On Season 2 of the hit CW series Arrow, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has rededicated himself to his mission of being more than just another vigilante, and is attempting to become a beacon of hope for the city’s most vulnerable, as The Arrow. In Episode 2, thieves hijack medical supplies sent to Glades Memorial, and Oliver gets into a heated battle with China White (Kelly Hu) and her new partner, Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), over those supplies.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight, Spawn) talked about being invited to bring the Bronze Tiger to life, that the character is looking to test and challenge himself by going up against Arrow, how much fun it is to get to do bad-ass fight sequences, how easily stunt choreography comes to him, thanks to his martial arts background, what it’s like to fight with knuckle blades, and that he would love to explore more of the depths of this character, who has been both hero and villain in the comics. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
How did you come to be playing the Bronze Tiger?
MICHAEL JAI WHITE: I was basically invited to the party.
You’re certainly no stranger to bringing characters like this to life. Were you personally a fan of this type of stuff, before these roles started to come about, or have you learned to appreciate comic books and this genre since playing these characters?
WHITE: I appreciate it from playing it. Even with Spawn, I didn’t know anything about it. I knew nothing of Bronze Tiger before doing Arrow. I guess there’s something about my presentation that lends itself to that genre.
Did you read any of the comics that he appears in, or have you decided to just work with the scripts?
WHITE: I feel like the universe that Arrow is in is really in the realm of reality, and I didn’t want to bring in stuff that didn’t fit. They have a very realistic approach for who this character is. I know that in the comics he could be either a good guy or a bad guy, given the situation. As it was written, he’s someone, right now, whose only interest is to test himself. He believes the hype that was given to him about Arrow by China White.
You certainly make quite an entrance on the show. How much fun was it to start off with a fight scene that sets up who and what this character is?
WHITE: Oh, it’s a lot of fun. On that very same night, my sitcom (called For Better or Worse) with the Oprah Winfrey Network comes on, and I play a husband and father. He’s a very non-threatening dad. But, the physicality and the bad-assness is also a part of me. So, it’s great that I’ve shot 55 episodes of one show with one character, and then I get to be a boy on another show and really play out my fantasy as a bad-ass. That’s definitely a lot of fun.
WHITE: Not very long. The stunt coordinator is someone who is really, really talented. We’ve known each other, but haven’t worked with each other until now. We have a shorthand. These stunt guys really understand camera angles, and you know you’re in good hands, so it doesn’t take nearly as much time to shoot. It’s like if you’ve got Fred Astaire and somebody choreographs something for him, and they’ve got a shorthand, it doesn’t take very much time to choreograph something that you’ve done your whole life.
Was it difficult to get used to wearing and working with the knuckle blades?
WHITE: No, not really. I emulated this tiger style of Kung Fu that I’m very familiar with. I thought that would be a good match for someone calling himself Bronze Tiger and using the claws as a weapons. Tiger style actually uses your hands in a claw-like fashion. I always want things to be layered, so that martial arts enthusiasts who understand what tiger style is can see the basis of tiger style in what I’m doing.
What can you stay to tease what’s to come for Bronze Tiger and what we can expect to see?
WHITE: I would love to explore more of the depths of this character. As you may know from the DC Universe, he can be on one side or the other. You can write him off as a villain, until he shows you something different. That’s the stuff I really like to play. In reality, there are very few villains who view themselves as villains. They just have a certain agenda at a certain time.
So, we could see him fighting Arrow, and then fighting with him?
WHITE: Well, yes. If the opportunity were to arise, that would be a cool thing.
Were you given any background for how Bronze Tiger came to be working with China White and the Chinese Triad?
WHITE: I think China White has her agenda and her beef with the Arrow character, and then, she knows my pathology of wanting to test myself against worthy adversaries, so she created a win-win situation for both.
As an actor, when you’re working in a fantasy world like this, is it easier to get a grasp on the character when it’s more grounded in reality?
WHITE: Oh, absolutely! It’s definitely easier to root someone in reality, then in some strange otherworldly way. It’s always better that way. When you have a character who resonates with people, then they’re viable for the audience.
Arrow is really making a point to diversify with the characters that they’re portraying on the show. Do you feel an added sense of responsibility, being a part of that?
WHITE: Absolutely! I take every role seriously. Personally, I never look at any role as Michael White. I’ve done that my entire life. I’ve never excluded myself because of color. It’s never been part of the radar, when I look at anything I do. The majority of the roles that I’ve played have had very little to do with being black. It doesn’t matter what color you are.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.