While at Comicpalooza here in Houston I had the chance to meet David Yost (Blue Ranger), Walter Jones (Black Ranger), Robert Axelrod (Lord Zedd), Barbara Goodson (Rita Repulsa), and Richard Steven Horvitz (Alpha 5) who were all a part of the original cast of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I showed up to the panel with David and Walter after making sure to get everyone’s autograph at their tables, and was able to ask a few questions.
Me: Could you tell me how you came across the audition?
Walter: Well I got a call from my agent while I was in Florida saying that there was this show looking for someone who could dance, do gymnastics, and throw a few punches. I couldn’t go when he called me the first time, but when I came back my agent called me again saying they still wanted to see me. I think I had 5 interviews in total.
David: I originally auditioned for the role of the Red Ranger. I went for 2 callbacks and I soon realized that I probably wasn’t going to get the part so I asked the casting director if i could audition for the role of Billy instead and he gave me the okay to do it. I had 5 more callbacks after that as well. They eventually split us up into 3 cast A Cast, B Cast, and C Cast. I would say we looked the youngest and were probably the shortest of the 3 cast. I think what made our cast stand out above the rest was that we had some chemistry; we would go hang out at Beef O’ Brady’s before an audition and practice a few lines, “Nothing beats the original cast”.
Me: When did you realize that MMPR was going to be big?
David: Well for me personally was when we went to LA, it was our first appearance in a public place and it was packed. We were scheduled to do just one appearance but after the commotion we caused, we ended up doing 8. The next day in the hotel room we turned on the TV and you would hear the news reporter say that the power rangers closed down the 101 highway in LA.
Walter: I would have to say that was mine as well. When we first walked out we were supposed to do flips and a few punches and kicks but when the announcer said, “and here’s Walter Jones the Black Ranger” I walked out and all you heard was screaming and clapping everywhere and it overwhelmed me for a few seconds i just looked around and forgot what I was supposed to do and then I was like oh yeah i’m supposed to do this. That was the biggest rock star moment of my life.
Me: Did you guys ever go out and buy your toys?
Walter: I regret not going out and buying one of my toys. But I thought to myself I’ll never mess with it and I really didn’t want to stand in line for 6 hours just to get a Power Ranger toy. No really, I should have went to Toys R Us, stood in line, and waited for my Megazord.
Me: With all the weird creatures and monsters you guys have had to fight was there ever a time you looked at the script and was like, really?
David: Yes all the time. Sometimes the monsters did things that I thought were just terrible.
Me: You guys were some of my hero’s growing up, who were yours when you were kids? Who did you look up to?
Walter: I was into Ultraman, the Bionic man, and that tall guy in Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, well of course Bruce Lee too. There was this scene when he walked in the room and the fight started and he just threw one punch and the fight was over. I would pretend to be that guy and just felt so cool. I forgot what Ultraman used to say but i would run around the house yelling that. Those were the guys I looked up to.
David: Well i grew up in the original Star Wars generation. I feel kinda bad about saying this but, I always was a fan of Darth Vader, I remember going to the mall and standing in line for 6 hours just to get his autograph. I also liked Han Solo a lot as well.
Me: Would you say that the power rangers were stereotypical? Like how the Black Ranger was black and the Yellow Ranger was Asian?
David: I would like to say that the first cast of the Yellow Ranger was latina, I honestly believe that in the end it was purely coincidental and at the end of the day they were like oh wow look what we did.
Me: What was one of your favorite episodes?
Walter: My favorite? I couldn’t really say… But, the funnest one to shoot was probably “food fight”. We were told by the directors to be completely stupid. They told us that they were going to yell food fight and then action to just go crazy. And let me tell you everyone got messy; the extras, directors, camera men, it was awesome.
Me: Who would you say was the biggest prankster?
Walter: Austin, St. John and I would beat up the PA’s. They would have to walk past us without getting hit or kicked so they would walk by trying to dodge us. But it was all out of fun. We were all friends and its just how we got along.
David: Well i’m sure you have heard about Jason David Frank and his shenanigans… Like about the time he put a fly in my sandwich and I ate it or when he broke a brush on my head. It didn’t hurt, it was meant to be funny and it was. He came in my make up room grabbed a brush and just slammed it on my head. He also signed my couch once and then said, “Your welcome, you can sell this now and it’ll be worth a lot of money”. He was always doing something haha.
Walter: Yea that reminds me, Jason and I would hit each other while we were filming so when the camera looked away one of us would hit each other and that would cause us to bump into a piece of the set and it would move a little and we would act like we didn’t do anything so when the camera focused back on us the scene would be shifted a little bit. We caused a few issues with continuity.
Walter: Lemme ask you guys something, who was the first black superhero?
Me: I believe it was Static Shock
Walter: He’s a comic book hero i’m talking about live action. (He gets up suddenly with his hands in the air after I didn’t say anything) That’s right I’m the first live action black super hero.
Me: Would you guys consider going back if Saban offered you the chance?
David: I would love to go back but, professionally. They would have to develop billy and the fact of how I would come back from Aquatar. Being union actors we would have to make sure everything is professional and okay.
Me: How did you guys feel when you heard that Power Rangers was getting a movie?
Walter: I was really excited, I was like ‘yes!’ and then i heard it wasn’t a union film and i was just like no, no, no. I wished I could’ve been a even bigger part of history in your guys lives.
David: I was really excited and it was a lot of fun to film.
Me: Walter, what are you doing in life now?
Walter: Well, iv’e designed a few shoes for SSS4 The World and I also got a commercial gig with Pepsi. If you’ve seen G.I. Joe, I redid the voice for one of the characters because the guy that did it had too thick of a New York accent and they needed someone with a little less of it. I also did a little in Death Race 2 and right now currently I’m trying to direct and produce a travelling dancing show.
Me: How much leeway did you guys have with your lines? How much of yourselves did you put into your character?
David: I wasn’t anything like Billy. I feel kind of bad saying this, I smoked, drank, partied, but at the time I admired the character.
Walter: I think David had the biggest challenge of being different. You would see him outside of the set and then when he was Billy you sometimes had to take a second look. I was very much like my character. I danced, was always the best friend kind of guy, and was nice. So I feel as I didn’t have to change much, if at all for Zack.
After the Panel was over I took a few pictures of some pretty cool cosplays walking around and visited some other tables. Richard Steven Horvitz (Alpha 5) was probably the funniest person I met. Everything he signed he voice acted; from Invader Zim, Alpha 5, Angry Beavers, to Billy and Mandy. He signed a picture of Invader Zim and wrote “you are a perfectly normal human worm baby, I am Zim” in his voice