If you grew up in the 90s, you remember Karan Ashley. Best known as Aisha, the Yellow Ranger, Ashley joined the cast of ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ during the second season and stayed with the show through the remainder of the original ‘Mighty Morphin’ series as well as 1995’s ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.’ At the recent Great Philadelphia Comic Con, ScienceFiction.com was able to speak with Karan about her time as a Power Ranger, what the show has meant to her, and more.
ScienceFiction.com (SF): By the time you got involved with ‘Power Rangers,’ the show was already a massive hit. Was it ever intimidating, stepping into the middle of something like that?
Karan Ashley (KA): You know what? I guess it could’ve been, but I think at that point I was so excited to get a good break and to be on a show. And to be on a hit show was like the icing on the cake. So for me, I think my excitement took over. I can honestly say I did think about it and was like, “Oh my gosh, these guys are so popular, and we’re filling some huge shoes.” But I think the very next moment the excitement took over again and I just was like, “Let’s do this,” you know?
SF: And you didn’t just step onto a runaway train, you got on board in time for the film.
SF: Which I understand was produced more or less at the same time as the second season?
SF: That must’ve been a really grueling schedule.
KA: It was. We literally got on the show and they said “We’ve got two months to get twenty episodes done.” And if you think about it, usually people will shoot an episode per week. We were shooting four to five every two weeks. So it was crazy. So they shot as much as they could, then they shipped us to Australia. We were supposed to be there three months, we ended up being there six months. And we were shooting… At one point we were shooting the TV show and the movie at the same time, so it was insanely busy.
SF: Do you have any favorite memories or stories from the production of the film?
KA: You know what? I do. I think the first day that we arrived, like it was funny, none of us had been to Australia before, we had just met and you know, here we are in a foreign country. All we have are each other, we felt like outsiders amongst the Aussies, and it was just really cool because we were really becoming friends at this point. And we were seeing this amazing country and having this amazing experience and we kind of have that forever. Like we still to this day talk about getting there and we were all tourists, taking pictures and just being really excited to do our first big motion picture, you know?
SF: It’s my understanding also that the characters on the show were shaped a lot by the actors who were cast. So how fleshed out was Aisha when you were cast and what did contribute to her characterization, to the role?
KA: I was very lucky because Shuki Levy, when he cast me, and was one of the executive producers, he basically told me “We picked you because we like you, we like your energy. I don’t ever want you to take an acting class, I don’t ever want you to doubt yourself. I want you just to do what you think Aisha would do. Make her bubbly, make her high spirited, you’ve got all that. So just do you, basically.” And I was really lucky, because I didn’t have anyone over my shoulder telling me how to say a line or telling me how to do things. They really let us just kind of figure it out. And that’s great for a young actor, because you’re very intimidated when you start a job like this, but it’s very good because you kind of get to find your own way. And usually you do and it’s a lot better that way.
SF: A few weeks ago we had that, shall we say “not safe for work” fan film. What were your thoughts on that and more generally on the prospect of a grittier approach to ‘Power Rangers?’
KA: You know what? It’s funny, I enjoyed it, first and foremost. The production value was ridiculously amazing. I felt like it was great for the fans who are now in their mid-twenties, thirties. I didn’t like some of the things like the drugs and some of that stuff, but I felt like it was ‘Power Rangers” evil twin, you know? It was like, this is what some people have wanted for years, but also I think what’s good about it is that it’s going to make Lionsgate have to be a little more edgy. Because you can’t ignore the fact that in three days there were twelve million views. You can’t ignore that. And there was no campaign or publicity, that was all word of mouth. That was all the fans being very excited to see a newer version of ‘Power Rangers.’ So I think it’ll be great that it’ll probably make the family film a little more edgy. But I always felt like ‘Power Rangers’ had enough edge because we had really great martial artists, really great stunt guys who… You know, the actors were great martial artists, but also the stunt guys were great martial artists. So I think Lionsgate will depend on that to make the edge, make the fights really cool.
KA: Well… [laughter] My life now consists of going from convention to convention. And I mean literally, I joke that I’m home three days a week and I’m gone four days a week. Me and my husband have gotten to go on some amazing trips. I’ve gotten to be in cities I never would’ve imagined visiting. And every weekend I’m a Power Ranger. And then I get to go home and be Karan Ashley the wife, the friend, the daughter when I go home for those three days. But it’s amazing. It’s a blessing, and I just feel like, the fact that we’re still talking about it twenty years later… I told someone yesterday, I never complain, I never get tired, because I know there are people who have to work outside in the heat and the cold and they have manual labor jobs and they keep our country going. And here I am, I get to sit at a table, meet the fans, hear how great and wonderful the show was and how special it is. The least I can do is hug on them, love on them and make their childhood dreams a reality, you know? Make them be five years old again and forget whatever it is outside the doors that stresses them out. They come in here, we have a good time. So I’m very blessed.
SF: You have a web series you do, ‘Uncensored Talk.’ For those who might not be familiar with it, can you tell us a bit about the show?
KA: Yeah. ‘Uncensored Talk’ came from my experience of being on the road, of being at cons. I did a radio show called ‘Uncensored Radio,’ and for years people were saying “Well why don’t you do something on camera? And I wanted to, but I didn’t want to just do anything, I wanted to do something that was kind of relevant to what I’m doing now. The funny thing is I’m on the road, I’m meeting all these amazing people like Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, I mean… The list goes on, of who you meet at a con, it’s A-to-Z, iconic characters to new shows. I’ve met the ‘Walking Dead’ cast and it was just so cool. But it was like, why aren’t people talking to them? Someone should talk to them. And then I see people such as yourself and different media outlets come up and have interviews with them, but it’s very… When you talk to someone you don’t know, it’s a certain conversation, but when you talk to someone you’ve been hanging out with in the green room all week, you see at the hotel, you had a drink, you know, this is our eighth show that we’ve run into each other, all of a sudden you sit down, you have a different uncensored conversation. They’re open, they’re honest, they’re fun, they tell you about their life. I’ve interviewed a ton of Rangers, I’m now branching off and starting to interview all the other guests and it’s just been a really cool experience. I mean, I sat down with Nichelle Nichols, and the stories she tells me about ‘Star Trek,’ and I wasn’t even born when that show was out, but my dad was and my mom was and her paving the way for a girl like me on TV is just so meaningful. And so the funny thing is the audience? It’s meaningful to them. They really relate to the show because of that. I hope to eventually do it at every con but right now I’m doing it every few months, whenever I can.
SF: And beyond that, do you have any other projects you’re working on at the moment?
KA: I do. I actually have a couple things that are in the pipeline and in pre-production, but I’m not going talk about them until we start shooting. But you will hear about them! You can always find me on Facebook and Instagram at “Official Karan Ashley” and on Twitter “@karanashley” because I post about everything!