Saban Films‘ action crime thriller The Commando stars Michael Jai White (Spawn, The Dark Knight, Black Dynamite) and Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Sin City, Iron Man 2). The film will release in theaters, on Digital, and On Demand on January 7, 2022.
“In this edge-of-your-seat crime thriller, an elite DEA agent (White) returns home after a failed mission when his family makes an unexpected discovery in their house – a stash of money worth $3 million,” reads the official synopsis. “They soon face the danger and threat of a newly released criminal (Rourke) and his crew who will do whatever it takes to retrieve the money – including kidnap the agent’s daughters. Stakes are high and lives are at risk in this head-to-head battle as the agent stops at nothing to protect his family against the money-hungry criminals.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with The Commando star Michael Jai White about the film’s handling of PTSD, working with famed mixed martial artist Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and more.
Tyler Treese: You’ve done two films with Mickey Rourke lately, Take Back and The Commando. I’m not sure which one was filmed first, but how was it like doing these two films with him?
Michael Jai White: It was cool. I got more interaction with him on The Commando. Take Back, my wife was the lead, so she had to deal with him, and I had to deal with him on this one.
Donald Cerrone is in this film and he was also in The Outlaw Johnny Black with you. You guys have a great fight scene here and he seems like a blast to hang around. How was he on set and how did that fight scene go?
Oh, it went great. I mean, he’s always a blast. He’s such an amazing human being and just a down-to-earth individual. So, I mean, with this fight scene, I wanted it to stand out. I went to his ranch and sparred around with him and tried to find out the things that he likes to do in his fights more. So then we make that part of the choreography. So, I had my work kind of cut out because I had a really bad sprained ankle, so I was only really one-legged, but we worked around it and we just basically tried to craft a fight scene that we thought would work for both of us.
With his fighting career coming to an end in the near future, did you have any advice for him on just acting and what do you think about his future prospects as an actor?
Yeah, well, my advice is that he’s better than he thinks he is. He was a little down on himself. I understand to some degree because I’m like this. He didn’t like to see himself, and I was showing him some of his work in The Outlaw Johnny Black, and he kind of shied away from it, but his wife really thought he was really good and I thought he was really good. I wanted him to bolster his confidence a bit more. But yeah, he’s one of these guys that, a lot of the alpha males, you’re not comfortable with being celebrated. He’s just kind of a modest guy. So yeah, he’s a pleasure to work with and I’m happy to see him doing more and more work. He did his first lead recently.
One thing that really surprised me about this film is not a lot of action films deal with the more traumatic elements that come from war and your character is dealing with PTSD. Can you talk about that element of it and how it really grounds the story in reality?
Yeah. I really enjoyed the script for that reason. There are these movies where you just play a badass, just for no reason. It’s less human than dealing with people who are actually struggling with things that we all struggle with. Uh, so I thought that was heroic to make this character flawed in that way and inspirational for others who need to reach out and get help. Especially for us at the helm of our families. We gotta be a good example for our children, so when we need help, if your eyesight suffered you go get help. So if your mental issues suffered, then go get help from an expert. So that shouldn’t be so taboo anymore.
Yeah. I think a character like getting that help and going to therapy is breaking down a stigma. I think we made a lot of progress, but it definitely still exists.
Yeah. Especially more of our alpha, badass guys, so myself playing a badass getting help, it’ll encourage other alpha males to do the same, hopefully.
How was it working with Heath Ledger and seeing that transformation?
He’d come to work already in the makeup and everything, but he didn’t stay in character much. That’s a lot of people’s misunderstanding. He was just a very approachable and loving guy. He’d experiment with each take. Just really free-flowing. A lot of us tried to give him [space] and solitude, but he’s the one initiating a lot of the conversations and wanting to hang out. So, that was really cool.
Black Dynamite 2 has been in the works for a while. Do you have any update on that?
There’s some talk about it. It looks [like] the chances are very good that it may go next year. The script has been done for quite some time, and we’re trying to kind of see when the opportunity presents itself to get the sequel going.
Superhero films are continuing to blow up and we’ve seen such strides in representation, but you have the distinction of being the first Black superhero in a major motion picture with Spawn. What does that legacy mean to you?
I don’t know. I mean, I’m proud of it, but on one level I think of myself as I was a superhero that happened to be Black, you know? And this superhero genre I’m still connected to. I got a chance to play Bronze Tiger, and I’m the new voice of Blade for the Marvel game, the 2K [one]. So it’s a great opportunity. I get to play these iconic superheroes.
How is it for that 2K game? Is it just voiceover work or is it more intensive?
Well, it’s mainly voiceover work and some imagery stuff that they shoot.
I saw that you mentioned that Tyson and Spawn prevented you from playing Jax in the original Mortal Kombat movies. Of course you got to play him in Rebirth and Legacy. How fulfilling was it finally getting to portray that character?
Oh, it was cool. I wanted to play him in the movie at the time, but of course the other things kind of trumped that, but it was nice to kind of check that off the list.