Michael Jai White is always grateful for the opportunities he receives in Hollywood and getting to do what he wants no matter what the role calls for. There's no project too big or too small that he won't do as long as he can contribute in the role asked, whether in an ensemble, supporting, or the lead. I spoke with the actor, who's promoting his upcoming action thriller in The Commando for Saban Films, about some of his said opportunities, including the blaxploitation trilogy that features Black Dynamite and crowdfunded The Outlaw Johnny Black; the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and superhero roles in Spawn, Bronze Tiger, and Blade.
With Black Dynamite and its release in 2009, White was not only able to further solidify himself as an action superstar, but the film was also able to equally utilize his comedic chops. The story, written by White, Scott Sanders, and Byron Minns, focuses on the Vietnam War vet named Black Dynamite, who's as deadly with a gun as he is in martial arts, unraveling a conspiracy that goes far up the chain. In fact, the film's popularity spawned an animated Adult Swim series of the same name, with the cast reprising their roles from the same production team that created The Boondocks. While fans were initially teased of a possible Black Dynamite sequel, fans were shocked to discover it turned out to be White in a new role, The Outlaw Johnny Black.
I always intended on doing three movies in that blaxploitation genre of Black Dynamite being the hyper action one, then The Outlaw Johnny Black being the Western, which is like kind of like bucking the preacher slash take a hard ride, type of movie and then I want to do a third, which will be in the horror genre that would be more like the Blacula-type of movie in the 70s.
The Outlaw Johnny Black, which White remains hopeful for a 2022 release, has him play the gunslinging title character. Hell-bent on avenging his father's death, Johnny Black vows to gun down Brett Clayton (Chris Browning) and becomes a wanted man in the process while posing as a preacher in a small mining town that's been taken over by a notorious Land Baron. The actor does promise that fans will get a true theatrical sequel to Black Dynamite, having "every intention" to work on it this year.
As far as tentpole franchises, White considers himself fortunate he continues to be in demand for them. "Well, they've kind of found me everywhere, I can say that," he said. "I was actually offered Jax before Spawn, but I eventually played Jax in the Mortal Kombat reboot thing for the Internet. But then I also, like I say, Bronze Tiger. These roles have brought me out in the past, as always, just as it stands it. I guess the powers that be selected me for it just so happens that I took those roles. I wouldn't mind doing more of that." The actor was able to play Bronze Tiger/Ben Turner in live-action for The CW's Arrow and lend his voice for the Warner Bros animated feature Batman: Soul of the Dragon. While White would like the opportunity to play more live-action roles as such iconic characters, he'll take them as he can get them like his upcoming role as Blade lending his voice to 2K Games' Marvel's Midnight Suns. The Commando comes to theaters, on-demand, and digital on January 7.