Comic Cons stole my life!
The Ninjak web series titled Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe with Michael Rowe portraying the character, is getting a lot of attention. Here, our very own Linda White had the opportunity to interview two of the show’s stars.
Ninjak: ComiConversing With Ciera Foster And Kevin Porter
New York Comic Con (NYCC) is filled with fun and excitement for fans that embrace a wide variety of pop culture genres and this year was no different. Recently accepted onto the ComiConverse writing team, I was looking forward to not just absorbing all the excitement, but sharing the experience with my fellow fans. Imagine my surprise when I received a message asking if I would like to interview two actors involved in a secret project that combined the Valiant Comic Universe with Bat in the Sun Productions for a six-episode, original web series titled Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe while at NYCC.
Hmmm, let me think. Yes!
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About Ninjak vs The Valiant Universe
As I dug in to investigate more about Valiant Comics, I became quite intrigued with the dynamic characters brought to life by a clearly strong team of creators. Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe stars actor Michael Rowe (Arrow, The Flash) as the compelling M-16 super spy going up against some of Valiant’s most daunting heroes. If you are a fan that embraces hard-core characters and loves true, in your face, sometimes bloody ass-kicking… this is the series for you! Visit the Valiant website to read the project’s official NYCC announcement that features a full list of stellar cast members.
My main focus though was on the stunning and prominent Ciera Foster as Livewire (Amanda Mckee), along with the handsome and charming Kevin Porter as Armstrong (Aram Anni Pada) in Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe. My interview occurred a day prior to the official release of the trailer and certain details of the series had to remain ‘under wraps’. I therefore chose to speak with them about how they got involved with the project, their thoughts on the characters they portrayed, and the preparation needed to make it a success. When Mr. Porter entered the room, he made his way around to engage all those attending the press junket. It was clear he was there to make everyone feel at home and to have some fun discussing his part in the Valiant realm. As Ciera entered the room, she owned it…. a strong presence indeed. Yet, her smile, laughter, and warm attitude invited you in to get to know her. The three of us took our seats at a nearby table…
Getting To Know Livewire And Armstrong From Ninjak vs The Valiant Universe
ComiConverse (to Both): So how are guys enjoying New York Comic Con so far?
Ciera / Kevin: It’s terrible. It’s the worst, it’s the worst. Being superheroes is tough, so hard. Laughing.
ComiConverse: (to Kevin) I knew you were an avid collector of comics books, (to Ciera)… Were you into comic books as well? Did he (Kevin) have to help you out?
Ciera: My dad is a Tang Soo do Master, 7th degree black belt and sparring partners with Chuck Norris so I grew up very immersed in martial arts and the Asian culture and also I grew up as the only girl and I had all guy cousins and older brother. So, I grew up on Mortal Combat, Dragon Ball Z, Transformers, Street Fighter, Valiant, Marvel, DC. I can probably read somebody Marvel, DC under the table and now Valiant.
ComiConverse (to Ciera): Wow, that’s great.
ComiConverse (to Kevin): What were you into growing up?
Kevin: Marvel, DC, Valiant of course after 94′. I was always a big Batman guy.
ComiConverse (to Kevin): Yes, you make a fabulous Batman, you look great. How does that translate over to your portrayal of Armstrong? Was it an easy switch over?
Kevin: No it was not. Actually, the Valiant people said it worked against me. (per Valiant) Because Armstrong’s big, and he’s loud and he’s outgoing and gregarious and Kevin Porter… Kevin lowers voice… he’s Batman. It initially worked against me until they had me come in and read for them. This (Armstrong) is much more my core than Batman. That’s why I love Batman because it’s a way for me to go dark, someone that I’m not. But I’m much more Armstrong than Batman.
ComiConverse (to Kevin): I read you liked tapping into that darkness.
Kevin: Yes, in a non-creepy way. I enjoyed exploring that in an appropriate way that’s in between the lines.
Connecting with the characters.
ComiConverse (to both): What personality traits in your characters do you most connect with? What are your favorite traits about the characters?
