Jason David Frank (1973-2022)

When I met Jason David Frank for the first and only time, I was a 24-year-old newshound for a children’s magazine, and he’d drawn the short straw, dispatched on a press tour of Europe to promote Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie.

It was driving him slowly crazy. He was holed up in a west London hotel suite, with only an old school buddy of his to keep him company. The publicity people, usually hands-on and clock-watching, were nowhere to be seen.

I introduced myself and showed him our magazine, and he laughed heartily at our electric rotating lollipop cover-mount, which everybody agreed looked like a sex toy.

“The thing is,” I said to him as we sat down to talk, “when I watched the film–”

“You watched it!?” he said. “Dude, nobody who’s come through here today has seen anything more than the trailer.”

“Well, I thought it would be smart to watch it.”

“D’ya think?” he laughed around the rotating electric lollipop in his mouth. “Go on, man.”

“I saw that some of the actors were under-cranked so they looked like they moved faster. But you– ”

“Yeah! Right!” Suddenly he sat bolt upright, flinging the electric lollipop onto a coffee table, looking at me with intense focus. “They don’t have to speed me up. Sometimes I think they want to slow me down. It’s because we’ve all got our skill sets, you know, like one’s a dancer and one’s a gymnast and so on, but I’m a martial artist. This is what I do.”

We talked about the martial arts, about how he’d taken the job as the Green Ranger and been so overwhelmed by the love of his fans – an entire generation of children who thrilled to have him back in successive iterations of the franchise, as the White Ranger. In later years, he would be a Red Ranger, a Black Ranger and a Green Ranger again. He boasted that he was throwing all the money he could spare from his starring role into real estate, because this might be the only chance he got to make proper money. I don’t think it ever registered with me that he was still only 22 – he had a presence about him that made him seem much older.

The next journalist in line had been kept waiting for almost half an hour as we ran over. But Frank didn’t want me to go. “A lot of these guys,” he confided. “They don’t care. It’s just great that someone appreciates the work, you know.”

Jonathan Clements is the author of A Brief History of the Martial Arts. This article first appeared in NEO #226, 2022.

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