'Power Rangers' breaks down barriers with autistic, LGBT characters

PHOTO: RJ Cyler is seen here in "Power Rangers."PlayLionsgate
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When the new "Power Rangers" movie hits theaters later this week, fans will get to see a different team from the one they knew growing up.

The film, directed by Dean Israelite, offers a fresh take on the five friends who gain special powers and transform into Power Rangers to combat villains looking to conquer Earth.

RJ Cyler, who plays Billy, the Blue Ranger, in the movie, spoke to Screen Rant about his character, who is autistic. Cyler, whom fans might know from "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," said taking on this responsibility in the film taught him a lot about autism.

To get into character and prep for the film, he said, he "shut my mouth and actually just listened."

"I knew that it was my job to show, you know, that people that are on the spectrum are just regular people. Literally, just how we talk, how me and Becky [G, who plays Trini, the Yellow Ranger] talk — they feel the same way, they have the same emotions, they want to be loved, they want people to love, they want relationships," he said. "It's just, like, I was really excited to be able to play that 'cause I know it means so much to so many people."

But Cyler isn't the only actor putting a modern stamp on the franchise. Israelite told The Hollywood Reporter that Trini is going to investigate her sexuality in the film.

"For Trini, really she's questioning a lot about who she is," he said. "She hasn't fully figured it out yet. I think what's great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, 'That's OK.' The movie is saying, 'That's OK,' and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe."

This would be the first LGBT character in the Rangers universe. David Yost, who played the original Blue Ranger and come out in real life years after the show's run, praised the change.

"Obviously, I was very excited and really happy that the producers and the director stepped up to the plate and were willing to represent the LGBTQI community. I was really excited. I think the character they chose is really an interesting choice and really makes sense, when I sit and think about it, that Trini would be questioning her sexuality and going through some of that teenage angst, and I'm really excited to see how the character develops as sequels go on," Yost told the celebrity site TooFab.

"Power Rangers" hits theaters nationwide on Friday.

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