Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Go Go Power Rangers! Yellow Ranger Karan Ashley talks with TV STORE ONLINE about The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers



Karan is perhaps best known for portraying 'Aisha Campbell' the Yellow Power Ranger on the television series, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1994-96).

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where does your interest in acting come from?

KARAN ASHLEY:   Honestly, when I was a kid I thought I was going to be a singer.  I thought I'd be up on the stage and acting in that sense.    I always wanted to act, but singing was my first thing.   I'm from Texas originally.  Before I started acting, I had a singing group called K.R.U.S.H. and we had a song on the MO' MONEY (1992) movie soundtrack.  Our group got an audition to be singers in SISTER ACT 2: BACK IN THE HABIT (1993).    We auditioned and we got pretty far into it. We got called back and we had to shoot some video, and that's when the acting bug bit me.  I knew then that acting was something I wanted to do.   K.R.U.S.H. eventually ran it's course, and by that time anyhow,  I was already thinking that I wanted to leave and pursue acting.  Then, a friend of mine told me about this audition for this show called The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Could you tell me about your audition experience for Power Rangers?

KARAN ASHLEY:   Well, I didn't know what the show even was, but I went anyhow because it was a local open audition in Texas.    So I got there and there was a line of people all the way around the building.  I said to myself, "Oh my God.  How long am I going to have to wait?"  Then I thought about it and I knew that this may be a chance for me to be an actress.   So I auditioned and I got the part of 'Aisha' and four days later I was in Los Angeles shooting a television show.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I read somewhere that one of your favorite movies is THE GODFATHER (1972), and that seeing Al Pacino's performance in the movie is what inspired you to become an actress.   What was it about his performance that inspired you?

KARAN ASHLEY:  I was just blown away by it.   That movie really just sucked me into it.   When I saw it for the first time, I had just started taking acting classes and when I saw him as the method actor that he is, I was just blown away.    He became that person in that movie.  He was just so believable and I knew that acting was something that I just had to do.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   Then with the audition for Power Rangers were you nervous going in? Did you have any expectations?

KARAN ASHLEY:   I was totally nervous.  I didn't have any expectations because I had never seen the show before the audition.  I had only done a couple commercials before the Power Rangers audition.  I wish I knew his name now, but there was a guy that was standing in front of me in the line, and we started talking, and for like  three or four hours he just started schooling me in the Power Rangers.  He told me how big the show was, and the fact that the characters were teenagers.  I said, "They're teenagers?   I'm a teenager!  This is so perfect."

So I walked in to audition and the first thing they asked me was "What do you do?  Are you a dancer, or a martial artist or a gymnast?"   I was there because I was a dancer.  So I read a scene for them and then they asked me to dance.  I pulled out a CD and they told me that they didn't have a CD player.  They tell you this to throw you to see if you're ready, and so I just started dancing, and believe me I danced like I had never danced before.   I didn't think that I did very good, and it wasn't until later when I was talking to Shuki Levy the Executive Producer of the show after I got the part, that that reason I was cast was because he just liked my personality.  He said that from the minute I walked in the door and he saw my smile that I had the part, he just hoped that I could act.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have to do any sort of martial arts training after you got the role of Aisha?

Yellow Power Ranger T-shirt
Available at TV STORE ONLINE
KARAN ASHLEY:  No, they were only concerned with the fact that I could learn their choreography.   As long as you could handle their choreography they could teach you the rest.  The beautiful thing about it was the way they shot the fight sequences on the show.

You didn't shoot a ten minute fight all at once.  They'd do it in little different segments.     The way it would work, you'd do a couple punches, a couple kicks, you'd duck down a few times then they'd yell "Cut", then they'd do it all over from a different angle, so by the time you did that a few times you'd have a ten minute fight scene once it was all edited together.   

The martial arts team on the show was from Japan and they'd work with me.  Then Steve [Cardenas] and Johnny [Yong Bosch] my fellow cast members, they were and still are amazing martial artists and they'd work with me too.  You'd only have like ten or fifteen minutes to work on your fight prior to shooting it, and I think that because there wasn't the time to learn anything completely, that worked really great for me, because I think that the spontaneity of it helped me pull it off.   It was better for me to just jump into it and do it, instead of learning it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was the subject content of the show something that was difficult to take seriously for you as a teenager at that time?

