I’m not extremely well-versed with the Power Rangers universe—I remember the films from when I was a child, which I still quote extensively, but I didn’t get to see the shows growing up. I wasn’t sure whether a Power Rangers meet-up panel would make for meaningful content, but not only did this panel end up being incredibly fun, but it touched on some strong points about diversity in genre fiction. I absolutely loved it!
As an adult, I’ve managed to step back into Power Rangers through the comics, particularly Marguerite Bennett’s ‘Beyond the Grid’ run, which I reviewed for WWAC.
With quarantine shutting down the world, and my brain, I found solace and comfort in watching Power Rangers: Dino Chargers on Netflix, even though I am not the target demographic for it. Dino Chargers was part of the reason why I thought I could connect with this panel. Two of the cast members, Davi Santos, who played the Gold Ranger, and Claire Blackwelder, who played the Purple Ranger, were appearing, and I wanted to hear what they had to say about being Power Rangers. I thought this panel would essentially be a fun chat between actors who had all been Power Rangers and thus shared a connection. But it ended up being more than that to me.
During the introductions, moderator Ben Kliewer shared that one of the newest rangers, Jasmeet Baduwalia, who plays the Blue Ranger on Beast Morphers, is Punjabi, and the first full Indian actor to portray a Power Ranger. Naomi Scott, who portrayed Pink Ranger in the 2017 film, is half British, half Indian. Considering that most entertainment media still lacks Indian representation, seeing Baduwalia was extremely exciting for me. I even hollered to my sister to stop watching her panels so she could come and see him on this panel. Turns out that William Shewfelt, who played the Red Ranger on Ninja Steel, also has Indian heritage, so that was another fun discovery.
Jack Guzman, the Black Ranger on Wild Force, was the first full Colombian to play a Power Ranger, and Davi Santos is Brazilian in origin.
As fun as this panel was, seeing these diverse Rangers changed the focus of the discussion and piqued my interest. I ended up feeling like I got so much more than just actors chatting about being in similar shows. The discussions on representation that we have got at ComicCon@Home have been very rewarding, and I hope that this continues once people are able to congregate in physical spaces again.
Of course, I would have loved to see a few more women on the panel. Blackwelder only managed to join in partway through while she was walking down a street trying to avoid people, so we didn’t get to hear much from her. The women Power Rangers still have a long way to go. Even in Dino Chargers, which debuted in 2015, for most of the series, there was only one female Ranger, the Pink Ranger, with the Purple Ranger appearing later. And of course, the two women did not get along. I hope Beast Morphers is doing a better job.
My excitement at the diversity aside, I liked some of the amusing stories the panelists had to share. As I had suspected, the morphing sequence is only shot one time and reused each episode—thank you for the confirmation. The cast also discussed how they couldn’t be filmed putting their helmets on because the gear has two parts to it so it’s physically impossible to get the shot that appears in the shows.
The actors barely wear their suits, apparently, which is a shame. But the suits are very stiff and uncomfortable—because they’re going for that starched, crisp look. Baduwalia mentioned how he had only worn his suit 3-4 times; Shewfelt only wore it the one time! This is because the stunt team does the fight sequences in the suits.
There was a lot of fanboying/fangirling over Austin St John, who played Jason Lee Scott/Red Ranger/Gold Ranger in several properties and appeared in a crossover episode. That was a very sweet moment—and St. John is quite a nice person to interact with, as well, according to Santos and Baduwalia. Some crew and executives did not recognise St. John on set, so that led to some hilarity.
Another fun fact I learned, since 2002, the Power Rangers series have all been shot in New Zealand—that explains the beautiful vistas I saw in Dino Chargers.
A not-so-fun fact, Wild Force was the last US-shot series, so Guzman and the cast he worked with weren’t given the best treatment. And the crew all lost their jobs because a New Zealand unit was hired in their place. Show business is not kind.
I got a lot more out of this panel than I was expecting—and it reinforces my belief in the importance of representation in every kind of media. When I was a child, if I had seen an Indian Power Ranger, it would have made me realise that the possibilities for my future could be limitless. I love that Baduwalia recognises this and is actively using his role to show Indian children that they can be anything. Because right now, the people of the world need messages like that. And I’m thrilled that they’re getting it from a series as popular as Power Rangers.