As much as it pains me to say, we’re drawing ever so closely to the end of Mortal Kombat: Legacy. With episode 7 of 9 to feature the battle between Scorpion and Sub-Zero, we only have three more episodes left in the series and that’s it. Mortal Kombat: Legacy had a lot of hype and almost obscenely high expectations for it since the short film Director Kevin Tancharoen did was so damn memorable, not only due to the style and direction that was presented but because of the terrific fight scene it included.
So far a lot of people have had mixed reactions to MK: Legacy as some think it isn’t gritty enough while others were expecting a straight up reinvention similar to Mortal Kombat: Rebirth. But while certain episodes of the series may not have delivered on their potential, one episode that is a clear standout is the one focused on Johnny Cage. With Johnny Cage being a huge fan favorite in the world of MK, it was a make or break moment for MK: Legacy if the episode focused around Johnny would deliver. Thankfully the episode revolving around everyone’s favorite overly vain actor delivered in every possible way, most of which is thanks to actor/martial artist Matt Mullins.
An accomplished martial artist, Matt may be a familiar face to those as he portrayed Johnny Cage in MK: Rebirth and has also starred in projects such as the Michael Jai White action film “Blood and Bone.” While the version of Johnny Cage presented in MK: Legacy may not be the overly smarmy and vain action star from the video games, Matt was able to inject some nice flavor into the character along with being a straight up badass in the action scenes featured in the episode.
Matt was kind enough to share some time and chat with me a bit about his role in Mortal Kombat: Legacy and his career. I hope y’all dig the interview and enjoy the insight Matt was nice enough to share with us.
Ian Fisher: This may be a standard question, but what made you want to jump into martial arts when you were a kid? Did you want to make the jump into martial arts due to watching a lot of kung fu/action movies as a kid and wanting to do the cool stuff you saw on screen, or was there something else behind your motivation to become a skilled martial artist?
Matt Mullins: I loved martial art movies and tv shows growing up. It was all I could think about. Even before I could start martial arts, I would go to the library and check out books on karate and try to imitate them. Being a Ninja Turtles fan, I would make wooden weapons (sword, sai, and nunchucks) out of scrap wood. So yeah, mostly TV.
Ian: A lot of people do martial arts for different reasons as some people just think it’s a good way to stay fit and possibly protect themselves if they ever get attacked by five people at once. What does martial arts mean to you? Does your practice of martial arts have a greater impact on your life besides being something that you’re skilled at doing to the point where you like to follow some of the doctrines and principles that are rooted in the type of martial arts that you practice?
Matt: Martial arts has done so much for me in my life that it is hard to figure out which element has had the greatest impact. I originally wanted to train to learn how to fight, but as I continued, I found a sport that allowed me to focus my energy and clear my mind. Even today, if I’m having trouble with a situation, I will go to the gym and do my forms and refocus.
Ian: After becoming a skilled martial artist you decided to make the jump into acting. What made you want to become an actor and has it been hard to make the jump into acting or at least be taken seriously and not just looked at as being a mere martial artist by certain people in the entertainment industry?
Matt: I actually was acting before I started martial arts. I was in every play and stage show in our community, and auditioning for a lot of print work and commercials since I was young. The martial arts gave me a skill that helped me stick out from the pack. Now I get to do the two things, I love martial art and acting.
It is very hard to be taken seriously as an actor to begin with, but even more so when you are trying to get people to consider you for a romantic comedy but have 3 different credits on your resume with blood in the title.
Ian: One prominent role of yours was your work in the Kamen Rider TV series that aired in North America. Now how exactly did you jump into Kamen Rider and did you have any reservations about doing a series like that or did you just go into with the mindset of having fun since it combined your martial arts abilities and allowed you to fine tune your craft as an actor?
Matt: I heard about the casting for Kamen Rider and tried to get in to audition through my agent and manager. They could not get me an audition time, so I figured out when the audition was, crashed it, and booked the job.
Kamen Rider was a huge honor for me to be a part of. I got to participate in a series that has been on TV for over 30 years. I also got a chance to work with some of my heroes in the business, including Steve Wang and Mark Dacascos.
Ian: When it comes to trying to find a role that’s good for you, what sort of things do you like to look for? So far you’ve had a nice mix of roles that have ranged from mysterious heroes, flashy villains, and now a fallen TV star. Is there a certain type of character that really appeals to you as an actor or is there a specific type of role that you hope to explore in the future?
Matt: It is a lot of fun playing a role that is outside your normal casting. For me I have enjoyed playing the villain and the bad guy, because it requires you to justify your actions in the film. Playing the hero is my favorite though. Playing a hero that has deep inner struggles is even better. Len from Kamen Rider, for example, was torn between his duty and morality. It really gave me a lot of places to go in the series to create an interesting character.
Ian: Last year you were one of the many reasons why the Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short film was so amazing since your fight scene with Lateef Crowder was superb. Can you talk about how you became involved with MK: Rebirth and your subsequent appearance once again as Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat: Legacy?
Matt: I had met Kevin years before in a dance agency we were both apart of, and we talked about a few different projects. We lost touch for a few years, and then I got a call out of the blue asking if I would be interested in Rebirth. It came out great and the series was going to be made, but then there were issues about me reprising my role as Johnny Cage. It was being shot in Canada, they could not bring up American actors, they wanted a star name to play the role. Basically every reason for me not to play the role came up. I will never be sure how exactly I got the part (thanks for pushing Kevin), but I got a call the night before they needed me in Canada, and I flew out the next morning.