KARAN ASHLEY:  From the very beginning, there were always kids on the set with us, so we knew how much the show meant to people.  We all took it seriously, because we of course were all being paid to be there.   We had a super strict schedule and we had long hours.  For me, it was an amazing adventure.  It was everything that I had dreamed to be a part of.  I didn't really understand the size of the show until we did the movie the following year, and even then I don't think I truly understood it.   It wasn't until years later, when I started doing these Power Rangers conventions when I started to meet the fans of the show, and I saw people waiting for hours in line to get my autograph that it I really understood.

I started talking to the fans and hearing about how much the show helped them, or inspired them to do something.   It really blows my mind when I go out to these conventions and talk to the fans.   The show has done so much for people and I'm so lucky and so grateful to have had been a part of it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Could you tell me about the costumes you had to wear on the show?

KARAN ASHLEY:  Well, the spandex costume on the show was awful.  It was the worst.  It was like you were standing there in your underwear.  But it was comfortable, and it was probably the best thing that you could have worn when you have to be running around jumping and kicking. I felt like the Ninjette costume that I wore was the best, because as a girl, you just wanna cover yourself up and it did that pretty well.  I think the best costume was the one I got to wear in the movie.  It looked the best.  It looked so super hero, but wearing it was very uncomfortable.  It weighed like twenty-five pounds.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Those spandex costumes though....Did you know at the time that they were these sort of traditional Japanese Zentai costumes?

KARAN ASHLEY:  Yeah, before we started shooting the producers showed us some episodes of the original Japanese show that the Power Rangers was based on, and that was strange because the Japanese show was darker, there were people that would die on that show, and of course no one died on our show.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right, yeah I wanted to ask you about that.  Watching the show even back then it had this strange dark and surreal vibe to it.   Did you pick up on that as you were shooting the show?

KARAN ASHLEY:  They were always afraid of the violence on the show.  They were worried that some kid would go off to school and get in a fight and then blame the Power Rangers.  That seemed very unfair to me.  We always made a conscious effort to keep it in the make believe realm.  When we'd fight someone, we would always fight monsters. We never fought other teenagers.  Even when we weren't in costume and we were fighting as civilians, we'd always only fight monsters.  Eventually they got worried about that too, so we stopped doing that as well.  I thought the show was really wholesome.  We were always stopping bullies, we were picking up trash, we were saving the world.  No teenagers were ever like us.

TV STORE ONLINE:  In those first couple seasons of the show there were some weird things going on with the show.  I mean there were those strange racial things, like the Asian actress was the Yellow Power Ranger, the African American actor Walter Jones was the Black Ranger....

KARAN ASHLEY:  Yeah, that was kind of weird.  I will say this.  When I came onto the show they'd give me the occasional script where they wanted me because I was the black girl to say something sassy or something more ethnic, and I didn't feel comfortable doing that.  Luckily for me, I'd tell them that I didn't want to do stuff like that, and they'd say, "OK, Not a problem."   I think the things your mentioning did strike a chord with a lot of people, and I think that by the time I came onto the show they realized that they needed to change that stuff.  They should have thought that stuff out more before they started originally.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So I know that recently you and other cast members from your Power Rangers seasons were asked to participate in the upcoming Power Rangers Super Megaforce series that is shooting in New Zealand by Executive Producer Haim Saban, but that the money he was offering each of you was insanely low...

KARAN ASHLEY:  Right, yeah.  I've never been shy speaking about Saban.  He's always been notoriously cheap.   No one that's ever appeared on any of the Power Rangers shows has made a lot of money.  For me it was a great opportunity.   Back in the day, I knew then that I was being under paid.  But it was an incredible opportunity for me.  I was a young kid, and I wanted to act.    It was a wonderful experience, and I got the opportunity I wanted.  I did eighty episodes of that show, and it changed my life.   Skip forward 20 years later to today, and I'm not the same person I was then.  I would've loved to come back to that series for a reunion show.  But there were several reasons why I decided not to do it.  

