Lately I’m taking on a lot more things between writing for the site and obligations outside of my enthusiasm for film, so unfortunately I haven’t been able to feature as many interviews as I have and found myself trying to compensate by talking directly to filmmakers and stunt professionals to gain personal insight, and particularly for possible quotes as well.
Fortunately however, that trend is changing a bit, with special thanks in part to having some really cool long distance acquaintances help grant me a chance to discuss movies with some amazing people. In this case, I have Taressa Dominguez from Baumgarten Management & Production, and CEO of SC Films International, Mike Selby to thank for helping me get in touch with the ever-busy martial artist, actor and filmmaker Michael Jai White, star of such series and films as Metal Hurlant Chronicles, Spawn, Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing and Mortal Kombat: Legacy S1, and co-star of their most recent film, Skin Trade, directed by Ekchai Uekrongtham.
It was always my intention to interview him, even ever since I began my Facebook page. And while most of the answers are straight and to the point, hopefully they will provide a little more clarity to fans who might still be curious about what to expect in the months and years ahead.
Michael Jai White: It was really interesting. It was much larger than I expected and the fans were really into it. Lots of people in costumes. It was exciting to visit the UAE as I had not been there before.
FCSyndicate: I’ve been covering the production of director Ekchai Uekrongtham’s new film, Skin Trade intensively this year on my site. How did you first learn of this particular film prior to your participation on it, and what drew you most to this project?
MJW: My manager Craig was one of the producers so I knew about the film from him. Tony Jaa and I are friends, and I really liked the idea of doing a movie together. Of course who could resist being in a movie with Hellboy, Robocop and Drago.
FCSyndicate: Tell us about your stay in Thailand.
MJW: It is a very friendly place. The people are very nice, the atmosphere is relaxed and exotic. I rode elephants, hung out with friends and had fun.
FCSyndicate: What can you tell us about your role in Skin Trade?
MJW: I play an FBI agent, I see a lot of action and I am going to keep you guessing.
FCSyndicate: Tell us about your experience on this film working with such an amazing cast, including star and producer Dolph Lundgren. What were the most fun moments for you? And were there any significant challenges to overcome as well?
MJW: The film went very smoothly. Dolph is very professional and very detail oriented. The cast were really great as was the crew. Overall it was a great experience.
: Lundgren also went on CNN
recently to delve in a little more on the issue the film aims at, which is human trafficking. Briefly putting action aside, in your opinion, how big is this issue for you in light of this particular film? And do you think there is progress being made in ending this crime for good?
MJW: Frankly its not just human trafficking but all the other crimes against basic human rights and dignity. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I think this movie really brings the issue home. I sure hope so. As for ending this crime for good, I wish but I don’t think its that easy.
MJW: I really like the Facebook page and it has grown quite quickly. I have been active on twitter for sometime. The Facebook page allows broader scope for messages, photos and interaction with the public and I really like that. As for my fans, they are the best!!
FCS: One other film you have coming was directed by Ernie Barbarash called Falcon Rising, and you’ve personally stated this film as something you’ve waited for through your entire career. Can you explain a little more about what this means for you as an actor and an action star? And what initially attracted you to this potential franchise?
MJW: I really liked the story and the way it was told and I very much liked the character. The role fit. Working with Ernie was a pleasure.
FCSyndicate: You’ve done quite a bit of work with fight choreographer Larnell Stovall on several projects. What do you enjoy most about working with him, particularly in light of Falcon Rising with Barbarash?
MJW: He is a pro and we know how to keep in sync together. That is really important. You have to feel comfortable with what you are doing and you have to feel it is done well.
FCSyndicate: When can we expect to see a trailer and forthcoming release? And what other plans for the sequel in the Codename: Falcon franchise?
MJW: I think you will see a trailer quite soon, and then we will see where things go from there. I think you will like what you see.
FCSyndicate: You also attended the star-studded cast and crew premiere of The Raid 2 in Los Angeles earlier this year. And your name eventually came up as a casting hopeful along with fellow actor Scott Adkins for Patrick Hughes’ upcoming remake. How do you feel about that? And is this something fans can faithfully hold in mind as the months move forward?
MJW: The action was really spectacular, I was impressed. The remake sounds like fun. If there is a fit, I would love to look at it.
FCSyndicate: There are also a couple of other projects that fans also want to hear more about like Black Dynamite 2 and Blood And Bone 2. Can you tell us the status of those two particular projects?
MJW: Both close to my heart and on the active to do list.
FCSyndicate: A few years earned some major cult success with your 2011 feature-length directorial debut, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown. That particular production had a pretty tight schedule with a much smaller budget compared to its big screen, bigger budgeted predecessor, Never Back Down. In your experience as a director yourself, and considering the success of films like The Raid and The Raid 2, what are some things you would like to see change in Hollywood with respect to the creative process for a genuine martial arts film or an action film in general? Does a good quality action movie really need a lot of money? Educate us.
MJW: Even with a lot of money there has to be an engaging story or you lose your audience. A smaller budget film with good action and a story that draws the audience in can work quite well. Audiences are pretty sophisticated these days, they don’t want to be fooled by lots of noise and fireworks with no real depth to it.
FCSyndicate: You also mentioned on your Facebook page in reply to a comment that I left regarding a return to your role as Case Walker from Never Back Down 2 that you were looking into the possibility. Can you throw out some ideas you’ve played with in conceiving how to write your character for a third outing?
MJW: Once you know your character it is so much easier to work within that identity and take it to directions that you could not in your first outing. If we do another film, you will certainly get to know Case much better.
FCSyndicate: Sequels aside, are there any other projects that have garnered your interest that you would like to share with the world?
MJW: I have a couple of projects in the works. Black Dynamite 2 is active and will really expand on the character and his “adventures”. The other projects I will talk about over the next few months as they develop.
FCSyndicate: Between your job as an actor, an athlete and as a father, how do you balance these roles as busy as you are? What gives you clarity and peace of mind?
MJW: My family gives me the peace of mind that I need. As I have matured I have also developed certain perspectives on life and learned that all things come in their time.
FCSyndicate: Is there anyone else you look forward to working with in the not-too-distant future? Any surprises?
MJW: Oh…that would be quite a list. There are some fantastic people out there that I would love to work with. Lets see how this plays out.
FCSyndicate: At this stage in your career, what are some lessons you’ve learned that up-and-comers who might be reading this could use in the pursuit of becoming the next Michael Jai White?
MJW: In a sense I am always still learning. If I have learned anything it is to value others and value the opportunities that are presented to learn and to grow. There are so many possibilities available in the world, you just need to see them.
FCSyndicate: Any other words of inspiration you can offer to fans reading this?
MJW: I find the fans are inspiring. I would tell people follow your dream, follow your instincts and Never Back Down.
Thanks for taking the time to ask me these questions I really appreciate it. Give my best regards to your readers.
Thank you sir, and thank you for sharing a dialogue with Film Combat Syndicate!
Follow Michael Jai White
, and stay tuned for more updates on Skin Trade
ahead of its 2015 release, in addition to other films to come!
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