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Interview with The Martial Arts Kid star and martial artist TJ Storm

In the world of entertainment no matter how far technology advances it still needs that human touch and expertise to bring an essence to the finished roles. The same goes for the world of martial arts. Currently there is huge buzz on the upcoming film The Martial Arts Kid featuring martial arts legends Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock, but obviously they can’t do it alone. One of their co-stars in the film is TJ Storm who has been making his own mark in the industry starring in films such as Punisher: War Zone and Black Cobra, as well as tons of motion capture work for video games and films such as Avatar and Green Lantern. I had the chance to sit down and discuss his upcoming role in The Martial Arts Kid and more.

The Martial Arts Kid
The Martial Arts Kid
Official Image
TJ Storm

Bobby: For any readers that may not know, can you give us a little background on your martial arts training?

TJ: The watered down version is that I started as a kid in Karate and then trained in a lot of martial arts including Kung-Fu and Tae Kwon Do.

Bobby: How did you get involved with The Martial Arts Kid?

TJ: I met and worked with Don ‘The Dragon” Wilson, James Wilson, and Cynthia Rothrock at the Battle of Detroit about a year and a half ago. That’s when we met and I think that is when the writer/director started thinking of how they could put all of us together. So I think that is when it sparked in him and then they asked me to join the team about 6 months ago.

Bobby: Films like this that are more family friendly action, we just don’t get as much anymore especially bringing talent like this together. I know there is reading scripts and everything, but with this caliber of martial artists involved what aspect makes you want to be involved with this film?

TJ: Don “The Dragon” Wilson is not only an icon in the martial arts world, but has done over 30 films and I grew watching his stuff as well as Cynthia Rothrock who is an amazing martial artist. Growing up I was always trying to copy their moves and stuff so the opportunity alone to get to work with them was “Let’s do it!” I saw that they were attached and to get a chance to work with them is absolutely amazing.

Bobby: I know it’s still early in the process, but do you have any information that you can share about your character?

TJ: It’s a character named Tron, who is kind of the antagonist. He’s a cool character he is in opposition to the traditional teaching and is straight up MMA. He believes it is all about victory and not about patience or honor; none of that just this is how you win. I think that is what they want to show, that traditional martial arts offer more than just victory.

Bobby: While I am sure you have your own normal training, what kind of training and preparation do you do for a film like this?

TJ: As an actor you just dive into the new material, so if you were going to play a ninja you start training in Ninjitsu if you had never done that before, if you are going to be a Navy Seal then you are probably going to want to work with them, so I am hanging out and training with guys that do MMA. I want to get into their mindset and see what kind of moves that they focus on and how different it is from my training.

Bobby: Obviously there are always fight choreographers, but you have been doing this for a while now. How much input do you get to typically have now in your sequences?

TJ: It really depends on how stylistic they want to go. If it’s super stylistic, then they have a vision and expect you to step into that. For instance if you are playing Thor you need to know how he does things instead of kicking and punching, you need to throw the hammer. If you are entering a martial arts world and hire a martial artist then they would probably want to go more with his strengths.

Bobby: While you're already accomplished in your own right, when you go into a film like this with icons like Don and Cynthia in both film and martial arts, do you feel intimidated at all?

TJ: I’m more excited and really looking forward to working with them because it’s about the martial arts. It’s not about who is better or anything it’s just the opportunity to do what you do and the chance to work with the best, how exciting is that! It’s going to be a blast.

Bobby: You mentioned how this film is bringing traditional and MMA together which isn’t done all that often. Nowadays there are very little traditional styles in film as everyone is bringing the flashy look to everything, what are your personal thoughts on today’s audiences connecting with the traditional styles?

TJ: It’s a very sensitive genre right now. It used to be just classified as action, but now martial arts are a genre unto itself and therefore you have to treat it like that. When you go into a western you see the guys in cowboy hats riding horses and know it’s a western. I think we have an opportunity here to tell the story in and around martial arts.

Bobby: They are bringing a ton of various martial arts to this film, so I am going to put you on the spot here. Outside of the Don and Cynthia is there anyone involved that you are aware that’s in it that you are most excited to be working with?

TJ: I don’t think I will get to be on screen with any of the others. I know a lot of them are going to be there and that’s super exciting, I may even have to sneak on set to see them, but probably don’t get to be on screen with them as I don’t think their characters show up at the same time as I do. On the other hand there is other people like Natasha who is playing my girlfriend, and she is gorgeous so I’m not going to say no. (laughs)

Bobby: I know we are pretty focused on this film, but is there anything else you have coming up that you can tell us about?

TJ: There is something coming up next month, but I can’t talk about it yet. (laughs) I have a couple of other films that I have to wait to talk about until they are released but I did do one called Black Cobra, a martial arts film I starred in and a bunch of video games that I have got to work on recently.

Bobby: Since you brought up the video games, how different is it to work on the motion capture work for the games as opposed to a TV show or movie?

TJ: Acting is acting, but the style is a bit different. I got to be in X-Men: Destiny where I got to play Wolverine and Magneto, the Spider-Man game where I played the Lizard and with those things you have to play a lot bigger like being on stage. You make bigger movements with your arms so the computer can see you moving a certain way where on a film you make everything a bit smaller so that it’s more of an internal struggle as opposed to a dramatic physical struggle. Half the time I am working as a werewolf or something, for instance when I was working on Jack the Giant Slayer I walked around like a giant, on Avatar I had to move around like one of the cat people or the robot, I played the one the general had to climb in to fight, I literally move like a robot which is very specific. In Black Cobra I am playing a South African son trying to get his father out of political prison so it’s a much more internal and smaller performance, but the action is still there and I have a lot of fun doing both.

Bobby: I can’t wait to check out The Martial Arts Kid with you and of course Don and Cynthia. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

TJ: Anytime man, it’s going to be a blast and I cannot wait to see the finished film, it’s going to be great.

For more information on The Martial Arts Kid head over to the Movie Pilot site here.

For information and to contribute to the Kickstarter for the film check it out here.

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