At the Huntsville Comic and Pop Culture Expo, Andrew and Kinsey had the opportunity to speak with actress Karan Ashley. She first achieved success singing in the girl group K.R.U.S.H. She gained worldwide popularity playing the role of Aisha Campbell in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers second and third seasons. She is currently in the process of co-writing, producing, and starring in “The Order,” a film which will feature numerous Power Ranger alumni. She has also teamed up with Rangerstop to host Rangerstop and Pop, a new convention that will take place in Atlanta, Georgia from June 21st to 23rd. Check out our conversation below and let us know what you think!
Something I was fascinated to learn is that as a teenager, you sang in a girl group called K.R.U.S.H.. How did you get into the group and what was the experience like?
I was eleven or twelve years old and I lied about my age. I went to this local radio show that was almost like a “Soul Train” kind of show and I auditioned. You had to be fifteen, but I lied and I don’t even know how I pulled that off. I think they just thought “Okay, she’s a kid who cares,” but I got on the show! The best thing about doing that show is I met my manager and I met one of the girls in the group. We were hanging out because we were the same age. We both lied to get on the air. He was working as a P.A. on the show and he asked “Have you girls ever thought about being in a girl group?” We were like “Yes!” They were like “Do you guys sing?” and we were like “Yes!” We sang and right then, K.R.U.S.H. was formed. Within a year we had a record deal and we were signed to A&M Records. We worked with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who had worked with Janet Jackson. We were living the dream.
What would you compare your sound to?
We were like TLC and those kinds of groups. We all came out around the same time, so it’s like that kind of 90s music. Being in K.R.U.S.H. was the biggest blessing. We did the Mo Money soundtrack. We didn’t go that far, but we auditioned for “Sister Act Two.” They were looking for established groups to be in the movie. I didn’t get the part, but I got bit by the acting bug. I auditioned a couple times for the movie. Just doing that process, in that moment, I was like “Oh my gosh! I’m going to be an actress.” I think I want to be an actress more than I wanted to be a singer. When the group ended I started auditioning really heavily. Within one month, I landed Power Rangers.
Did having that background in performing help you in the audition process for Power Rangers?
Absolutely. I remember walking into the audition. Even though I wasn’t a martial artist, I had the confidence knowing I can go into an audition and it’s mine or it’s not. I think it was one of those things where I wasn’t nervous like I probably should have been [laughs]. Being in Krush taught me work ethic. It taught me to practice, learn, and perfect so when I had to learn a whole new thing like martial arts, I put in the work and that work ethic came directly from being in K.R.U.S.H.
Did you actually have to do any martial arts training when you got on the show?
I didn’t have to do training. It was funny. I booked the role and they were like “Okay, on Monday you’re working” and they threw me right in, but the stunt team was so amazing because what they would do is they would shoot it in segments. So it’d be like [kick, kick, punch] and then they’d move the camera. So it was like a dance. I had learned the choreography, so I learned the fight. I didn’t actually do training, but I did work with the stunt team and it was like “Make sure you pivot, make sure you kick properly.”
I imagine Steve Cardenas and Johnny Yong Bosch were helpful as well.
They were like masters! The cool thing about our audition process is we auditioned all day and they actually put us in a group. Then we went in and had to audition again. We got to see what each other did in the audition. I was just blown away by them. I really felt at that moment that it was going to be our part.
Did you feel any pressure replacing a character on such a popular show?
Absolutely! I had never seen the show, so I was a little naive, but once I got on the show, I realized how popular it was and I knew. Obviously, the actors are so beloved and so amazing. I always say Thuy Trang got the party started. Props to her! She really established the Yellow Ranger. Luckily for me, I had people around me that were like “Look, just do it your way. We we want you to be completely different from her.” I went in and made Aisha sassy as possible. [Laughs]
Were there any fight scenes or stunts that went wrong or were particularly difficult to shoot?
No. The stunt team was very professional and they always kept us safe. There actually was one time on the movie where I accidentally kicked someone in the face and he started bleeding and to this day I apologize to him profusely. It was my fault because I probably should have gone left and he went right it was just all crazy.
I read at one point during making the movie you came close to developing heatstroke?
We were shooting the parachuting scene and they took us up fifty feet in the air. We had to do all these flips and then move in front of the camera and I had to do mine after dinner. I flipped and flipped and then I threw up [Laughs]. But throwing up fifty feet in the air, you’ve just gotta catch it with your gloves and I just stood there. It took them like five minutes to get me down.
We’re also both big Nickelodeon fans and saw that you were in an episode of Kenan & Kel. Can you talk about what that experience was like?
It was like going to comedy class 101. I remember watching Kenan and watching Kel and thinking they were so talented and so creative. They would ad lib and they were SO good. I felt like I was in acting class. I would watch them and wonder “How are these guys so funny?”
The Order: Icarus Rising came out recently. What made you want to do a graphic novel and how does it tie into the movie?
Well “The Order: Icarus Rising” like you said, is a graphic novel but it’s the prequel story to the movie. Where the books will leave you off is where the plot of the movie picks up. For us, it was one of those things where we just couldn’t fit all these stories for all these characters in one film and since we’re at Comic Cons every weekend we thought “Wow, we could really do something cool” and graphic novels are really amazing. We partnered with a really cool artist, Nathan Blu, and it just kind of wrote itself.
What is the current status on development of the film?
We’re shooting this year. We actually have been working with lawyers and investors and everything is coming together. We should be going into pre-production probably in the next three months.
I saw the sizzle reel and thought it looked amazing. I know this project has been several years in the making and watching your dedication has been very admirable. What have you learned about yourself as an artist and a creator throughout this process?
I learned that you have to stay steadfast. There have been plenty of times where we wanted to just give up and go “forget this. It’s too much of a headache. Why are we putting ourselves through this pain?” but you realize that you’re doing it because we’re on to something. The fans are also really excited and I don’t want to let them down. We’re going to get this movie made and we’re super excited to work together.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like to talk about?
Nakia Burrise and I have actually partnered with Rangerstop and we’re doing a new comic con in Atlanta, Georgia called Rangerstop & Pop. It’s gonna be amazing. It’s cool to be on both sides of it where we’re guests as well as promoters. It’s the natural progression of wanting to see how a show is run and actually doing it. It’s not just going to be a Power Rangers convention. We have anime guests coming. We have Kel Mitchell coming. We’ve got Veronica Taylor who’s the voice of Ash Ketchum. So we’re trying to do a con that has a little something for everyone. Rangerstop and Pop is in Atlanta June 21st through the 23rd and you can buy tickets online now!