Ian: A lot of actors in MK: Legacy have a certain knowledge of Mortal Kombat but aren’t really die-hard fans. In the past I’ve read that you actually play Mortal Kombat so do you consider yourself a somewhat knowledgeable MK fan or do you simply like to pop the game in once and awhile and do a few shadow kicks and lethal uppercuts?
Matt: As a gamer in general, I’m not sure where I stand. How many hours need to be logged to be die hard? When I play a game I don’t just beat it, I destroy it. I find every treasure, play every extended map and then play online to the highest level. For Mortal Kombat, I played all the arcade games, (spending all my paper route money on quarters) but fell off around MK3. Now with MK9 I have been playing a ton. I never really played on home systems before that because using a hand controller never had the same arcade feel I grew up with.
Ian: Since you have a knowledge of Mortal Kombat, what sort of things if any did you want to bring over from the how Johnny Cage is represented in the video games to your performance in MK: Legacy? Obviously the route taken with Johnny in MK: Legacy isn’t as glamorous or cocky as he is in the games or even the first MK movie, but was there something that you either wanted to channel as an actor or include so the many fans of Johnny Cage would further appreciate your performance?
Matt: As you said, Johnny Cage in Legacy is a lot different then the game. Starting Johnny where we did, gives us a lot more room to grow Johnny into his glamorous cocky self. Deep down Johnny is a bad ass and that was what we wanted to come through no matter what.
Ian: One thing I found interesting about the characterization of Johnny Cage was how he was written to be a former actor on a Power Rangers series. This character development of course slightly mirrors your background as a former actor on Kamen Rider. Now was this change to the character of Johnny Cage a mere coincidence of sorts or was the role somewhat re-written once you came aboard the series? And since the role of Johnny Cage had a few similarities to your own career, which has thankfully been devoid of bad luck like Johnny was portrayed as having, did it help you with the role in any way or at least allow you to draw upon from any personal experiences?
Matt: The Power Ranger line was really a coincidence, but added because the Power Rangers are iconic and known throughout the world. There are a lot of personal experiences I drew from for Johnny, but this business is cut throat and anyone who has been in Hollywood for 3 months could.
Ian: We may have seen the last of Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat: Legacy, but if the series was to continue in a 2nd season, TV series or possibly a movie, where would you want to see your character go next? Would you want to see Johnny’s character arc follow that of the video games and have him grow a connection to Sonya Blade, or would you want to see Johnny continue with the somewhat radical character shift and more gritty approach that was developed in MK: Legacy?
Matt: I actually think there is room for both. The connection with Sonya could prove to be very comical and fun, while the gritty approach to the action will give the hardcore feel to the film.
Ian: For you what was the biggest standout moment during your time on MK: Legacy? Did stepping on the set for the first time send a shockwave of excitement over you or was one of the fight scenes included in your episode a complete blast to shoot?
Matt: The biggest standout moment for me was the last moment in the episode when all the lights go out and Shang Tsung enters. Every time we did the scene I got goose bumps, because that was what the whole series is about, the tournament.
Ian: One thing that was surprising about the first fight scene in your MK: Legacy episode was that you did indeed do the splits to replicate Johnny’s new ball busting signature move. Now you proved that you did the splits in a pic you posted on Twitter but was actually doing the splits a difficult thing or are just naturally limber to the point where doing such a thing is a walk in the park?
Matt: I am flexible. I stretched before the scene, but I do it every day, so it was no big deal. The jeans where a little restricting though lol.
Ian: I’ve asked this question to a few of your fellow MK: Legacy cast members, but was there was a particular actor or MK character that you wish you would’ve gotten the chance to work with? Did you perhaps wish you had the chance to do some scenes with a few of your buddies like Michael Jai White or Shane Warren Jones?
Matt: It would have been great to work with all of them. They are all really talented and it would have been fun to see the character interaction. Can’t wait for the movie!
Ian: Outside of your acting and martial arts career, you also started up a performance team called Sideswipe. Can you talk about what made you want to create Sideswipe and where you would like to see the group move forward in the future?
Matt: Sideswipe is a martial art performance team that I started when I first got out to LA. The point of the team was to create the most highflying martial art performances the world has ever seen. Over the last 5 years we have done America’s Got Talent, Performed with Britney Spears, and done our own show in Las Vegas. The team is all ages and members are the best martial artists in the world (be sure to look for Leo Howard in “Kickin It” and Brandon Soo Hoo in “Supah Ninja”)
Ian: Moving forward with your career what do you want to be known for? You’ve had some terrific luck by having roles in projects like Kamen Rider, Blood and Bone and now MK: Legacy. So do you want to continue doing more action stuff or are you hoping to find projects where the action takes a back seat to everything?
Matt: I love this business and enjoy doing it all, but I want to be the next action star. The world has been missing one and I feel it is time to usher in the next generation.
Ian: Aside from your continued work with Sideswipe, do you have any projects we can expect to see you in next or anything you have in the pipeline that you’re excited about?
Matt: Unfortunately the world we live in is filled with NDA’s and I can’t talk about the projects I’m most excited about, but 2012 is going to be a great year!
Huge thanks to Matt for taking the time out of his schedule to talk about his time on MK: Legacy and other aspects of his career. While the shift in character for Johnny Cage may have been a bit radical for some fans out there, it was nice to see a different take on the character and I think Matt did one hell of a job with the role.
We may have seen the last of Johnny Cage for now, but hopefully we’ll get word of a Season 2 or possible film announcement shortly so we can look forward to more Johnny Cage action.
Article originally posted on May 20, 2011