411mania.com Interviews: Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist Star Mike Moh
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 05.24.2014
411mania speaks with the star of the new live-action series Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, Mike Moh, who plays Ryu! Moh speaks on his reinvention of Ryu for the series, his training and choreography of the project, and much more.
Recently, I got the chance to sit down and get an exclusive interview with the star of new multi-platform digital series, Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, Mike Moh. Moh, also an experienced martial artist and stunt man, plays the legendary Street Fighter franchise character and longtime protagonist Ryu in this exciting, new show. Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist explores the backstories of Ryu, Ken Masters (Christian Howard), and their teacher in Ansatsuken, Gouken (Akira Koieyama). In addition, the show also goes back further, showcasing the transformation of Goki (Gaku Space) into the dark warrior known to fans as Akuma (Joey Ansah, who is also the co-writer and director of the series). Moh talked about his work in recreating the role of Ryu for the screen, working opposite Joey Ansah and Christian Howard, and so much much more ahead of the Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist debut. The show is now available on Machinima's YouTube channel.
Jeffrey Harris: When did this whole process of playing Ryu start for you?
Mike Moh: It started for me – it was late October, and I got a message from Joey Ansah on my public Facebook page. And he just kind of randomly introduced himself and he was interested in me possibly playing the part of Ryu in his upcoming live action series. It kind of caught me off guard because I had never met Joey, but I was familiar with his works, and I was familiar with his Street Fighter short, Street Fighter: Legacy. So, at first I kind of thought, "What's going on? Is this for real?" And then sure enough, a couple of weeks later, he was in LA and we were meeting at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf along with Jacqueline Quella, our producer.
Jeffrey Harris: What was your impression of Joey Ansah when you met him, and you coming from a background of martial arts and stunts much like Joey, what was it like to have him as a director to steer this ship for you?
Mike Moh: Joey and I hit off really well right from the beginning. Obviously, I had some nerves going in because I understood the potential magnitude of the meeting between Joey, myself, and Jackie. But we really got along well, and like you said, we share a lot of the same interests in acting and martial arts and stunts. So we had a lot to talk about, and obviously, I was a fan of his work in The Bourne Series and just, I remember as a kid watching some of his videos; some of his martial arts from back in the days of the dial-up modem internet days when I was a younger kid. So we shared some stories and laughs. And in the first couple of meeting him when he was in LA, we trained together. So I think that was his way of kind of sizing me up and seeing if it was even possible for me to transform my body and if my skills were up to the task playing this character. And luckily all of it went well because here I am about to premiere the series as Ryu.
Jeffrey Harris: How would you describe your personal discipline in martial arts?
Mike Moh: My style is strictly Taekwondo. So ever since I was 12 years old, that's the only that I formally trained in. But when you live in Los Angeles for a long period of time like I did, you train with a lot of different people. And I became friends with a lot of different martial artists that trained in multiple styles. Although, I only formally trained in one style, I know a lot of others just from the melting pot martial arts that I became friends with.
Jeffrey Harris: Did you have to train for anything else specifically for the role of Ryu?
Mike Moh: I trained a lot – I tried to mimic a lot of Shotokan and Kyokushin Karate because those are the two martial arts I believe are the closest mimic of Ansatsuken, which is a fictional Street Fighter martial arts style that Ryu and Ken and Gouken train. So along with playing the games and just knowing how Ryu moves, it was just a matter of looking at some of the games and tweaking my technique to match the aesthetics of the character.
Jeffrey Harris: In the first episode there's a lot of barefoot training and running in the wilderness. Did anyone get blisters or anything? Or did Joey say, "Suck it up. There are no divas on my set."
Mike Moh: *Laughs* that's a great question. Those scenes where we're barefoot in the woods and training and fighting, those are like the hardest days because there were shattered bottles and so many treacherous sticks poking into you and it's just when you're not used to living barefoot as Ken and Ryu are, you're surprised at how fragile your feet can be. Luckily, between all the days we filmed there, I think we toughened up. And you're absolutely right. If either of us, we need would what Joey would say. So we didn't even pipe up. We just kept smiling and taking our lumps.
Jeffrey Harris: In this show, Ryu still has his white headband and not his famous red headband early on. Do you think that's something that will come up in the show?
Mike Moh: It could definitely come up later. It could definitely *wink, wink* happen later.
Jeffrey Harris: How do you like playing opposite Christian Howard as Ken Masters? Because the Ryu and Ken relationship is one of the most important things in this franchise and it goes back decades. So how important was it for you to show that bond onscreen and getting it across with Christian?
Mike Moh: I felt right away with the entire cast, we bonded so quickly because we were thrust from – whether it was London, or Los Angeles, or Japan, we all came together to Bulgaria. So we were just complete outsiders to that country and that production crew. So we came together real quickly, and we all wanted to put together the best product onscreen as possible. And Chris and I really got along well. We still have a relationship that mirrors Ryu and Ken. We're really good friends, we can talk about anything, but at the same time, if we hit up the arcade in Bulgaria we were always battling each other. We always had this competition in everything that we did. So if we were doing a fight scene, if he hit me with a really good hit, I would make sure to hit him twice as strong the next one. Some our fights were just brutal because although it was choreographed, we were really hitting each other.
Jeffrey Harris: Both you and Christian are really beefed up for the show. So were either of you trying to show off and start a little gun show? I mean Christian is showing off all the time. He's always got the shirt off or the gi off in every scene.
