As we get into the second part of the interview with Michael Rowe during the set visit for Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe, I sort of hijak the interview for a few questions talking to him about his creative process and tying it into his musical background. The other reporters on the scene may not have been very happy with me. The first part of this interview ran earlier this morning.
But the first question was about how every episode of the eight-part series will have a different tone, with Ninjak being the only constant: "How do you deal with all these different sensibilities and tonalities? And what are some of the other challenges you've had while filming?"
MR: We're only a few episodes in, but my approach to it is to take it one episode at a time. He's going to have a different approach and style depending on who he's fighting and I think you'll be surprised at how he sees the weakness in an undefeatable situation. That's why I say MacGyver is one of his influences because he makes something out of nothing all the time. He might be the badest due on the planet when it comes to fight style, but it's his intelligence that gets him through these things and how he's two steps ahead of you. That's one of the things I like about the comics is you get the peek into his brain and get the running commentary.
I'm learning so much as a physical actor on set, doing the fight scenes. I always wanted to do that and now I have really cool people working with me and trusting me to do it. And hats off to them as I don't think they knew I could fight. They just knew I was athletic and hoped they could use me and the coverage as much as possible. But after the first big fight scene Dinesh [Shamdasani] came up and said "I didn't know you were that good at fighting." And I said, "Neither did I." But if you're not a martial artist and suddenly you have a bunch of guys coming at you, the fight seems very real to you and it makes it seem real. I know what moves I'm going to use, but there is a certain frantic energy that comes with it.
DW: I'm always curious about the creative heart behind a person. You said you were a drummer in a punk band… so are you a punker who happens to be acting now or are you an actor that likes to play drums at night?
MR: That's like is Ninjak really Colin King or is Colin King really Ninjak. I think it's the evolution of life. I'll always feel like a musician but I think that's what gives me a leg up when it comes to acting. It's a different art form but I feel like I went to the school of music and I was able to transfer all my credits to the school of acting. Instead of having a song tumbling around in my creative brain, it's now a character. You'll have these epiphanies of not knowing what your character will do in a situation and then you'll be in the shower or making food and suddenly, "that's exactly what he would do." I have this creative obsession that I was able to fill with something else. Acting is my new favorite thing to do, but I still kind of feel like a musician and I'll probably always be like that.
I feel like music gave me everything and that punk rock community and those dudes I spent all that time with in the van are what made me who I am. I'm just trying to find things that will allow me to evolve. Right now I'm very passionate about acting. I'm all in and have stopped playing music for a long time. I stopped doing everything when I got focused on acting. I always felt like a jack-of-all-trades / master-of-none. Drumming came easy to me, I learned when I was six-years old. It was easier than walking and talking. But I knew I had a hell of a lot of work to do if I wanted to make any ripples in the acting community. I cut out snowboarding, drumming… I didn't have a girlfriend. I was like an acting monk for a couple of years. I wanted to put that 10,000 hours into it so I focused on it every day for a year as my starting point. I was pretty successful with that and felt like I could do it for real.
It feels like I've been training my whole life for this. I grew up loving professional wrestling with my four brothers. If you asked me what I wanted to be as a kid I would've said a professional wrestler or a professional basketball player… it wouldn't have been a drummer or an actor. But there is so much athleticism involved in a role like this. I feel like I've done this a million times in my head as a kid. Maybe that's why it's working so well. I try not to question it, I just feel like I'm in the right place at the right time.
DW: There always seemed to be a common rhythm and storytelling to music, writing and acting for me, is that something you see?
MR: I just know when I started acting, breaking down scripts and writing scripts with my brother my songwriting got better. And as my songwriting got better then my acting got better. Like one hand washes the other in that situation. Music started it all and I liken it to music in my head when I'm trying to understand things and it works really well. You know that thing where you are just trying to get a reaction or an emotion out of people… you can't over do it and you can't under do it. Music and acting performance are exactly the same in the regard. I've heard great directors like Martin Scorsese say, "I wish I was a musician." He likens making a movie to writing a song but he can't write a song. You wouldn't think, but definitely where you go in your brain is very close. I guess you're right, the storytelling was there in music and now I take it to a different realm with the onscreen stuff.
I'd really like to try a play. I've never been to one but I'd really like to try it and see if that's more like doing a show. Acting on set feels like recording in a studio. To feel alive in front of an audience and only get one take. I'd like to feel that pressure. I've been playing some of my old songs with my old friends again because comic conventions found out I used to be in a punk band. I just did a show in Birmingham, England in May. Dusted off the old song and rocked out to a couple hundred people. It felt pretty damn good.
DW: What was the name of your band?
MR: Bucket Truck.
Rowe was asked what Ninjak thinks of Bloodshot (played by Jason David Frank) who he would be fighting that day.
MR: I think they respect each other but they think they have each other's number. They've probably been thinking about each other and how they'd take each other out and now they get to see. That's a fun fight and I can't wait for fans to see it. I think there's a respect there but they're not friends by any means and have no problem throwing down. They've been waiting for this moment. How do you defeat someone like Bloodshot that heals so quickly? Seems like he's indestructible.
To wrap up the interivew, Rowe was asked: "Is there any character that Ninjak is a little more scared of than the rest?"
MR: Ninjak has a real lack of fear. I think he's intelligent, but he doesn't mind putting himself on the line. He had a traumatic childhood and doesn't care about risking his own wellbeing. He doesn't mind throwing caution to the wind and diving in head first. That's what makes him so dangerous. He's calculated in his moves but he doesn't give a shit if he lives or dies which is a great quality in a fighter. The fear he has is not succeeding in his mission. But Bloodshot brings the competition up. The mountain he must climb. Those are the toughest odds, but I would never use the word fear.
The trip to the set was a lot of fun. I've got a couple more interviews that I'll be posting in the future. The #1 thing that came out of the visit is that everyone involved in the project believe the same thing, take however much time you need to do it right. It may be a while before we see the end results of this project… but I have a feeling it will be well worth the wait.