Michael Rowe Talks Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe Part 1

Back in September, we helped break the new about an upcoming webseries from Valiant Entertainment and Bat in the Sun Productions. The series, Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe would star Michael Rowe as Ninjak, Jason David Frank as Bloodshot and Derek Theler as X-O Manowar. It's an ambitious project, an eight episode webseries with the production values of a CW program. I got invited to visit the set during production of the series and scored a few interviews (done as a group) including time spent with series star Rowe. The actor will seem familiar to Arrow fans as the live-action version of Floyd Lawton / Deadshot… before some guy named Will Smith came along.

ninjakpicThe first question of the group asked Rowe why he was drawn to the character of Ninjak:

MICHAEL ROWE: I didn't want to do an imitation of something somebody else had already done. Here I get to be the absolute first to bring it to life. I dug into the comics so deep. I did the opposite of what I would do before, which would be just read the origin and then the script. Here I went and read the whole catalog. I'm really honored I get to bring this guy to life for the first time. I still think I got the job because of my hair, but they keep telling me it was other things.

DW: Are you doing a British accent for this?

MR: We are treating Colin King as a well traveled man. You hear a hint of it in the words he uses when he's talking to someone who is British. But his childhood was in Japan and he's a really well traveled man. There are a lot of other British characters in the script with real British accents. So besides how we wanted to play him in the script, having me do an accent just wouldn't have played well against the other actors.

I grew up in Newfoundland Canada, which is as close as you can get to the U.K. in North America and there is an Irish / British accent that has morphed from there. That's what I draw upon for a kind of upper-crust British accent.

He was then asked: "How did you get here and what do you like about the character?"

MR: You tell me. I was playing drums in a punk rock band and suddenly I'm the bad guy of the week. It's a great thing. I really didn't over-think it. I did a couple of acting class when I first got into acting, but I started out doing comedy and making Indy films with my little brother. I thought that would be my ins into the big leagues of the industry. My acting teacher told me I'd be playing bad guys and bad fathers. I said, "Really?" And he told me I had that look… I don't see myself like that. But I'm glad he saw it and challenged me with all the prep work.

Flasforward to about a year ago and I met Aaron [Schoenke], I was a fan of what he's been doing Super Power Beatdown and we talked about doing something together. I come from the Indy scene and the do-it-yourself punk rock background. So to create things like that warms my heart. I prefer doing it like this, the collaborative energy and working on something together. That vibe is what I'm in it for. It's nice to have the big budget things to fund the revolution, but I'm always happy to get back to the Indy stuff. While we were talking he was having discussions with Valiant and the timing of everything just worked. We weren't even talking about Colin originally; we were talking about a different character. But it's probably because of my hairdo.

DW: What were the other characters?

MR: First discussion was Neville Alcott, but I would need to do dialect coaching. There might've been one other, but once the conversation was about Ninjak and how everyone would be chasing him through the story… it really turned into something special and I'm really excited for it. That was a year ago and we went through many story incarnations and now to finally be on the set, in the costume and beating up people feels pretty F'ing good.

He was asked: "What do you like about the character?"

MR: What don't I like about the character? He says everything people think and don't say. He has that right amount of humor and that asshole quality that I find attractive in characters. He's an amalgamation of… like if Batman, Bruce Lee and James Bond had a baby with MacGyver and the Fonz. He's a cool dude, he works well under pressure, he makes all the references in the comics that warm my heart. Like pop culture references or just the way he approaches shit… he's just a cool dude. You never know what he's going to do next and that draws you in. He's a fun character to play.

DW: Ninjak is kind of the everyman of the universe. You're the one going to be going up against all these powered characters. How do you approach that? The fact that Ninjak is seeing the characters for the first time?

MR: The way it makes sense in my brain, I just spoke about this… to have everyone chasing you and to have everyone have different strengths and powers. Ninjak is an elite fighter, maybe the best in the world, he has an elite intelligence and an elite intelligence for fighting… so to me he would just be the center of a tornado of an attack. He organizes it by separating the group and then he has different fighting styles he thinks will match up with different people. It's kind of a one-at-a-time type thing. He is running to try to find them where he is two steps ahead already. For me as an actor, playing the role, I'm just taking it one scene at a time. Who am I fighting today, how do I deal with that person. It's a little overwhelming to think about fighting everyone. He feels he has everyone's number, which makes it about separating them from the pack and exposing their weaknesses.

The next question was: "How do you play a character like the amalgamation you described without going over-the-top?"

MR: You have to take it seriously. You've got to live it; you can't just play it. I feel like I know this guy. The least cool thing you can do is try to be cool. I'm trying to find the real moments for this guy and not looking for anyone's approval with the way I'm playing these scenes. He has a selfish sense of humor, he's not doing it for anyone so I'm not playing it for any specific audience. People can love it or hate it as long as they care about it. I try to make specific choices and stick to them.

This is just the first part of the interview. The second part will run later this afternoon. For those of you who missed it, here is the trailer for Ninjak Vs The Valiant Universe:

About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.

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