Interview: Casper Van Dien On Fame, Fighting, And Being Johnny Cage In 'Mortal Kombat: Legacy' Season 2

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The launch of "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" Season two kicks off our coverage of new fights (and fighters) for the Machinima web series. Check out the first episode below. Later today, we'll bring you interviews with some of the stars and creators who've brought the battle for Earthrealm to your PC.

LIVE - Interview: Mark Dacascos (Kung Lao)

4:30 EST - Interview: Director Kevin Tancharoen

"I get to be Johnny Cage!" That's actor Casper Van Dien musing on his luck at this stage in his career. The actor was thrilled to find the online response to his role (one fan tweeted "F---ing Johnny Rico is f---ing Johnny Cage" when the cast was first announced last year). Van Dien joins the cast of the second season of "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" as the down-on-his-luck actor, and recently, we spoke about the ups and downs of an action career, the fate of perhaps his most famous character, Johnny Rico, and making "Mortal Kombat" a family affair.

"I heard that the director was interested in me for this role and I met him," Van Dien says, "and you want me to play Johnny Cage, B-list actor, has a hard time getting a job" he more accurately asserts rather than asks director Kevin Tancharoen as the character joins the second season of the web series "Mortal Kombat: Legacy." With a straight face, he continues, "What are you trying to say?"

This little bit of gentle joking was the beginning and the end of the interview process for Casper Van Dien, the 44-year-old action star who got his big break as Johnny Rico in the sci-fi satire "Starship Troopers" after years of TV appearances in sitcoms and genre fare. Since then, the actor has become a staple in direct-to-video and indie action movies, and Johnny Cage feels like the version of the actor you would expect: bitter, rough around the edges, with little time for fans (much less an inter-dimensional martial arts tournament). Instead, Van Dien has taken this current phase of his career with a healthy dose of good humor.

"I think my career speaks for itself," he laughs. "I loved the opportunity to play this character." A few minutes into our interview, he gets a little more serious: "There's a side to him--like everyone--where he wants to feel needed and to have a purpose, and for me, there's something relatable in a lot of ways." Van Dien says that like Cage, it's important that he not be seen in just one light and his career post-"Starship Troopers" reflects that need to branch out. He's had regular TV gigs, comic and family roles, and, of course, a healthy collection of action credits (as well as a few producing gigs).

"A lot of actors go through that because of the ups and downs, the waves of this business, and for me, I've had those moments in my life and my career." Unlike Cage, Van Dien says he has a family--a wife and children--to lean on during the rocky times, but he feels a kinship with the troubled actor. Currently, Van Dien says he's in the best shape of his life (can he do Cage's splits--he's still training so that he can), but the actor says that he's kept himself fit and gotten back down to his "Tarzan and the Lost City" fighting weight--a contrast to the despondent and worn-out Cage.

"What's interesting about him is that in 'Mortal Kombat,' he actually feels like this is his chance at legitimacy, something where people can see his worth and his value. And I like that about Johnny Cage." In the second season, as in the 1995 film and the original Midway game which preceded it, Johnny Cage is out to restore his reputation--both on and offscreen. Cage is one of the fighters recruited by thunder god Raiden to participate on behalf of Earthrealm in a tournament to keep our world out of the clutches of the conquerors from Outworld. "He wants to more or less prove it to himself," Van Dien says about Cage, "so that other people will see his value." He says the role offered him the freedom to explore and be himself alongside performers he describes as "masters."

That's not to say it's all doom and gloom with Johnny Cage. Van Dien says his character is definitely the comic relief in "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" ("I don't know if I had to act too much," he says). The character is used to deflect some of the seriousness of all of the bone-crunching, very heavy action of the web series.

He has nothing but good things to say about director Kevin Tancharoen ("He's got a great eye, he's really funny, he's a great director"), but more than that, the actor gets warm and fuzzy talking about the team working on the film: its stunt coordinator Garrett Warren is one of his best friends and he counts producer Lance Sloane and actor Mark Dacascos as family friends (he and Dacascos has roles in the Sierra PC space shooter "Wing Commander IV" together). He jokes that his son was a frequent presence on set, playing the original "Mortal Kombat" theme song, giving the whole project a real tight-knit vibe.

Van Dien wouldn't have it any other way: "If it's not fun, why do it? I've been in this business for 25 years, and I've had more fun on this than anything else."

As for Johnny Rico, Van Dien says it's unlikely he'll ever escape the square-jawed "Starship Troopers" hero. "On my Twitter, on my Instagram, on my Facebook, people are always talking about it and quoting it. Last year, Van Dien produced the CG animated "Starship Troopers: Invasion." He's not certain what's next for the characters but he's aware that fans constantly want to know what's next for Karl, Carmen, and Johnny.

You can watch the full season here.

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