Power Rangers is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD. The movie, touted as a reboot of the franchise, gives a fresh take on the origins of the Power Rangers, and introduces a new cast. Dacre Montgomery plays Jason, the Red Ranger, Naomi Scott plays Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, Ludi Lin takes on the role of Zack, the Black Ranger, Becky G plays Trini, the Yellow Ranger, while RJ Cyler plays Billy, the Blue Ranger. The movie also stars Elizabeth Banks as the classic Power Rangers villain, Rita Repulsa, and Brian Cranston as Zordon.
Screen Rant got the chance to speak with Cyler, who earned very positive reviews for his portrayal of Billy, a teenager living with autism while also trying to become a superhero. We also talked about the future of the franchise, the possible arrival of Tommy Oliver, and what other classic Power Rangers villains could appear.
How did it feel for you to take on a role in such an iconic franchise? Did you try to honor the original, or did you aim for a completely fresh take?
RJ Cyler: The nervousness that comes with being a Power Ranger is very real. As you said, it’s an iconic brand. It’s not just a superhero franchise, it’s something that connects to people; it got people through rough times in their lives or whatever. So to step into that role, we knew there was a lot of expectations. High expectations. Stepping into Billy, there was an excitement to show my own difference. I didn’t want to take anything from David Yost’s performance as Billy other than the stuff that’s already been. The colors are already there; blue, red, pink, but these characters were all built from the ground up. We tried to stay true to the message of the Power Rangers franchise, which is that anybody can be a superhero if you start to accept yourself. So that message stayed, but I definitely tried to give a fresh take on who Billy Cranston was.
Billy is very unique in that he’s a superhero living with Autism. That’s not an easy condition to live with. What kind of response have you gotten from people with regards to him being such a unique superhero role model?
RJ Cyler: It has been an amazing response. That was my main thing; to do justice to the condition, because there’s a lot of stuff that people like us who don’t live with it personally, you know, in our own minds and bodies, we have a preconceived visual or notion of what we think Autism is. My main thing was to make sure I was honest to the role. So I didn’t use anything I thought I knew about Autism, or being on the spectrum. What I thought I knew literally was so different to what it actually is. It was such a humbling experience to just go there and learn about Autism and start to respect what it is. It’s really a good feeling to see that it paid off in the end, because there are people who are on the spectrum or diagnosed with Autism who hit me up on Twitter, and it’s cool to be able to know that I could create something that relates to somebody. I don’t have Autism, I don’t have to deal with that every day, as some people do. So it just makes you have a whole different respect for the people who do deal with it, and for the condition itself. It’s really cool to see I got it right; all my study paid off.
If Power Rangers 2 happens, where would you like to see Billy go next?
RJ Cyler: I would definitely like to see him fall in love in some way. That would be really cool. Right now, everyone feels like Billy’s just gonna be this single kid for the rest of his life, and I’m like ‘No, Billy will find love someday, in his own time.
The Green Ranger was hinted at during the post-credits scene at the end of Power Rangers. If they are introduced, how do you think Billy will react to somebody new coming into that group?
RJ Cyler: Billy still has that defensive little gate up, but he’s already let four other people into it, so it’s like he already broke that barrier. He’s going to welcome Tommy Oliver into the group, but that’s because the group are already on his side. Billy will do whatever the rest of them do. Even though it’s not something he might want to do, he always has his friends back. He’s a loyal person, so he’s like ‘Jason, if you’re cool with him, I’m cool with him. Trini, if you’re cool, I’m cool.’ He definitely would make sure that Tommy knew that Jason is our leader.
Would you like to see Tommy as a boy, or as a girl?
RJ Cyler: You know? I think Tommy as a girl would be so dang cool! Either way, Tommy as a character is so cool. If they switched it up and made Tommy Oliver into a girl? I would lose my mind.
What villains would you like to see the Rangers tackle if there’s a second movie?
RJ Cyler: I don’t know why, but Rygog has always been a villain that I wanted to fight. Because it’s almost like you can’t get around him, you can’t catch him from a blind spot. The Power Rangers have to take him head on, and that always sounded like a fun fight for me. Lord Zedd, definitely Lord Zedd. And Ivan Ooze. Yeah, that’d be a cool one, definitely. He’s like my favorite villain ever, not just in the Power Rangers. I love Ivan Ooze.
When Power Rangers first came to prominence in the 90’s, there wasn’t the wealth of superhero shows and movies we have now, so what do you think the Power Rangers can offer to kids nowadays who are growing up with this mass of superhero movies and shows?
RJ Cyler: I think they can offer a realistic and tangible feeling when you go and watch the film. I think sometimes, when they go and watch a superhero movie, they think in the back of their minds ‘oh crap, this person is painted to be perfect,’ or it’s like a lone wolf type situation and he ends up saving the world or whatever, but everybody doesn’t relate to that. It’s not really something that kids or teens, or even people in general, can grasp onto and think ‘yeah, I’m that person.’ But in Power Rangers, we put everyone somewhere in this movie. Whether you see yourself in the five Rangers, or even in Rita, you know? People relate to Rita in some ways. They think she’s misunderstood; she just wants acceptance but she doesn’t know how to go after it. Everybody relates to somebody in this movie and I feel like that’s something kids don’t have nowadays in a lot of the superhero franchises. I won’t say all of them, because some of them do have that sense of teamwork, and of not being perfect. I feel that Chris Pratt, and Ryan Reynolds definitely made those roles possible, but here, I feel that’s what Power Rangers brings that’s new and good for kids. We kind of put them in the driver’s seat in a sense; this character is you, just with a different face.
In the future, post-Power Rangers, would you consider joining any other superhero franchise? Have you got any favorites?
RJ Cyler: I’d definitely want to be Miles Morales in Spider-Man. That’s my dream role, to be honest, to play Miles Morales, because for one, I know that I would totally geek out the entire time, because Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. I have a Spider-Man steering wheel, Spider-Man floor mats, that’s just me. So that’s my perfect role, that’s my ideal role for the future. Rather distant, or some other time, you know?
RJ Cyler: Yeah, or next week, it could be!
Five ordinary teens must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.
Power Rangers is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD.
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