Talks & Interviews — June 22, 2014 at 1:48 am

Christian Howard: to play Ken in Street Fighter I needed to live up to physicality

ken-street-fighter-assassin-fistOn May 23, Machinima released a full 12-episode web series “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”, which received a widely positive reaction from the Street Fighter fans all around the world.

The short film, Street Fighter: Legacy, a passion project for Joey Ansah and Christian Howard, was released on YouTube in 2010 as a proof-of-concept. During San Diego Comic-Con International 2012 Capcom announced it had granted rights to the creators to go ahead with the project.

The series started a Kickstarter crowdsource funding campaign in order to source funds for production. The campaign was cancelled on April 17, 2013 when private backers stepped forward with the money necessary, removing the need for the crowdsource funds.

On July 14, 2013, production began filming in Simeonovo, City Sofia, Bulgaria. On August 24, 2013, filming on the series wrapped.

Howard, who plays Ken in the series, and who developed and wrote the story along with Joey Ansah, spoke to BZFilm regarding the project, his preparation for the part, comparisons to earlier Street Fighter films and more.


INTERVIEW

Were you the first choice to portray Ken in the film? From what is known,  you closely worked with director Joey Ansah on some other films, so did he want you for Ken’s part?

Yes, I was the first choice for Ken Masters. Assassin’s Fist came about after myself and Joey decided to create a new Street Fighter series, it was a long process and our proof of concept, “Street Fighter Legacy” got great acclaim and positive fan reaction that we could move forward. I have known Joey (Joey Ansah – plays Akuma) for 10 years and we have worked closely on projects in that time, choreographing action and creating projects. We were avid Street Fighter fans and would play MvC2 and SFIV almost daily when we were flatmates. It had been commented on about my likeness to Ken and obviously he was my favorite character to play as. We wanted to make a story about the main characters, Ryu and Ken, so it was a no brainer that I take the role. The feedback I personally received for playing Ken in Legacy was overwhelming, I wanted to do the best job I could and worked hard on training and personality to bring him to life like never before, the fans dug what I had done, even if they did think my hair was a wig…

ken-street-fighter-assassin-fist-ryu-ken-2When you were offered the part, what physical preparations did you have to go through? Any special training routine?

Even before Legacy I knew to play Ken I would need to live up to the physicality, I had done martial arts and trained for years but to put on the muscle for the role I had to get on a muscle building regime. For “Legacy” I put on 10kg in a short amount of time which really effected my skills for jumping with this extra weight. Luckily, through the process of writing Assassin’s Fist and getting it into production, I was afforded the time to keep working on my physique, so with the training a bit more gradual this time, I could concentrate on weights 3-4 times a week to put on muscle, and keep spry and flexible with gymnastics twice a week. Diet was important too, eating lots more than I was used to before and in the final stages really cleaning up my diet to get ripped.

All of us had a lot of work to do and every member of the cast was fully committed to the training in fight choreography or gym time, Mike (Mike Moh – plays Ryu) did phenomenally to put on the size he did when he didn’t have nearly as much time as myself to do it and he was still able to Tatsumaki my face off! And I think people would be really surprised to know how much fighting Togo (Togo Igawa – plays Gotetsu) actually did himself, he is a real life bad ass!

What do you think of the Street Fighter game itself, and how much did it influence you while playing Ken in the film?

I love the game! I grew up on SFII, that was the original for me, I played it in the arcades, and later on the genesis and SNES with my brothers. Ryu and Ken were always my favourites, its actually what got me into martial arts. This is a series made with passion and respect for the characters and the story, I wanted to play Ken exactly how his game personality is, and bare in mind all characters develop so this is a young Ken, more brattish and badmouthed, as you see by the end of the series he has simmered down and there is a role reversal for him and Ryu.

street-fighter-assassins-fist-ken-mastersWhat is your opinion on Damian Chapa’s portrayal of Ken in “Street Fighter the Movie” (1994)? Do you think this is what Ken could’ve become later on in his life?

I don’t think Chapa can personally be held responsible for how un-Ken his character was, not a single character in that movie was portrayed with any dignity to the game representation. All I can say is he did his job as an actor the way the story asked. As for if this is how Ken might become… if under prolonged Bison mind control, there is a slim chance Ken could become a criminal con man but what kind of world would we be living in?

Speaking of the Street Fighter films, what did you think about the “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”? How can you compare it with “Street Fighter the Movie” (1994)?

Legend of Chun Li was very disappointing for fans everywhere, for me it had nothing to do with the Street Fighter universe, except character names. I’m not sure a comparison can even be made between the two films, all I would say is, for all its faults the Van Damme version does have a lot of guilty pleasures, as it is so cheesy, the dialogue so bad, you remember it and quote it!

Though come to think of it, Legend of Chun Li has one huge guilty pleasure in Chris Klein, whether he knew it or not he is on another level, nothing even remotely to do with Charlie in the games, every scene he was in had me thinking ‘hmmm… interesting choice’ or ‘so that’s the take they decided to use??’. But again I don’t honestly think these films are even pretending they are Street Fighter, hopefully what we have done can set a bench mark in the same way 300 and Watchmen have defined doing graphic novels right.

ken-street-fighter-assassin-fist-ken-vs-ryuWhat was the most memorable thing for you, during the shooting of the episodes? Anything specific you could recall?

Well, we shot it like a feature film, so jumping back and forth in the story depending on the location or if it was day or night. It was a hectic shoot, enjoyable and stressful at times. I think the most memorable stuff was traveling to the far off locations. I took a splinter unit up to a waterfall, 3 hours from our base, to get the traveling shots and meditation in the falls.

I love those shots, I think it really sucks you into the Japan-centricity of the story. It was a beautiful location, but not as warm and peaceful as it looks! Mike, myself, Gaku and Shogen had to endure the freezing temperatures and make it look like deep concentrated meditation! The shot where Mike and I kneel under the torrent of water my legs actually went totally numb, so when I went to check the shot, I could barely stand and nearly fell in!

The first season of Street Fighter was very well received. What about the second season? Will you again portray Ken? Any tasty details you could reveal for the fans?

I’m so happy that the series is doing so well, it is more than myself and the team could have hoped for. Joey and I initially wrote a treatment for the World Warrior story, featuring Guile and Chun Li and Bison’s whole tournament with the Lords of Shadaloo, so all going well I hope we can move on and tell that epic story! There will be some extra content on the DVD/Bluray that will hold a few answers.

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