Ciera: For myself, what I connect most with Livewire is just her ability to get the job done. As an athlete and the background with my father, I am very much a natural leader. In athletics I always became the captain of my team, not necessarily because that was my goal or aspiration but I wanted everybody to finish, I wanted everybody to do well and I wanted to do it right and to the best of my ability. I think for myself it’s just about being a leader, she’s (Livewire) just a strong woman, a strong African American woman. That to me means the world and I am so honored to play her.
ComiConverse (to Ciera): What about her ability to control machines?
Ciera: Livewire is the bees knees! When I found out what Livewire’s powers were in detail, I was very enthused, to say the least. As to who she was and the franchise as far as her abilities, that to me, I have to reiterate, being an African American woman especially at the time that that was written 30 years ago was very progressive and I’m honored to be able to bring that to life and fruition on camera.
I now look at Kevin who was clearly wrapped up in Ciera’s answer.
Kevin: Ok, what was the question?
Ciera: Her question was… What do you identify most? Laughs.
Kevin: The thing that I love most about Armstrong is that he’s been around for 10,000 years and so there’s this arrogance to him and he doesn’t even pretend to be modest. I just, I love that, I relate to that. Ciera tosses him a look. When you’re on this Earth for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, you almost become superhuman at 35 or 40 because you’ve already seen it, you’ve already done it, so you know how to react. So take that and multiply by 10,000 and so suddenly there’s not a single thing thrown your way that by now you haven’t seen a million times. So you almost become bored and everyone else becomes… it’s your playground. You have to entertain yourself because you know what they’re gonna say, you know what they’re gonna do so you have to find ways to entertain yourself. This has nothing to do with his super strength, I think that his true superpower is that he’s had 10,000 years of getting it right and he still gets things wrong because of his arrogance and I love that. That’s me as well. Cockiness gets me in trouble.
ComiConverse (to Kevin): You think he (Armstrong) is a little bit of a deviant?
Kevin: Yeah, I think outta boredom. I’m really close to my character. I’m saying that I’m mischievous. I sometimes cause my own speed bumps so to speak, just to see how I’ll get around them. Rules don’t apply to him (Armstrong) because they (rules) won’t be around in 120 years but he will so, why follow them.
Ciera: I will say the difference between Kevin and Armstrong is I feel Kevin has some similar qualities but everything is done with good intention. (to Kevin) Was it difficult to play Armstrong because I feel as if… (his intentions might not be positive)
Kevin: It’s all about the end result. The end justifies the means. Like I said, the rules don’t exist for this character. He does things that are misinterpreted but he’s like, why let a rule get in my way.
ComiConverse: That got really deep.
Ciera: The life lessons of Armstrong.
Kevin (to me): I know you’re recording but, you may want to write that one down. Laughs.
ComiConverse (to both): I heard you address this a little bit earlier, that you don’t go toe to toe with each other. But I was gonna ask…
Kevin / Cierra: …Have we ever fought in real life? Yes. We scrapped before we came in.
ComiConverse (to both): Well, I was gonna ask you both about the characters but…
Ciera / Kevin: Oh well, that’s on us. Laughing.
Ciera: We fight ‘someone’. Smiles. We each fight someone.
Kevin: I think the term is I ‘clean up the room with someone’. I like that phrase. Like I literally clean up the room with someone. They’re like my dust mop.
ComiConverse (to Ciera): You seem to love some butt-kicking.
Ciera: I’ve been known to cause a couple sparks. I have a lot of fun. It’s really cool.
Kevin: Like her first day of being Livewire we were talking about how she would interpret the power and how she would move and we were just talking and working and I saw Livewire come to life before my eyes. Just watching the magic that she was going through as a trained actress and applying that to being a superhero, building of the character and how the character moves and walks and is motivated, it was inspiring.
Ciera: I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m an actress and an athlete and have a martial arts background but a superhero really truly moves in an entirely different way.
ComiConverse (to both): I wanted to ask you about that too. The training it took to prepare for the roles. (to Ciera) I read you have weapons training.
