He’s more than just an action star.
During Black History Month it’s important to point out the people that have made the biggest and most impressive strides in the black community, in cinema, music, and all types of fields that people pay attention to. Today I found it necessary to speak a little about a man that I first noticed when I saw him show up in a couple of sequels that I wasn’t aware of until sitting down to take a look at them. Michael Jai White is one of the faces in cinema that’s been seen his popularity rise over the years as he’s taken on various roles in the movies and made a difference in the lives of others through his deeds and his fame.
As an action star, Michael has been one of those that people might call out as typecast, and it’s true, he’s often the badass that people are better off not messing with, or the lone warrior that doesn’t look to get involved with the business of others unless he has a personal stake in it. But there’s a lot more to Michael than his career, even if that’s what I plan to talk about quite a bit. There are other parts of his life that are important to note however.
So, let’s see what else we can find out about Michael.
He was a teacher at one time.
Can you imagine seeing this guy at the head of your class trying to help you with your homework or giving a lecture? Well, maybe the latter portion, since Michael was a teacher for three years as he taught special education and helped kids with behavioral problems. That’s rather impressive to be fair since while special education tends to get a bad reputation at times, in one way or another, it takes someone with a great deal of patience and a true desire to help kids to step into the classroom with the intent to help children reach their potential. It’s not bound to help everyone sadly, but the courage to step into teaching at all is something that stands out as an impressive quality that makes a lot of people a little more interesting.
As a teacher and as a human being Michael’s also made it clear that though he’s loved the hip hop genre for a long time he can’t get behind the message since too many people have blurred the lines between the reality and the fantasy that so many artists paint for their fans. As a teacher it’s fair to say that he saw a great influence of the musical genre, which could be where his own personal opinion came from. All in all, Michael is much more than what people see on the screen, but what we HAVE seen on the screen has been insanely impressive.
He’s been around for a while.
Michael’s career took off back in 1989 and has been cruising since. It’s fair to say that he hasn’t been a seriously popular actor in every year, but he’s been steady and he’s been reliable for a while. He made the move to include TV appearances in 1992 and started showing up in minor roles in various TV shows like Saved by the Bell, Martin, and many others. As the years have gone on he’s made his mark in a big way on the big and small screen, but it still feels that he might need another big push to get his name where it’s just as respected as other big-name actors color. The guy puts in the work though, that’s something that can’t ever be taken away since he’s done quite a bit in his career and at this point there are a few questions as to why he hasn’t been considered for a few roles. One of those is the Green Lantern, as he’s voiced the character in the past and would likely be great choice.
A lot of people probably remember that he played the first live-action version of Spawn, an anti-hero that is well-known and yet didn’t get the best representation on the big screen. One thing you can’t do is blame Michael for this since he and the other actors had to work with a dialogue that wasn’t that great and effects that, even for the time, were working with what had to be a seriously depleted budget. But all that people tend to remember is that the movie was a dumpster fire rolling downhill into a dung heap. To his credit though, Michael powered through it and made his mark in yet another way. It’s not likely we’d see him back for the remake in any capacity unless someone felt that it would be great to see him in a cameo. Maybe it’s best if he keeps his distance from this one though.
Michael’s skills have excelled in movies that allow him to show his martial prowess, since despite the typecasting that was mentioned, he’s quite impressive to watch since he puts a great deal of himself into each movie and makes it interesting to watch. He usually puts on a display using one of the nine styles that he’s learned over the years. Considering that he’s been involved in martial arts since he was a kid, Michael has managed to refine his styles until they might appear a little over the top. But someone that’s studied martial arts this long no doubt has a very good idea of what he’s doing, even if he has to make it look flashy for the movies. Sometimes the simpler moves are a little more fun to watch since they indicate a lack of unnecessary flair that might otherwise take away from the skills that are on display.
The talent he’s been able to work with over the years has been amazing, as he’s taken on several different characters in the movies and it’s usually appeared that his fight choreography and on-screen chemistry is more than enough to make for a great scene. Some of the best fights that his characters have faced have been against other great practitioners of the martial arts such as Scott Adkins, Lateef Crowder, and many more that he’s had the good fortune to work with. A lot of his peers have agreed that he’s a rather decent guy in real life, unlike a lot of the fairly arrogant characters that he portrays. So yes, he did say that he thought he could have beaten Bruce Lee had they ever met, and a lot of people thought this was one of the worst signs of disrespect ever. But Michael did come back and clarify his statement and even apologize. That might not be enough for everyone, but it’s an effort at least, and more than some might make.
He’s stepping up his game.
He’s already produced a few movies in his time, but opening up Jaigantic Studios in New Haven, CT, is a big step in the right direction as he’s founding the business for the purpose of making movies and creating a long list of new jobs and apprenticeships for the town. There’s bound to be a lot more to it than this, but the idea of creating employment is usually a positive for any town or city, so that gets a big thumbs up from a lot of people. That kind of investment in an area is impressive since it shows that of course they’re interested in making money, but they’re also investing in a location and the people that it takes to run the place and keep it up and moving forward. Some might want to say that this is just another way to line his pockets, but the truth is that building businesses helps others to find their passion, to devote their time and effort to something that is worth the investment. Seriously, trying to find a negative here feels like a waste of time even if someone is bound to do it.
This is kind of like a freebie since hey, the guy is fun to watch in the movies, and he’s done so many of them at this point that a person can either call him a typecast jobber or they can admit that he’s seriously underrated in terms of being an action star. But taking a step back, and a deep breath before going on a rant that might not stop for a while, should make a person realize that Michael doesn’t appear to bemoan his place in Hollywood, since he’s doing just fine and he’s still moving forward at his own pace. In other words, this is a man that’s worked his way up and found a way to stay in a position that he’s done what he needed to.
Michael is the kind of guy you look at and say “I want to be like him”.
You can bet that several people have already made the attempt and many more are going to do the same in the years to come. One thing that’s certain about movies, TV, and just about anyone, is that there’s always someone on their way up with stars in their eyes and thoughts of making it big. Despite the fact that Michael Jai White has never really been mentioned in the same sentences as names like Schwarzenegger, Johnson, or many others, he’s still one of the most impressive men in cinema today, and it’s evident that he’s kept to a course that’s kept him in the game for this long, and will allow him to keep moving forward at the pace he sets.
WTR? (Why’s That Radass?)
It pays to take time to express gratitude and be impressed by folks every now and then since the truth is that it takes a village to make the entertainment industry work. Folks like Michael have been around, coming to the front and then slipping back into the background from time to time. At this point, Michael Jai White has been around long enough that his career isn’t in any danger of fading until he’s ready to call it a day, and we’re always ready to see what else he can do.