One of the reasons is that Saban wanted some of us to come back for a cameo only. And there's no money for us.  If we've been waiting for all of this time, you'd think that they'd  write some sort of story for all of us or even a moment.  The way it was presented to me made it clear that it wasn't going to be anything like that.   They weren't even willing to pay any of us union scale even to go to New Zealand.   I mean, this is a billion dollar television empire and they can't even pay us union scale?   I have the same agent as a few of the other former Power Rangers and when we got back to them with an amount that each of needed to make the trip they didn't respond. The whole thing is completely ridiculous.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm sure you've read what actor and former Blue Ranger David Yost has said about his experience working on the Power Rangers series....Where he talked about leaving the show because of the hateful homophobic slurs he was subjected to by the crew of the show?

KARAN ASHLEY:   Yeah, listen I'm very good friends with David and if he says that's what happened then that's what happened.  He's not a dishonest person.  I left the show a few months prior to him leaving.  When I first met David on the show, he was a very fun and loving guy, and when I left the show I could see that he wasn't the same person who I first met, he was acting different.

TV STORE ONLINE:   One of my favorite aspects of the original Power Rangers series is the snappy dialogue that comes in the middle of the fight scenes.   Was doing the voice-over stuff for that a challenge at all?

KARAN ASHLEY:   It wasn't difficult, but it was just hours and hours of work.  I think that maybe the first couple times I did it, it took me a little bit of time to get used to it,  but after that it was just fun.  We all got to become pros doing that, because we just did hours and hours of it week after week.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  With the snappy one-liners were you allowed any type of ad-libbing?

KARAN ASHLEY:  You could suggest stuff.  They had a script there, but if you could come up with something better they were up for it.  If you'd run across something that didn't seem funny, you could try and make it funny.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  I took a look at DEVON'S GHOST (2005) recently.  I wanted to see what attracted you to the horror genre?

KARAN ASHLEY:  I just always wanted to do a horror film.   When it came time for us to make a movie, my partners and I had a certain budget that we needed to stick to, and the horror genre fit that.  It was a fun experience. I wrote the script, and it was the second time I got to produce a movie, and I got to work with my fellow former Power Rangers cast member Johnny Yong Bosch.   Johnny's in the movie, and he directed it.  Our former Power Rangers director Koichi Sakamoto was in town while we were shooting it and he directed a couple weeks on it too.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The killer in DEVON'S GHOST stalks around in a baseball outfit and attacks people with a baseball bat.  He looks strikingly similar to one of the Baseball Furies in Walter Hill's THE WARRIORS (1979) was that an inspiration point for you?

KARAN ASHLEY:  Oh, I never made that connection.  I love THE WARRIORS but I think if you've connected them it's purely by accident.  We didn't do that intentionally.   We were thinking along the lines that he needed something.  Jason Voorhees has an ax, Freddy has that glove.  We needed to give him something.  It was my partner who came up with the bat.   Also, we kept that in the family too, our former Power Rangers prop guy Mark Richardson built the baseball bats for us that we used in the movie.

TV STORE ONLINE:   So you're doing Uncensored Radio now.  What's that experience like for you?

KARAN ASHLEY:  It's crazy. It's insane.  We try to live up to the uncensored name.  We try to talk about everything, and there are no rules.  Doing talk radio is very liberating. If you've never done it, I tell people to do it, because it's like an intimate conversation but people get to listen in.  It's been so great.  We've been on the air for two years now, and we have over 100,000 listeners.



TV STORE ONLINE:  Why do you think that the Power Rangers had such an appeal to the kids of the early/mid '90s?

KARAN ASHLEY:  I think the show offered something to everyone.  Each ranger was different and everyone that watched could find something to identify with in each ranger because they were so different. 
  
TV STORE ONLINE:   What's next for you?

KARAN ASHLEY:   I'm in the process of selling my sitcom.  It's called Grow Up Already.   People can check out our Facebook page for that.    And then of course, Uncensored  Radio.  People can listen to us on Blog Talk Radio six days a week.  And we also are in the process of editing our reality show based on Uncensored Radio.  It shows us going through the process of making the radio show. It's insane.  And I'm getting ready to go on my convention tour. I guess I'll call it that.   I'm gonna be in Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans and potentially New York at the New York Comic Con, so if anyone out there reading this is going out to any of those shows be sure to stop by and say hello to me.

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