Karan Ashley, the first black, female Power Ranger, caught up with us at MomoCon to tell us about her starting her own convention and muse about her time spent as a ranger. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Karan and believe you’ll enjoy her too.
How does it feel being a woman of color on a popular TV show representing us? How did that affect you?
You know what, it’s amazing. It’s funny because Walter (Jones) and I, the first black ranger, talk about this all the time. When we were on the show we were so hyper-focused on “Oh my gosh, I’m on a TV show. I’m a series regular.” When you’re on a show, being a series regular is like, the biggest thing. We knew we were the first, but we didn’t know we were the first until way later. I always thought it was such an amazing show because it is a multicultural show and everybody’s a hero. You just don’t get the gravity of how it resonated with people until you meet them, until you see a young black girl that looks like you and they say, “For the first time in my life, when I was a kid, I looked up to you” and “You made a difference in my life. You were a hero, you weren’t just a friend, you were a hero.” We get emotional, we cried. It’s just one of those things that’s just larger than life. It’s the gift that we never expected to get.
How do you feel looking back now and realizing that each ranger color represented their race?
We always thought it was weird that people got stuck on the black ranger being black or the yellow ranger being yellow, but they never questioned the white ranger being white. It didn’t mean anything. The executives were from overseas and they didn’t grow up in America. They didn’t know the unfortunate history that America has with racism. Honestly, it wasn’t a thing and I hate that it became a thing for people. Once they knew that, when they did have a chance to recast some of the roles they took that into consideration. It just highlights how you need to have representation in the room and in an executive room. You don’t know those types of mistakes that make people go, “Why is that?”
Have you ever experienced Japan and the Super Sentai series?
I have been to Japan and it’s an amazing place. I wish that we had the opportunity to go there and do a comic con because the original actors from Super Sentai came here and the fans just loved them. They were well aware of our show; you know, our version of it. But I hope we can figure it out because… they do comic cons a little different there, so hopefully, we can figure it out because we have been trying for a number of years to get the original Mighty Morphin’ cast over to Japan. I just think it’s so funny how Haim Saban saw that show and said, “I’m going to take that show and make this show,” because their show is not a kid’s show, it’s geared toward adult audiences. But I’m glad he figured it out.
Speaking of nostalgia, do you feel that’s why Ranger Stop and conventions that are ranger-based are so popular?
Absolutely. It’s so amazing. This is the thing, I remember talking to a promoter like ten years ago and he was like, “Power Rangers aren’t popular and no one wants to meet a ranger anymore..” [I thought] you are going to eat your words, and sure enough, we have been doing comic conventions for 12+ years now. We have shows like Ranger Stop and Power Morphicon, and even some of the bigger shows. They bring us all out and we get to meet as many fans as possible. But yeah, that’s the power of our fandom. They have not left. They still watch the show; their kids are watching the show. We have affected three generations. It’s been 25 years and the show is still on TV. Not a lot of shows can say that. That’s one of the reasons I said, “Why are we sitting at home waiting for a comic con to call us? Let’s make our own.” Me, Mikey, and Nakia Burrise made Ranger Stop & Pop Atlanta, which will be here from June 21-23 at the Sheraton. So please come out.