Duff here…a while back I had the chance to chat with Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White. First of, I love what this guy does on screen. If he would’ve been in films in the action hey day of the 80’s he’d be just as big as Stallone or Arnold. But he wan’t, luckily for us he’s slowly brining back that beloved genre one broken bone at a time. Secondly he was Spawn, nuff’said. Hope you enjoy. (Sorry it was suppose to put much, much sooner, but the audio got messed up and had to transcribe it.)
Duff: Hey Mr. White how are you doing today?
MJW: Fine. Yourself.
Duff: I have to say I’m totally pumped to be speaking to you today. First off, thank you for making my wife jealous. I showed her a picture of yourself, and she was like that’s a real man. So thanks for that. Are you working out right now, as we speak?
MJW: (Laughs.) No. I started so early. And it goes along with my lifestyle, so there’s not too much to it. I’ve been doing materials arts since I was 7 years old, so it kinda goes along with the territory.
Duff: I read online you have 7 black belts? Which is nuts by the way. Is there one style you use on-screen more than others?
MJW: Well, I have a favorite style. It’s called kyokushin . But now I have 8 black belts now.
Duff: What drew you to Material Arts? Did you see Enter the Dragon and say I have to do that? Or was it something different?
MJW: Well, the first martial arts film I saw was a film called Five Fingers of Death, so that first Martial film I saw, and it scared me to death. But I think I latched onto the whole martial arts film thing, being an insecure kid growing up in Brooklyn. They had a power, and power over people, and this strong larger than life characters resonated with me. And I wanted to become that.
Duff: Cool. You’re road to Hollywood is pretty inspiring and different from most. You didn’t grow wanting to be famous, you were a teacher. So what made you say I want to change and start acting?
MJW: It helped me rediscover who I was a child. I remember as a child from 1st to 3rd grade I was at a Catholic school. As a treat if the class was good, behaved well. They were able to watch a puppet show, given by me. I was always doing creative things, I was always writing stories, always entertaining. I didn’t realize this, and I revisited this until after teaching. The performance bug kinda came back. The fact that I was always into stories and the acting class I took in college was just so much fun, but I didn’t take it serious as a vocation. But I owed it to myself to get it out of my system. But like you said I didn’t earn for fame. As a social creature, I want to study the social behavior of it, I was fascinated by it. And that interest in storying telling and that those developments, and now directing, and producing I feel closer to what I’m suppose to be doing in life.
Duff: Right on, man. Heavy. Now I found a clip of your first film, which is a favorite among our readers, Toxic Avenger 2.
Duff: Can you tell us how you got that part, and do you still have those nunchucks?
MJW: (Laughs) ah yah. The funny thing was is was that a prerequisite to what is going on now. In TA, I was basically an extra whose role kept getting expanded. If you noticed, by the end of it, I get a credit for choreography. Yah, I started out just as a character who was kept on, and ended up choreographing some different scenes. And by TA 3 I created a couple of scenes, like two guys fighting while on fire. I always saw it as a complete picture, not just acting, but directing, writing, creating.
Duff: You bring up writing. You of course wrote, directed, starred in Black Dynamite. Which is fantastic. Do prefer writing, directing , acting? Lot’s of film, and tons of TV. What do you prefer?
MJW: I have to say I’m most gratified, when a performance written by me, even if’s preformed by someone else. It’s so gratifying because it’s something that came out of your brain.
Like with Black Dynamite, it was an idea I thought was funny.
Duff: It is funny.
MJW: You’re really taking a risk. Walking that tight rope without the net. In acting, say I’m playing some tough guy, I have every part of the crew helping me look good. Lighting, directing, music, everyone. But if you’re creating it, that’s you’re going out on your own merit.
Duff: No safety net.
MJW: Yah, right no cushion. So the face that would put something that came out of my head that I thought was a good idea, then others thought it was a good idea, and it’s obtained cult status with the success that it has…there’s no feeling compared to that. And when I’m acknowledge for certain roles, and people say yah you great in that. I look at it is we were great in that. ‘Cause it’s just not me, other struggled to make me look good.
MJW: Falcon is somewhat of a revisiting of the 80’s style action drama, dare I say 70’s. Where Charles Branson, Clint Eastwood, real men took control of the action films. Things that were character generated.
Duff: I saw it as an anti-cgi-superhuman flick.
MJW: Right. We have no wire, no cgi. It’s real. These were the films I grew up on. Believable heroes, that have heroes that you want to live vicariously through. Falcon is a returning to that. Back in the day, when you had an action hero; you were believable. In the 70’s you couldn’t make an action hero out of a debutant, ya’ know. Falcon is man’s man, and it’s steeped in reality. He’s a combat vet suffering from severe PTSD. To me, that’s really reflective of the hero’s of the we have today in society. With all our combat vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Duff: Right on.
MJW: So he’s playing a real hero, when his loved one gets in trouble, played by Alial Ali he goes to Brazil to straighten things the way he’s learned.
Duff: I love the fact the action was really grounded, it was a man’s man film.
MJW: People are sophisticated now a days. They know the difference between what’s real and what’s not real. With the advent of Youtube, people want real experiences. Look at the reality thing? People are loosing favor with the formal type of films, when you can see more reality on the internet I want to go closer to reality in my film making.
MJW: Well, I don’t fear too much. But the fact is, Laila Aliis a dream to me to put in this film, being a series and all. I mean, who more believable than her to whoop ass! When it does come to that…if there is a female MJW, Laila Ali is pretty damn close.
Duff: Right on, so are we going to see more of her in the sequel?
MJW: That’s what sequels are made of.
Duff: So speaking of sequels are we going to ever see another Spawn? Are you involved in it anymore.
MJW: I can be. I would love to do another one, especially as a hard dark R. I thought the first one should’ve been. I think society has been very receptive of darker super heroes. And you don’t get more dark than Spawn.
Duff: Thank you for your time, real pleasure. Keep making man’s film.
MJW: Thanks. I will. I’ve been complaining about it, now I got to do something about it.