Jason David Frank is an American actor and martial artist who is best known for his portrayal of Tommy Oliver in the Power Rangers franchise. He first began the role in 1993 with the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and subsequently transitioned into the follow-up series. When Disney bought the franchise in 2001, they approached Frank to reprise the role of Tommy Oliver in the series Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Since then, he has been competing in MMA tournaments, as well as becoming a regular at comic book conventions. Frank is set to reprise his role of Oliver in the new series Power Rangers Super Megaforce.
I sat down with Jason at Wizard World Chicago Con and we discussed his career – past, present, and future.
This is like a childhood dream come true for me!
What is it about Wizard World Comic Con that makes it so special for you?
Man, I’m signed on for Wizard World exclusively next year. Wizard World owns a network with Cinedigm called ConTV and they bought my show, My Morphin’ Life, for Season 2. But beyond all that, it’s run so professionally. I know where I’m going, the fans know where I’m going, the photo-ops, everybody here is like family; so it’s hard to sum it up in one question, but I will say this, to me, they’re the best. They have the best people showing up, the best celebrities, everyone loves doing what they’re doing, and at the end of the day, all that matters is the family’s happy.
Compared to San Diego Comic Con?
San Diego is so crazy. I mean, I was there when my agent signed me, but San Diego to me seems more like a commercial-driven events. Like maybe I could get my movie sold, or maybe I could meet this person, but this is a fan-based event. Fans get excited, so I like Wizard World. I’m on tour only with them next them; all 22 shows, I’ll be everywhere, so it’s gonna be exciting.
You’ve been many different Ranger colors over the years (“double reds,” he reminds me), are you just trying to go through the entire color spectrum?
[laughs] Yeah. Y’know, fans have been saying to me, “You need to be on [Power Rangers] Dino Charge, you need to be a new Ranger,” and I tell my fans, “Right now I’m happy with too many Rangers”, but I’ll tell you one thing, we’re working on a Green Ranger web series right now with Saban, and we have made some really huge progress, and I’m hoping to have something announced soon where we’re gonna do the web series with Aaron [Schoenke], the director of Bat in the Sun. We did the Green Ranger vs. Ryu short, which is going to be huge and we did a new web series that we’re going to be working on. I believe in Aaron’s work and I think it’s gonna be great.
Which suit was the most comfortable and which rode on you the most?
It’s funny, a lot of people don’t ask that! They always say, what’s the favorite, but to be honest, the most comfortable suit was the White Ranger, but the one I prefer is the Green because that was the original color, and I’m going back to Super Megaforce on Nickelodeon this year. That episode should air in November, I have a special little clip I’m showing here at the Wizard World show that Saban’s giving me tomorrow; nobody’s seen it so I’m gonna launch it here. I’m excited!
You kind of answered my next question, which was about Super Megaforce. What was that experience like?
Very different, man. Filming it was very unique and strange because when I was doing the show, I was alone, and now I’m on the whole cast and there’s every Ranger around. A hundred of ‘em. So to me it was overwhelming, but to a fan, it must’ve been like, wow. And epic.
Ostensibly, Power Rangers was originally created to appeal to children, however we now see a huge fan base beyond that demographic. Why do you think Power Rangers has endured for so long?
Well it disappeared. When I was on Dino Thunder for Disney, I could not get one interview. Ratings were dropping so I went to Dino Thunder to help Disney and I couldn’t get any interviews, the ratings were just terrible. Finally, when Saban brought it back, the nets went and relaunched again, but the good thing about my character is that I was from the old-school, then I went to Forever Red [the 10th anniversary Power Rangers special] ten years later, then I did Dino Thunder, and then I did Super Mega War, so I’m involved in this 20 year process all the time. I’ve done the most seasons out of anyone and I just think keeping it real and believing in the brand was what I’ve done for 20 years and I’ll continue to believe in it for another 20, but I don’t back up to say, hey I amthe Green Ranger. I don’t care, people say I’m a stereotype, I don’t care, I’m a hero. I’m a hero to thousands of people around the world – millions of people – and I’m there to show them what a true hero’s all about.
When you first started out, you were in martial arts, and then you transitioned into acting. Which do you like better: acting or mixed martial arts?
It was good just to do both, karate and acting. But I’m a martial arts fighter too, and I’ve got semi-professional fights. But I love both. It’s so hard to decide what I would do, karate or acting. Acting’s like, the most important to me, but karate is too. So if I could just blend them together, I could have my dream job, and Power Rangers was my dream job.
They just announced a new rebooted Power Rangers film. What’s your opinion of it and are you involved in any capacity?
I’m sure, man. After that statement Roberto [Orci] did with IGN saying that we exist, Saban told me that I’m on the top of the list for any cameos, any returns, ‘cus I’ve been loyal to them and I’m kind of a brand ambassador. So I’m excited. But if we get this Green Rangers series with Saban and Lionsgate, I’ll be very happy about it.
What made the original TV show so popular was that it had a very lighthearted tone and knew not to take itself too seriously. There’s a trend in Hollywood right now to make grittier, more realistic adaptations, similar in vein to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Man of Steel. They say that they’re going to try to do that with Power Rangers and give an edge to it. Are you a fan of that direction or do you think the movie needs to have that original sensibility that first captured the audience?
I think…look, the Green Ranger series that I’m working on, I wanna touch base with your guys’s audience. And similar to the White Ranger vs. Scorpion video, that’s kind of what I’m looking for my series to be. But I think that reboots are very dangerous, either you’re a hit and a miss, and it’s super, super dangerous. I’m concerned just like Haim Saban, but I know the movie’s in good hands and I know their intentions are gonna be great. But sometimes, movies want to have good intentions, but it just doesn’t work. So the movie of what we’ve done with the original cast, I don’t know, can that magic be created again? I don’t know. Working with all the original guys like Thuy [Trang] and Austin [St. John] and Walter [Jones], we had a magical, magical chemistry. Can it be reduplicated again?
Are there any former Rangers you’d like to see again?
If I could bring five original Rangers back, if I was doing a series, I would love Johnny Bosch. Hands down. To me, Johnny Bosch is a great martial artist. If I picked a girl, I would have to pick Amy Jo [Johnson] ‘cus she’s the girl. And the other two would be super hard to pick. You’ve got originals, you’ve got new people. Jason Faunt [from Power Rangers Time Force] is a good friend of mine, I like his following, his season. It’s so hard to pick five, at least I got three off the list, but the other two, I’d really have to think. I need everybody to be in shape. You need to be able to fit into spandex! That’s first priority! I just hope the reboot’s going to be as good as they intend it to be.
Thanks very much, Jason!
Good talking to you!