A young man walked into an acting agency. Confident and competitive, he’d already proven himself as a successful entrepreneur owning his very own karate school. Now he chased another dream.
An agent told him he’d be happy to represent him. There was just one problem: the aspiring actor’s hair.
“I had a ponytail … I had long hair,” he recalled later during a panel at the 2017 Raleigh Supercon, “so I went to the agency and the agency said, ‘You’ll never get a role like that. You need to cut your hair.’ And I was like, ‘Oh. . .really? I don’t want to cut my hair.’”
But this young man knew that success comes at a price. He had sold his comic book collection to buy a karate school, and even more than he wanted the hair style of his choice, he wanted to act.
“So I cut it and I went back,” he said. When the agency tried to turn him down on the excuse of a booked schedule, he threw down the gauntlet. “I cut my hair,” he said, “I’m not leaving without something.” After the agent kept stalling, the young man said, “Seriously, man, I cut my hair, it’s a big thing! Like, I kinda feel naked in here, you know what I mean? Like, I feel weird?”
His persistence paid off. “He gave me a script called ‘Phantoms,’ and he said, ‘Here. . .this should be right up your alley,’” he recalled.
“Phantoms” aired on networks worldwide under a new name, “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.” The new star was Jason David Frank, the Green Ranger.
Jason began his lifelong discipline in the martial arts as a youngling, beginning his training “at the age of four” and earned his black belt by the age of 12. “I trained with a school called Red Dragon Karate and my instructor was named Chris Casamassa,” Jason said. “He actually played the original Scorpion in the ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie.”
Years later, when Jason heard that Bat in the Sun Productions was featuring a deathmatch between the White Ranger (one of Jason’s later roles in the Power Rangers franchise) and Scorpion for their online show “Super Power Beat Down,” he said, “No! That’s my instructor! You’re not supposed to fight your instructor!” Despite Jason’s protest, the two legends faced off for the show. Watch the embedded video to see who won!
Not only did Jason’s lifelong commitment to martial arts begin at an early age, but also his business-mindedness. As a child, he collected comic books, but not in the way most children do. He collected comics as a financial investment. He recalled:
I used to collect a lot of comics, I was a hard-core to collect the Marvel comics, and the only reason, DC fans, is because Marvel had the value a lot more at that time for comic books. So I was a business man being very young and going, “I’m going to take this book and I’m going to put it in a sleeve and I’m not going to read it and I’m going to read another one. No, I take that back, I’m going to have a friend buy one, and then I’m going to read my friend’s.”
Jason’s discernment for comic book value paid off. As a teenager, he sold his comics collection to pursue a bigger goal: owning his own martial arts school. “[I] owned my first karate school at 18, owned another karate school at 19, sold my comic book collection to get that school,” he said, “which stinks because I only paid only 60 cents per comic book that now add up to thousands of dollars. But you’ve got to sacrifice sometimes.”
More than anyone else, comic book geeks understand the sacrifice of a comics collection. The trade opened the door to a career that has left Jason currently undefeated in mixed martial arts and with some of the longest lines at comic cons. The investment has more than paid for itself.
Stay tuned to read more about the Green Ranger’s journey to success in Part 2!