Actor, martial artist and cult superstar Michael Jai White became endowed with a royal title at the top of the year. That’s just one topic that I felt I needed to cover going into this, my second interview with him in the years since our first interview leading up to the release of Ekchai Uekrongtham’s 2015 action thriller, Skin Trade.
He’s since found his way back to Netflix in Thomas J. Churchill’s The Hard Way with Luke Goss, and will next be seen back on the big screen very soon for at least two thrillers already garnering praise – one being director Jesse V. Johnson’s newest ensemble pic, Triple Threat. Our interview marks the third in a small series of cast and crew interviews as we approach the film’s one-night select theatrical premiere on March 19 and subsequent VOD rollout on March 22; Fans in the UK are welcome to etch an April 28th screening date Mockingbird Cinema Birmingham courtesy of the Fighting Spirit Film Festival organization.
White did manage to reveal his forthcoming sequel stint in an Undercover Brother sequel in a seperate interview with VladTV prior to this – beans slightly spilled somewhat but you can learn more about that by clicking here. In the meantime, feel free to read on for a few morsels, and also, catch up with my Q&A seshes with Jesse V. Johnson and action star Tony Jaa.
Michael Jai White, thank you for joining us once again on our platform. It’s been about five, maybe six years since we traded Q’s and A’s and you’ve done a lot with yourself since then, and this year, to start, you were crowned a King of Awkwamu – Ohene, Nana Okoto III Odopon, officially making you Ghanan royalty due to your genetic roots. How are you guys? Is this still sinking in for you?
My family and I are well and we are all reliving our journey to Ghana in many ways. I have been visited by Ghanaian royalty who’ve come to L.A. to further educate me in their customs and indoctrinate me to the political and social power I now have to help Ghana as well as educate others to the benefits Ghana may offer those in the US. As glorious as the title of being made a “King” may sound, personally I feel the role of a King is to serve his people and not the other way around, so I’ll only be happy with the title once I’ve done something meaningful with it.
Were gonna jump right into it. We have Triple Threat coming out for one night only on March 19 in theaters, and on VOD the following Friday. It’s perhaps the biggest ensemble headliner in martial arts action cinema to date, and just a few years earlier you did Accident Man. Talk about meeting Jesse Johnson for the first time and being colleagues up to this point?
I really enjoyed working with Jesse again. He possesses a unique quality of artist and “regular guy” which is essential in making these types of movies successful. Too often action movies are helmed by Directors with limited vision, who aren’t representative of the fan base they are making the movies for. Although Jesse has grown up in the industry, he continues to be genuinely exited about his work and as a leader this excitement is infectious and inspires his cast to do better.
You guys filmed in Thailand and I know this schedule must’ve been pretty hectic for you guys. Talk about working together with such a massive cast and filming so many of these action scenes because it’s sort of almost non-stop.
I love working in Thailand! It is a place where much of my life’s favorite experiences have occurred and the people are very much a part of the joy in filming there. Most of the films I’ve worked on in the US have stressful environments where each department is only concerned with CYA (Cover Your Ass) politics and can’t wait for the day to end. There is a lightness and appreciation of the work in the Thai people that is also infectious, and that is helpful when you’re working in jungle heat on a 14 hour day. When you go to work and there are so many smiles it reminds you of the blessing you’ve been given to be able to work in the field you’ve chosen.
What I love most about your character, Deveraux, is especially your chemistry with the cast in creating that sort of connectivity– The characters played by you and Jeeja have a certain closeness I admire, and there’s also some pretty cerebral intensity between your and Jaka, played by Iko. I know Jesse gave some leeway to the cast to help structure their characters to fit to their liking as well.
Many times the task of the actor is to make people forget he’s acting. In a genre where everyone basically knows what’s going to happen you want to mine those moments and aspects that coax the viewer into believing they are watching “real life.” Jesse came up with the layer of my and Jeeja’s character being involved in a romantic relationship which ups the stakes of my emotional involvement. To play opposite Iko’s character with perceived hatred was an acting challenge as my admiration for him couldn’t be greater. Iko’s work in the Raid movies has elevated the martial arts action genre like nothing else in the last decade.
