This week sees the new Power Rangers film hitting cinemas across the world. To mark the return of everyone’s favourite Mighty Morphin’ Rangers, here is our HERO 17 interview with star of the film Dacre Montgomery (aka Jason the Red Ranger).
If this is the first you’ve heard of Dacre Montgomery, take note, because it certainly won’t be the last. The 22-year old Australian actor has in the past year been cast as the Red Ranger in Power Rangers, the filmic reboot of the superhero TV series, and in the forthcoming second season of Netflix’s critically acclaimed Stranger Things.
A Hollywood blockbuster and one of television history’s recent smash hits are hardly standard roles for actors who have only recently graduated university, as he has from WAAPA (the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts). But this isn’t lost on the sharp young actor: speaking in-between a flurry of trips across the States, excitement reverberates through his Perth dialect like an elastic band.
Susanna Joseph: You’re in Atlanta right now, what are you doing?
Dacre Montgomery: Shooting Stranger Things. This is my first time in the South, and we’ve had a blast. It’s been a really memorable experience.
Susanna: I bet. The first season was an instant classic, so being heavily involved with the second must be very cool.
Dacre: Yeah, I was already a fan of the show. It’s been great and the cast are so lovely. It’s my first time doing TV as well so I’m kind of a sponge every day, trying to soak up as much as I can. It’s been a really crazy year, I can’t quite believe how much my life has changed.
Susanna: It must be so surreal for you still as you’re only really just out of uni.
Dacre: About a month before university ended last year, we were finishing our last play and I had been in contact with a few different management companies in the States and sending several tapes and stuff. One night I was sitting up and I got an email saying, “Can you tape for Power Rangers in the morning?” and I thought, “OK, sure.” I got up and there were all these missed calls from my now manager Lital Spitzer asking if I could go to LA the next day. She told me it was for Power Rangers, that she had sent them something else and they wanted to test me right away.
Susanna: And you said, “Goodbye, Perth.”
Dacre: Literally. I went and I met the director when we landed on Saturday night, tested on Sunday and they announced that I had the role on the Monday, and then I flew back and graduated with the rest of my class. We did a showcase and then I turned 21 and spent the summer training for the film. It was crazy, and Stranger Things was almost the same thing, the audition came up and I was in Perth and I got a bit overwhelmed because I love the show so much [laughs], I kind of made a short film out of the audition tape. Then I had a call the next day, where after chatting for about an hour I was asked to come and test in LA again, but then the day after that I got another call saying, “They don’t want to test you, they just want to offer you it.” Then about a month later I flew over and we started shooting. It’s been a good year. We’ve had some good feedback so far from Power Rangers, and obviously Stranger Things already has a following and it’s great to have a little place in that universe.
Susanna: Both franchises are quite iconic in their own way.
Dacre: Yeah, for sure. I hope that Power Rangers is received in the same way as Stranger Things, and that we get new fans as well as appeasing the old ones. My roles are so different as well. In Stranger Things I’m the antagonist of the second season, as opposed to Power Rangers which is the total opposite: we’re perceived to be the heroes of the story, so it’s a good contrast.
“The Duffers [Matt and Ross Duffer, creators of Stranger Things] said they wanted to see something like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, somebody who’s completely off-the rails and makes people feel extremely uncomfortable.”
Susanna: So your character in Stranger Things isn’t all that nice. Has that been a struggle?
Dacre: That’s exactly what I wanted. The Duffers [Matt and Ross Duffer, creators of Stranger Things] said they wanted to see something like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, somebody who’s completely off-the rails and makes people feel extremely uncomfortable. I guess I was chasing for that kind of role, and because it’s such a constructive environment where we can collaborate and I’m able to produce some of my own ideas and work with theirs, you’re looking at this multilayered character. He’s supposed to put everybody on edge. It’s genuinely a complete contrast, and it’s fun to play with that.
Susanna: I’m excited to see it, Stranger Things is awesome. You’ve been working with such renowned stars as well.
Dacre: There’s a lot to learn. In Power Rangers and in Stranger Things, all of the other actors that I work with have their own ways of doing things, and they’re so good at it that it’s interesting to learn their techniques and how they approach everything. It’s kind of like I’m at university again, because every day I get to learn how a $150 million blockbuster works differently to an iconic TV show. Everybody that I’m meeting, the exposure – it’s everything I’ve ever wanted and more.
Susanna: Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
Dacre: Yeah, I started pursuing it when I was about ten. I was auditioning and doing acting classes for ten years. Right through school, from primary to university. My first role was actually Power Rangers, and granted, it was a big role, but there was a good decade of wanting it so badly. And now, all this opportunity has just made me so much hungrier. I love the idea of being able to help produce a project, and reading all the scripts that I am being sent recently is so inspiring. I’m learning to try and write myself, and meeting people on a daily basis that I can collaborate with is fantastic, because I’m constantly thinking forward, about what I can offer in this industry. It’s opened up a plethora of possibilities.
Susanna: That’s the great thing about this age, you don’t have to be just one thing.
Dacre: Make no mistake, my love is acting, but I think it’s so good to be multi-faceted. Everything successful that I shoot now, I learn from, in every sense
Susanna: What do you get up to when you’re not shooting?
Dacre: I actually had four months off in Perth, and I was kind of going a bit insane because I like to be constantly busy, and I was trying to maintain that. I watch so much film and television, and I do a lot of yoga and a lot of boxing, kind of like the yin and yang of the sports world. I try and find somebody to go for coffee with every morning, quite often my mum. I like talking shop a lot and she’s very good at that as well. We talk about projects; nothing hugely interesting, but as I said, I’m trying to write. No kidding though, I am usually just watching TV shows or films as much as I can and getting to know different artists and filmmakers and creators. When I’m in the States my favourite thing to do is have dinners with producers, because they get me so riled up about how passionate I am to do this or that project. I’m still a normal person as well though. I go out with my mates probably once or twice a month, we’ll go to the bars, get a big gang together, stay out all night and then watch the sun rise on the beach in Perth. That’s the lovely thing about finding normality in Western Australia. Because it’s so removed and isolated, you’re able to have that completely disconnected lifestyle, in such a beautiful place.
Susanna: It seems like there’s probably a big sense of community, so you won’t be the Dacre Montgomery when you go back.
Dacre: Yeah, especially with the Australian sensibilities, they’re very much against big-headedness. If I was to come back from the States all full of myself, everyone would just be like, “No. You think you’re some big film star, but you’re just an Australian at the end of the day, like the rest of us.” And I think that’s nice, because it’s a great escape, especially if this film blows up. Every time I get off the plane and drive home and walk into my family’s house, it’s the best thing in the world.
Power Rangers is out in cinemas 24th March.