Mike Moh: Chris is a walking – Chris loves him some Chris, and I love that about him. If there's a mirror, he's definitely checking himself out. He worked hard to get physique to where it is, so I don't blame him. I had a little bit of catching up to do in that turn, so I didn't have as much time to get as ripped up as him. He's in great shape. He's a fantastic athlete and martial artist. We're always pushing each other. So whether we were at a gym, before we were shooting we had two weeks to get all last preparations in. We were at the gym every day. We were pushing each other to the limit. I don't know if you saw it at all, but there are 80s-esque montages [in the show]. And even when we're filming those, we're having fun seeing how many pull-ups we can do or who can hold the longest handstand.
Jeffrey Harris: I would like to see you guys doing those training montages with like "Let's Hear It For The Boys" playing in the background. Do a martial arts Footloose, you know what I mean?
Mike Moh: Yeah, that's kind of campy side of Street Fighter we're trying to capture in those moments. But also, it should also give the viewers a bit of sense of the camaraderie and the brotherhood that Ryu and Ken have.
Jeffrey Harris: I mean, when you are prepping for Ryu, do you even do research for this type of character? There are so many different takes on Ryu between all the games and the animated shows and also the comics. Did you look at any of that material, did you play video games for research?
Mike Moh: Yeah, I did. The main source of my studying came from the animated movies. There's Street Fighter 2: The Animated movie or Alpha Generations or Street Fighter: Alpha. I even watched the Jean-Claude Van Damme Street Fighter, which I gained absolutely nothing from. But it was fun to kind of look at the movie. Also video games, I played a bunch of games recently; the new Street Fighter iterations just to kind of see what people are seeing – what they see Ryu moving as right now. So I try to mimic that as much as possible.
Jeffrey Harris: Now looking back, I also really enjoyed your work on Kamen Rider Dragon Knight from some years back, where you played Kamen Rider Axe. What do you remember about getting to do your fight scenes with Matt Mullins, who is also a great martial artist?
Mike Moh: Matt is a good friend and he is a big reason why I ended up on that show. I had just moved to LA, and if it wasn't for him, the producers would never have known I existed. He dropped my headshot, my resume to the producers straight up on their desk. I got an audition, and after the first audition, I nailed the role. Without him, I wouldn't have had that. That was a great start to my young acting career that. I learned so much from that show. And looking back, some of the things that I put on tape were really cringe-worthy looking back, but it was a great experience. And probably next to Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, my favorite project. Matt and I had one major fight scene where we were out of our suits. It was a lot of fun to film. We took a full day to film it. There was good mix of acrobatics and tricks that we drew. It was basically him toying with me and my onscreen brother. It was a lot of fun.
Jeffrey Harris: What I really enjoy from this show, it's not just about the fighting. There's a lot of personal drama between Ryu, Ken, and Gouken. There's a real story behind all the action. And it just reinforces that this is different than anything we've seen from the franchise before, you know?
Mike Moh: Absolutely, and I think there is a lot of skepticism before people see it because no one has been able to do Street Fighter justice in live action. That's probably the number one thing that people will be surprised about that, "Wow. They got the characters and they look like the game and they move like the game." And there are going to be fights, but what they'll be surprised with is how deep the storyline is. And for me, I'm a fan of Street Fighter, but I can't say I'm a hardcore fan. I think most of the people who know what Street Fighter is, they're just casual fans. So they're not going to know the backstories between Gouken, and I think they are going to be brought in by that story because it's really deep and really interesting.
Jeffrey Harris: What was shooting like in Bulgaria? Was the weather bad or chaotic?
Mike Moh: Everything must have gone right because we never had a day of weather that pushed back shooting or anything like that. It was pretty ideal. It never got blisteringly hot. Obviously some days it was really hot, and we were fighting in the dojos. We're out there for 12 hour days, so I'm not going to say it was perfect. But I wouldn't have asked for anything different. It was probably 70 and 80 degree weather. It was comfortable and everyone in the whole crew worked really hard. I had an amazing time in Bulgaria. I would love to go back and film something there again.
Jeffrey Harris: I'm excited about this release because besides Machinima, this will get a big multi-platform release. So how do you feel about new digital releases and creating new opportunities like this show and allowing new creative voices in this digital age?
Mike Moh: I think we have a real chance. And I think Joey is supremely talented. He's a really creative mind. There are rare instances of people that are as creative and as talented as he is. He's almost consumed with this thing for the last five or six years. And I just give him so much credit, in fact most of the credit, for getting this off the ground. What he's done in creating this multi-channel, multi-platform thing is going to be the wave of the future because you're absolutely right. There are so many different ways that you can view your entertainment nowadays. And trying to hit as many of those as possible is so smart, not only from a financial standpoint, but also from an audience standpoint. So there's going to be the hardcore fans that watch it on every platform, every single different version of the series that we put out. There are going to be some casual fans that catch it on TV, or they catch an episode or five on YouTube. But just getting it out there in different ways is just going to maximize the potential of the series.
Jeffrey Harris: How do you like working with Akira Koieyama as your teacher Gouken, and what did he bring to the table for you?
Mike Moh: Akira, I love that guy. If I had to compare Akira to anyone in my family, he's like the crazy uncle that everybody loves but sometimes you're kind of baffled like, "What is this guy thinking?" He's so positive. He's so loving, and most people aren't like that nowadays, so it's so refreshing to have a guy – he's an older age. He's got kids who are almost at an adult age, but he's such a vibrant, spiritual, and positive person. When the cameras aren't rolling, he's so goofy and he's so entertaining. He has these wild, zany thoughts that he has no filter for, and he'll just speak these random thoughts and we'll all be laughing out loud. But then when the cameras roll, he's just this authoritative master. And you just want to listen to everything he says because he's so wise. He's got such a depth of personality. And I'm excited because I get to see everybody for the first time this weekend at the premiere.
Thanks so much to Mike Moh for taking the time to speak with us. Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist is now available for viewing on Machinima's YouTube channel.