Working with Iko, Jaa, Scott, Mike B., Jeeja, and Tiger was nothing but fun all day and everyday. We’ve all spent our lives a misfits from separate parts of the globe and meet together as a fraternity of adults finally united in an elite common bond. In many ways we are like a real life group of superheroes.
Are there any plans to regroup with any of the cast or the director in the near future?
I have plans to reunite with Jesse, Tony, Scott and Mike B. on other projects, especially a specific action movie to be shot in Thailand where the Writer/Producer of it just won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture at the 2019 Academy Awards.
Have you had a chance to see this film yet for yourself since its completion? If not, are there plans to take the missus out to see it or possibly attend an event screening of some kind? I think the Fighting Spirit Film Festival is hosting its UK premiere.
I haven’t seen Triple Threat yet but I’d love to attend the premiere.
You’ve worked really hard lately in pushing yourself out as a producer in the last few years with the launch of your brand, Jaigantic. You launched a crowdfunder for a spiritual follow-up to Black Dynamite called The Outlaw Johnny Black, and I feel like that project can’t get off the ground fast enough. Share some insight on what this kind of endeavor takes, and I know it can be quite consuming.
We’ve been very careful at Jaigantic to align ourselves with relationships among those who understand the changing landscape of the future. We’ve learned quite a lot and continue to foster a direct connection to the fan base and have many exciting things in store for them. The Outlaw Johnny Black campaign has generated numbers that studios have found hard to believe but that’s understandable because they are working from an older model. OJB will be a game changer and we are poised to be able to bring it directly to our fan base.
Are there any characters you miss playing on screen? I know that for me it its defintiely somewhere between Black Dynamite, Isaiah Bone, S.E.T.H., and Jax from Mortal Kombat Legacy – There’s so much potential with these characters and so for me it’s been hard to let go, personally.
I’ve been blessed to have a career where I’ve played so many unique characters that fans enjoy shouting out; Spawn, Tyson, Falcon, Seth, Marcus, Jax, Case, Black Dynamite, but I’m looking forward to playing Bone in the Blood And Bone sequel as well as portraying a few new characters that will no doubt, be fun for folks to shout out as well.
Let’s talk real quick about what you have coming up. You’re in Lionsgate’s next release, Dragged Across Concrete, on the same day as Triple Threat, so that’s a Michael Jai White double feature right there.
Yeah, as dumb luck would have it, my Lionsgate premiere of Dragged Across Concrete with Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn is on the same day as Triple Threat but that’s a high class problem. I have always done non-action movies and as well, if not, more than my action films which is why they happen to be released on the same day. Action films avoid coming out at the same time but an arthouse movie like Dragged wouldn’t have to. I have four other movies coming out this year that I hope are spread out a bit. They are one broad comedy, a coming of age Kite-boarding movie, a romantic comedy and a kick ass action thriller.
And you were just cast with Josh Herdmann and Gina Gershon in Cagefighter with director Jesse Quinones. Have you started filming on that one yet?
We haven’t started Cagefighter yet but I’ve been lucky so far working with directors called Jesse so I’m optimistic.
Speaking of character favorites, here’s another inquiry: Will Case Walker return?
Among my many “projects on the table,” a return to the Case character is in the works, possibly as a TV show.
I have one more question, and before that, I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time out for our platform and for other readers seeing this. We’re on the eve of some pretty exciting films and you’re still engineering things behind the scenes for your role and status in cinema with the growth of Jaigantic, and I hope your brand does grow and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Is there a message you’d like to share with fans as we exit this interview?
My message to fans is to let them know how much power they possess! As the industry becomes more and more of a business where people are reduced to general numbers, it is more important than ever for fans to voice their opinions and support the type of action movies they love. Fans will see an “okay” action movie once but will watch a great action movie countless times and sadly there aren’t many analytics to measure this. The very reason there are less movies like Triple Threat being made is because much of the hardcore fan base have engaged in the piracy that hurt the bottom line of the very movies they loved. Now it’s time for Pirate Promotion! Those who’ve engaged in piracy can now seek compensation and purge themselves by over promoting movies like Triple Threat and put those pirating fingers to good use!