Michael Jai White is a Hollywood Heavyweight. His reputation is built on the backs of big-budget productions and roles ranging from the titular character in Tyson and Spawn to portraying the mob boss Gambol in the blockbuster hit, The Dark Knight.
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Jai White

When you first started acting, was it important for you to separate the martial arts roles from regular acting roles?

Absolutely, I felt like for my longevity as an actor that it was important. Being that I was a legitimate actor, and was on stage in New York, I didn't want to be pigeonholed in or be labeled the martial arts or action guy. I mean, because you know, you've been categorized into a very select group of people who just do that and people think that's all they're about.

Tell us about your experience making Spawn and how it was different from other movies that you would do later on. What was the costume and hair and makeup process like?

Here again is something that martial arts helped me through because I was quite claustrophobic up until this time. Then, filming Spawn, I was breaking a record for consecutive days in prosthetics and costume. I went from somebody who couldn't even wear a regular mask, to having my whole body encased in rubber.

That is about mental discipline, knowing you can get through it and putting your mind somewhere else which was an accomplishment for me and something that I'm very proud of. It was a great experience.

Would you ever come back as Spawn if the opportunity was there?

Out of respect for the audience, I absolutely would. I would not be where I am in my career today without that audience, so yes I would definitely come back as Spawn.

You are in Chrisopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which is arguably one of the biggest movies ever. What was your experience like filming and when you were cast, did you have any idea that it was going to become the blockbuster hit that it was?

No, I had no idea whatsoever. I knew Christopher Nolan was a genius and I expected this mad genius on set, but he's the most approachable and nicest person ever. It was an amazing experience and was one of the most fun, creative, relaxed sets that I've ever been on.

You had scenes with Heath Ledger, who played the Joker. What was your experience like working with Ledger?

You know, he was just like Chris Nolan. He was just so affable and we were trading magic tricks and doing all kinds of goofy stuff in between takes. He talked to everybody and was having fun which I think shows in his performance. Heath was one of the nicest guys because I realized one day he was in costume all day, but not on camera. He spent 4 hours in makeup to not even be on camera just for the benefit of his fellow actors.

Of course you are in incredible shape. How do you find the time to practice the craft of martial arts with your busy schedule?

Martial arts is a gift, a right and is not a chore. I would feel off balance if I didn't train or work out. There are so many reasons why you can't keep me out of the gym or keep me from working out. I remember back when I wanted to have this opportunity to be in top shape and now I'm getting paid for it. There's really no excuse and there’s an expectation to my fanbase that put me where I am.

I'm so blessed that the way I look at it is, now it's time to give back. Since I've had to do this for a lifestyle I want to share it with other people so they can enhance their physicality and health which is why I’m coming out with a fitness app.

What can fans and fitness enthusiasts expect from your upcoming fitness app launching this year?

I'm going to be breaking down a lot of things for martial arts purposes and it’s going to be really comprehensive, breaking down the basics, and why they work. It will be centered around educating people in martial arts and being effective if you had to use it. App users will be able to learn how to defend themselves, and get physically fit at the same time.

What is next for Michael Jai White?

Well, I'm up to bat and I'm doing my own thing. I have the release of my fitness app and a couple of films in the works called Dead Zone and As Good As Dead. I've also started my own studio and am producing films, which I am very excited about. We're coming out with a Western film called The Outlaw Johnny Black which I produced, wrote, directed and starred in. The film will be released in theatres this year and is a return to movie making that I used to love when I was young. It’s a Western movie that has morality involved with it but has action, comedy, drama and romance all in one.

A movie that an entire family could all come out to watch. When I was 10 years old I used to dream big by writing, directing and acting out my own plays. This is a full circle moment for me.

Catch Michael Jai White on BET’s Kingdom Business and follow him on Instagram or Twitter for more updates on his fitness app release and his upcoming film The Outlaw Johnny Black coming to a theatre near you!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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