Ciera: I went to one fighting academy in LA and trained with Barbara Goodwin and the gentleman that trained Robert Downey Jr. for Iron Man and I also, in 2013, graduated from Theatrical Academy of Combat in Burbank and they did all the choreography, fights, stunt choreography for Master and Commander and for Hook. It was very important to make sure that everything with Livewire was authentic to the character but seamless. There is really an art to this character. I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish together as a team.
ComiConverse (to Kevin): You actually had to reverse your training (to prepare for Armstrong).
Kevin: Armstrong used to be ‘jacked’, he used to be less jaded and so in the pilot I’m sitting there and I’m pontificating upon Julius Caesar because I’ve met all these really cool people and I’m just loud and I’ve got all these women around me and I’m just ‘grrr’ and drinking my beer and then someone does something to get my attention and what he does is he distracts me and that to me is the cardinal sin, he distracted me. And then suddenly… I went Batman. And you see it in my eyes and I give it in a second, it’s a flash and I remember the Valiant guys were like that look, that look and I’m like well that’s just me being Batman. He says this in his Batman voice and laughs. But there is a flash and I’m like, don’t make me (Armstrong) do this because it’s beneath me. But when something happens that he (Armstrong) hasn’t seen it excites him. If there’s a woman that he meets that isn’t like the other 82,000 women that he’s met, she fascinates him.
Ciera: We talk about this all the time and it’s so true. Anyone that truly loves the art of acting will tell you the essence is just to get to the truth of the character. All the physicality is great but we could be the best athletes in the world but if we don’t have an understanding of the character, then now you’re just moving and it’s disconnected there’s no incentive. When you know the character, everything else falls into place. If he (Kevin) knows if he (Armstrong) gets distracted and that pisses him off and then everything else just flows.
ComiConverse (to both): What was the most difficult part to tap into?
Kevin: With me, not being a drinker. Honestly. I have to watch how people drink. The amount with how much he (Armstrong) has to consume just to get a buzz is just ridiculous. I didn’t wanna look cliché. Literally being a drunkard was the toughest part.
Ciera: For me it was the inside outside acting. I’m a very passionate lively person but Livewire is very stoic and very serious. Being able to bring forth emotion without emoting. I really focused on when Livewire enters a room, you feel her first.
Fan appreciation and loving the comic con experience.
ComiConverse (to both): Plans after panel? Sneak around in costume?
Ciera / Kevin: That’s exactly what we’re gonna do, but the opposite. We’re just gonna strut across the entire floor as ourselves. Bee Gees music in the background. Nothing might not happen. Laughing.
Kevin: Comic con fans are the most gracious audience in the world. This is important, you got early adopters to Valiant, these are the people that are on board right now and after the release you’re gonna have all these new people which is great for everyone. The early adopters are very protective and we love them for that.
Ciera: We are fans too. We chose not to see the trailer until tomorrow, with the fans. Once they (early adopters) see the trailer, they’re gonna ‘geek out’! We’re gonna ‘geek out’!
ComiConverse (to both): Thank you both so much for speaking with me. It was an absolute pleasure.
At the conclusion of the interview, I assured them both that I would indeed be at the cast panel the following day to see the release of the Ninjak vs The Valiant Universe trailer. As a woman of my word, I did attend the packed event. I watched as an exciting world of non-stop action and intrigue, with a touch of humor, unfolded on screen before me. The characters were a force of nature not to be tangled with and, may I add, very awesomely bad-ass! Applause erupted at the conclusion of the trailer to the delight of the cast members as well as to those responsible for producing what is sure to be a hit. The room was absolutely electric.
Connecting with the fans.
After the panel, it was announced that the cast would be at the Valiant booth to sign autographs… a perfect treat for Ninjak fans. As I made my way to the Valiant booth, you could already see people lined up to take part in the exciting event. All Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe cast members greeted the fans warmly as they signed autographs and took pictures. I absolutely had to say hello to Ciera and Kevin and tell them just how much I loved the trailer and looked forward to seeing the show. They indicated how much fun they had during the interview the previous day and thanked me for my kind words about the project. I can’t speak highly enough about these two talented, hard-working, intelligent, humorous, and sweet people. It was an honor to speak with both of them. I hope to speak with them again in the very near future and wish them well in all future endeavors.
Keeping You Comic Con-nected!