BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON Exclusive Interview With Michael Jai White About Playing Bronze Tiger

We recently caught up with the legendary Michael Jai White to discuss his role as Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger in Batman: Soul of the Dragon, and he talks in-depth about what he brought to this interpretation.

Producer Bruce Timm returns to the Dark Knight's world for an Elseworlds adventure set in the 1960s: Batman: Soul of the Dragon. Set for release on Digital on January 12 and Blu-ray on January 26, it's a fun, pulpy adventure which finds Bruce Wayne training under a master sensei. It is here that Bruce, along with other elite students, is forged in the fire of the martial arts discipline. However, the lifelong bonds they form will be put to the test when a deadly menace arises from their past.

It will take the combined efforts of Batman, world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner, and Lady Shiva and their mentor O-Sensei to battle the monsters of this world and beyond! 

Black DynamiteArrow, and Spawn star Michael Jai White takes on the role of Bronze Tiger, delivering a unique new take on the character which should definitely go over well with fans. This obviously isn't the first time the martial artist, actor, and filmmaker has played Ben Turner, but this action-packed animated adventure gives him the chance to do something completely different. 

You can check out the full interview with Michael below, but you'll find his thoughts on the Spawn reboot here, his take on his tole in The Dark Knight here, and his hopes to play Green Lantern here.
 

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Batman: Soul of the Dragon isn't the first time you've played Bronze Tiger thanks to Arrow, but what was it about this interpretation of the character that made you want to return to the role? 

It was a really fun script. I love the 70s. I grew up with these types of action movies. I love that genre so much that it was the catalyst for me writing Black Dynamite. I was already a big fan of those types of things, so the opportunity to do a fusion, and those of us who know will recognise this as very much an homage to Into the Dragon, so that's a dream come true for somebody like me.

This version of Bronze Tiger is a little more heroic than the one we saw in Arrow, but it feels like there's a darkness beneath the surface too; what were the biggest challenges that came with getting that across in your performance?

The background of the character, like a lot of us, he's fighting from a place of dysfunction. Some of that comes through. He's very much like myself and a lot of people who enter into martial arts. Some of us do so as a necessary way of maintaining a balance, you know? It's a wonderful outlet for those who can't afford therapy [Laughs]. I know, personally, that martial arts has been a haven for me in my life. I grew up similar to the character of Bronze Tiger, where it wasn't the most rosy of beginnings. The streets were hard and life was hard. Forging your spirit in martial arts is a great thing to have available. 

Something that really jumped out at me about the movie was what a positive role model Bronze Tiger is in his community; was it important to you to be able to portray a character like that rather than touching on some of the stereotypes we've seen with a character like this in other stories where he's just been, for example, a gangster?

What you just stated is kind of one and the same. Gangsters in the hood are role models and a lot of times do great for their community. This guy isn't a gangster, but I think almost everyone who comes from a downtrodden community, the decent people always want to give back. 

It goes without saying that you have a lot of martial arts knowledge, but how much of that did you feel you were able to bring to this particular project? 

I think the director and writers did that. They made sure, in the script, that they really took great pains to flesh out the characters. I really applaud them for that because, of course, I'm performing on what's written. They gave me a great canvas to work with. 

It must feel pretty weird being in that sound booth making the noises you would in a fight without actually performing the moves?

You'd think so, but not really! Even when you're doing those actual movies, you have to do your own ADR. So, all the noises and fighting noises that I'm doing in every movie I've ever done was done in a sound studio separately. That's kind of par for the course. 

On a project like this one, do you get much room for improv and to bring some of your personality to the character? 

Yeah, I definitely brought a lot of my personality to it. I'm sure there was room for improv in a number of ways, but I basically get in a mode of...I get in a collaborative mode, and whatever works, we just go for. It's largely due to the writing that would even let me be in a position to do that improv. The structure has got to be there or improv won't work anyway. 

Without getting into spoilers, Bronze Tiger has a very interesting rivalry with Bruce Wayne; was that a fun dynamic for you to delve into? 

The whole thing is fun! Every time I think about it, I'm a grown man and I get to continue [Laughs] my years of playing. This was all fun. I feel sorry for the artists that would fail to see the fun in doing a project like this. 

It must have been satisfying to see your character get equal footing with a character like Batman here seeing as it is very much an ensemble piece?

Yeah, very much so. That was the structure of the film thanks to the writer and director to give the characters equal time. Even though it says Batman in the title, it's not necessarily a Batman movie.

Going back to this film, after playing Bronze Tiger in Arrow, did you find yourself doing much research for this project, or were you comfortable enough in his skin despite the differences between them?

I didn't feel like I needed to go into anything because I have to accept the writer and director's vision that's in front of me. I pretty much will go with that. 

It sounds like you had a very positive experience working with the creative team here.

Absolutely. They fused several genres together and I think they did so in such a great way. The homage to Into the Dragon and all those great movies that define the martial arts genre. I recognise a lot of those things, so this was a treat for me. 

What about a sequel? Where do you see Bronze Tiger's story going next?

Well, [Laughs] I don't know! I think the director and writer did a great job, and I trust where they want to take it. 
 

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