ranger / Zack Taylor
Jones’ career began with a pair of cameos in White Men Can’t Jump and Malcolm X, but it was as the first Black Ranger that the actor, dancer and martial artist found fame. Although he was among the cast members who left mid-way through season 2 (again, the cover story of his character “attending a peace conference” apparently covered up contractual and payment disputes) Jones was one of the first former rangers to return to the franchise in another role, and he provided voice work in episodes of Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and Power Rangers Wild Force.
Although most of the original cast had only intermittent acting work after their time on the show ended, Jones had more success. He had a regular spot in 1996 teen soap Malibu Shores, and later in kid’s sci-fi favourite Space Cases. Roles of particular interest to Den of Geek readers might include an episode of Buffy (Fear Itself, playing Edward) and voice work for Red Dead Redemption. He continues to work in acting.
Thuy Trang: Yellow Ranger / Trini Kwan
If you know the fate of any of the original Power Rangers, it’s probably Thuy Trang, who was sadly involved in a fatal car crash in September 2001. The episode Circuit Unsure of Power Rangers Time Force was dedicated to her memory.
Her character, Trini, was the third and final member of the cast to be shuffled off to the “peace conference” during the show’s second season (for the same reasons as the others) and although she made a cameo in an early draft of Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie the material was apparently cut before the movie was filmed.
Power Rangers was Trang’s first acting credit, and after Power Rangers she went on to play the villain Kali in The Crow: City Of Angels, but for whatever reason she received no acting credits between 1996 and her death in 2001.
Amy Jo Johnson: Pink Ranger / Kimberly Hart
Easily the most prolific actor from the original line-up, Amy Jo Johnson has worked consistently since beginning her career with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. She joined the main cast of Canadian TV show Flashpoint from 2008-2013, and most recently was a recurring character on USA Network’s Covert Affairs. She also funded her directorial debut feature (The Space Between) through Indiegogo after funding two short films the same way.
Johnson has the distinction of being the only original cast member written out of the show at their own request, when she asked to leave during Season 3 so that she could pursue other acting opportunities. After a 10-episode arc which introduced her eventual successor, Kat Hillard, Kimberly left Angel Grove to pursue a career in gymnastics and specifically attend the Pan-Global Games in Florida. Although she was in a relationship with Tommy Oliver when she left, Kimberly sent him a ‘Dear John’ letter ending their relationship. Johnson did reprise her role as Kimberly for a guest spot in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997) but hasn’t returned to the franchise since.
Jason David Frank: Green & White Rangers / Tommy Oliver
Fan-favorite doesn’t begin to cover Jason David Frank’s position in the Power Rangers franchise. Introduced as the evil Green Ranger towards the end of the first Power Rangers season, he later turned good, only to eventually relinquish his powers and then return to the franchise as the White Ranger.
Frank’s popularity means he stayed with the series longer than anyone from the original cast, appearing as the Red Zeo Ranger and the Red Turbo Ranger until his character transferred his powers to a new ranger as Tommy left for college. Although he remained written out of the series for a time, he reprised his role as the Red Zeo Ranger in Forever Red and rejoined the regular cast to play the Black Dino Ranger in Power Rangers: Dino Thunder before retiring to work as a science teacher.
Frank has since made one more appearance in the finale of Power Rangers: Super Megaforce where, in his identity as the Green Ranger, Tommy Oliver united all previous ranger teams into a Legendary Ranger squad to help the Super Megaforce team defeat an alien invasion of Earth.
Outside of Power Rangers, Frank’s own life has been similarly eventful. The bulk of his acting credits are related to the franchise, but he also took time to develop his own style of Karate – Toso Kune Do – and in 2010 fought several Mixed Martial Arts bouts and remains undefeated. In January 2013 he took the Guinness World Record for most pine boards broken in freefall (his record was beaten in May 2013) and most recently, in December 2014, he offered to be the opponent of former WWE wrestler CM Punk in the latter’s UFC debut – although there’s no word on whether it’ll actually happen.
Frank is currently appeared in season 2 of his reality webseries-turned-TV show, My Morphing Life.