For more than two decades, the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers‘ has been a powerhouse success story in the children’s entertainment market. This live action series originally premiered in the US way back in 1993, using a combination of footage from the Japanese series ‘Sentai Zyuranger’ and new American footage to tell the story of five ‘teenagers with attitude’ that become superheroes to save the world from the forces of evil!
We were lucky enough to sit down last weekend at The Great Philadelphia Comic Con with the first series lead, original Red Ranger Austin St. John, for an exclusive interview about what life is like now, nearly a quarter of a century after the show’s premiere!
Science Fiction (SF): First off, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! I know a ton of our readers, and staff for that matter, are huge fans of yours and have been for a long time!
Austin St. John (ASJ): Oh of course! Happy to do it!
SF: Jumping right into things, this year actually marks the 22nd anniversary of the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ series here in the US, going into this show over twenty years ago, did you ever have any idea it would get this big or have such a lasting staying power?
ASJ: Absolutely not! We had no idea what we were getting into, we had no clue! We had an idea that the show had had some success in Japan, but it hadn’t gone super huge, which is why it was now being brought to America. We knew it was a revamp, and it was new to us, and we had no clue.
SF: Is it ever daunting to think about how you’ve been viewed as such a positive role model for going on three generations of kids?
ASJ: I don’t know about ‘daunting’, I’d say it’s more of a sense of responsibility. It’s more about trying to continue to earn the right to even have the respect of hundreds and millions of children, and now adults. You have a responsibility to live a sort of life that does that, and I’ve tried. Since I’ve left the show I’ve become a paramedic, I’ve traveled for twelve years as a medic, four years in the Middle East as a medic, so it’s something I think about quite a lot.
SF: How would you say your time as a Power Ranger has affected your life now?
ASJ: Well like I said, it’s kind of given me a compass; in fact, you guys are the reason. The fans are the reason that I’m actually back in the fandom right now! I didn’t know all of this was still going on!
SF: Actually that sort of brings me right into my next question! I know that you sort of disappeared from the limelight for a while, what made you decide to come back now? The fans?
ASJ: Well, I was on the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border, and I was talking to Walter (Walter E. Jones, the original Black Ranger), and I was coming home from overseas, and he said “well you’re not going to believe what I’m doing” and he told me about conventions. When I came back I said “alright I’ll do one convention”, because he’s telling me “you need to hear the stories that the fans are telling now as adults”, and I thought I would try one show and see what happens. Well, twenty-two shows later, in eight months spent all around the world like Australia, The UK, Canada, all over the US, and now I’m already booked all the way to 2016! Now I’ve got four new films, a TV series, a bunch of new projects in various stages of development, and it’s all been inspired by the fans. I said “you know what, I’ll put out some new projects“, and give them what they’re asking for.
SF: I know you just touched on it a moment ago, but while we all know you spent time playing a hero on TV during ‘Power Rangers’, now you’re playing an ACTUAL hero in real life as a medic! What lead to that career choice?
ASJ: I had a buddy that was bartending, and at the time I was paying my way through college like every other kid on the planet, and I was almost done with my first bachelors degree, and my buddy came up and he was in the Fire Department, and he said “hey you know you should come volunteer down here at the local firehouse”. I thought “yeah that sounds really cool!”, and so I got in, got my EMT basic, and then I started seeing these guys that were paramedics and it was like “wow”, because they were like gods over there. They were the coolest thing, because they could push all the drugs, and they could use the electricity, and what they said was law on an emergency scene, so I said “I want to be one of those guys”!. So I got my next degree in emergency medicine, became a medic, a flight medic, tactical medic, and I discovered eventually that the training never actually ends. So really, I’m still training!
SF: I know that you see each other a lot at conventions like this, but do you hang out with your fellow former ‘Rangers’ a lot outside of the convention scene? Like are you guys ever out at the mall and people start freaking out because the ‘Power Rangers’ are there hanging out?
ASJ: Oh yeah, (laughing) Walter and I are two peas in a pod. I mean, we were room mates back in the day, and we still get into trouble together. We have always had a lot of fun with that.
SF: We know you did make a comeback previously during ’Power Rangers Zeo’, but have you given any thought to returning to the series again? I know last year there were quite a few returning rangers duing ‘Super Mega Force’!
ASJ: They actually did reach out to me for ‘Super Mega Force’, but I was in the Middle East under contract, so unfortunately I couldn’t do it. I’ve spoken with the executive producers on the series and we’ve pretty much agreed that at some point in the future, we’ll talk. But we don’t know for what, or when.
SF: Oh wow, that’s still great to hear! Speaking of come backs, I know we just had the big announcement fro Lions gate a few weeks back about their relaunch/reboot of the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ film franchise. What are your thoughts on that, and would you make an appearance if they asked you to?
ASJ: I’m excited to see what they do with it. If they were to offer me something or send me something, I’d definitely entertain the idea of appearing.
SF: While we’re on the subject of reboots, I know last month a fan-made gritty, dark, and violent reboot of the ‘Power Rangers’ went online on Youtube to quite an astounding success that has the fan base sort of torn between loving it or hating it. What are your thoughts on this particular reboot?
ASJ: Well, I had posted my thoughts to my Facebook Page (which you can check out here), and I’ve tried to leave my personal opinion out of it. It’s not ‘my’ vision of what ‘Power Rangers’ is, like I didn’t want to see Zack doing cocaine, but it was, as a professional piece, it was exceptionally well shot, the graphics were amazing, the acting was very good, and it was a very well done project! Even though it’s not in line with what most people envision with ‘Power Rangers’.
SF: Okay, one last question for you, and this one is a bit more personal. If you had just one message to give to ‘Power Rangers’ fans both young and old, right now, what would it be?
ASJ: I’ve had a lot of careers, I’ve been all over the world, I’ve had extremely high pressure jobs, and been put in positions where I’ve made incredible decisions, both life-threatening and not. You’re going to make mistakes, and there are going to be people who are going to try and make you pay for making those mistakes, but don’t help them out by making yourself pay for those mistakes too. So people that tell you ‘no’? There’s plenty. But don’t tell yourself ‘no’, because there are always going to be plenty of people to do that for you. The bottom line is, don’t help other people keep you down. If you make a mistake, be man enough or woman enough to analyze it, see it for what it is, have an appropriate amount of “I’m an idiot”, and move on to make it better.