By Alex Zalben
Tonight on The CW’s “Arrow,” our newly rechristened hero faces the first major challenge to his “no killing” rule, in the form of hero-hunter Bronze Tiger. The comic book villain is played on screen by Michael Jai White, the insanely accomplished martial artist/actor you might know from “Spawn,” “The Dark Knight,” and way more. In advance of the premiere, we chatted with Jai White about his take on Bronze Tiger, whether he’ll be on for more episodes, and just why he signed on for the show (hint: it’s not why you’d think):
MTV Splashpage: Let’s kick it off talking about how you came on board to play Bronze Tiger.
Michael Jai White: Yeah, I was invited to the party and I happily accepted.
Splashpage: Were you a fan of the character before you signed on to the show?
Jai White: No, I actually didn’t. I knew my mother in law loved Stephen Amell, and loved the show! [Laughs] That was my first introduction to someone knowing about the show.
Splashpage: What brings Bronze Tiger to Starling City?
Jai White: He’s lured there by China White. She happens to know he has a penchant for testing himself against worthy adversaries, one being Oliver Queen. It’s just one of those things: Bronze Tiger has Daddy issues, he needs to work them out. It’s almost like that playground thing: who’s the toughest… And he has to prove that he is. He wants to in a very real way, test himself with Arrow.
Splashpage: In the comics, Bronze Tiger is a guy who runs around with a tiger head. It seems like you’re tackling a slightly different take.
Jai White: Yeah, not so… Crazy. [Laughs] It brings the fantastic world into more of a world of reality, where things are plausible. He’s not a tiger… He has claws, and I wanted him to fight in this tiger style of Kung Fu. But he has claws he’ll wear, not organically. They’re brass knuckles, and he fights with those.
Splashpage: You’re incredibly experienced with martial arts… What is the tiger style?
Jai White: Original Kung Fu had fighting styles based off of animals, and tigers are one of the more aggressive styles. Being Bronze Tiger, I would think that would be a good match. There are very ancient tiger Kung Fu moves I have Bronze Tiger emulating.
Splashpage: It seems like you had quite a bit of input into the fighting scenes then.
Jai White: I had influence, but I think the fight coordinator Bam Bam [James Bamford], who is amazing. He’s somebody that it was such a plus to work with. Being in that world myself, it’s a small community, and it’s always a pleasure to work with someone you have a high regard for. He really knows what he’s doing. It’s just like a good band-mate, you just make your music together.
Splashpage: How do you fight a guy who shoots arrows at you? There’s obviously a difference between someone who uses Martial Arts face to face, and a dude shooting arrows who can be fifty feet away, and run for cover when you approach him.
Jai White: [Laughs] Yeah, sometimes you have to fight one on one. Or if you’re fast, you can block the arrows; not the easiest thing to do, but he’s got to have his hand to hand skills as well.
Splashpage: Forget about Arrow versus Bronze Tiger, what’s it like for Michael Jai White to tussle with Stephen Amell?
Jai White: It’s fun! I don’t want to give much away, but Stephen is a worthy physical adversary. He’s a natural athlete, and he works hard at his craft. It’s really cool to work with someone who has that identity.
Splashpage: In the comics, Bronze Tiger ties into the League of Assassins, and the Suicide Squad – two elements we’ve heard are coming up in Arrow Season 2. How integral are you going to become to this season?
Jai White: Well I sure hope so!
Splashpage: Have you just filmed the first episode at this point?
Jai White: Yeah, just the one episode, but I would gladly return to that universe.
Splashpage: He comes to Starling City with the purpose of taking down Arrow, but as we saw in the first episode there’s more than one hero around. Are we going to see Bronze Tiger tusseling with Black Canary, or proto-Red Arrow?
Jai White: Not sure! [Laughs] I’m not opposed to that, but sometimes you can’t tell until the episode is done, what they keep, and what’s gone…
You can see if Bronze Tiger takes on a team of heroes tonight on Arrow, on The CW, 8pm ET.
Looking forward to Bronze Tiger on “Arrow”? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!