Interview with Dan Southworth from Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2

Dan Southworth Mortal Kombat Legacy Kenshi

Mortal Kombat: Legacy was a huge hit online. It was inevitable that we would see another follow up with Legacy Season 2. This time, we get to see the actual Mortal Kombat tournament taking place with a lot of returning and new warriors (check out the trailer here). We recently had the chance to chat with Brian Lee, who plays a re-imagined Liu Kang in Season 2. Continuing on in the MK roster, we chat with Dan Southworth, who plays the blind warrior named Kenshi.

John “Spartan” Nguyen (Nerd Reactor): Hopefully your day has been good?

Dan Southworth: Yes it has been actually. Been busy running errands.

Nerd Reactor: Are you pretty excited about Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2 coming out?

Dan Southworth: Yes I am actually. I’m looking forward to seeing it. Kevin Tancharoen is a great director to work with. We’ve got some pretty cool looking stuff. So I’m excited to see it.

Nerd Reactor: I was wondering if you know anything about the release date?

Dan Southworth: You know what? Nobody knows anything about the release date. Or at least I don’t know anybody that knows anything about the release date. I know that I got an email from Kevin himself to a bunch of us in the cast, asking us if we’d be available soon for a premiere. I guess Warner Bros. wants to do a premiere.

Nerd Reactor: You’re playing Kenshi. Can you tell us a little bit about him?

Dan Southworth: Well, there’s always the issue of bringing a character off of a video game, or of course off of the script page, and into real life and executing that. This is a web series and it doesn’t have a huge budget, so I don’t think you’re going to find an exact transfer from the video game image to the screen image.

However, it’s well done, and so I think that when you get a chance to see and experience Kenshi in this web series, you’ll feel like you’re looking at Kenshi. As far as what I did to prepare for the role, I play a lot of kinds of characters. I actually play a lot of samurai-type characters, so it was really cool to get a chance to play this character with all the experience that I have had in the past. What I did was I went and studied with somebody who I think is amazing at combining traditional samurai swordplay with some of the more Hollywood fantastic stuff. So we can try to find something in there that had elements of a traditional character, and yet didn’t stray too far from some of the cool stuff that of course takes place in the Mortal Kombat realm.

On top of that, I took the time to do a lot of research on Ninjutsu and the moves of Ninjutsu, because of course, Kenshi is a ninja. I thought it was interesting to discover that most ninja were basically samurai who specialized in clandestine work. So it was really cool to be able to draw upon all my experience in the past in playing samurai characters and sort of try to develop this back story.

Of course when I went to research the actual character, there’s not a whole lot of back story. There is a cool back story, but I had to fill in the blanks with history. So I gave Kenshi a clan or a region that he probably came from. I gave him my own history of who he was and where he came from and why he was rogue at the time. When you see the character, even in the background in the show, you’ll notice that I’m doing real Ninjutsu. I try not to let him just be an idle figure around the main character, where you’ll just see him standing around in the background. I try to make him a real human being, a real warrior who is concerned for the battle of his life. Which in this case, in this season, is the case.

Nerd Reactor: Was playing the game also part of your research?

Dan Southworth: You know what? I don’t have the game console, but I grew up on Nintendo. I grew up playing Mortal Kombat. I grew up playing Street Fighter and Tekken, and so for me, just being able to look at the footage and video gameplays posted on YouTube was enough to get a sense of where this character is in his own psyche.

Nerd Reactor: Kenshi wears a blindfold, so I was wondering if you were really blindfolded on set.

Dan Southworth: It’s a real blindfold. It’s over my eyes. We did use a little bit of movie magic there. I’m not going to lie, but there are moments where I was just swinging my arms out and was hoping that it connected in the right place, or not. It’s not the easiest task to do. You definitely have to have serious awareness and telekinetic or clairvoyant powers to fight somebody for long the way we fought on that show, which is to be blindfolded.

Nerd Reactor: How many episodes is Kenshi in?

Dan Southworth: I think two and a half, actually. But the cool thing is, those two and a half episodes, they really dive into Kenshi’s back story and I think that’s pretty cool. He had a really back story, what we shot was pretty nifty stuff. So I’m sure it’s going to be epic.

Nerd Reactor: Who’s your favorite character in Mortal Kombat?

Dan Southworth: I have to say that after looking at Kenshi, Kenshi is my favorite character. It’s right up my alley, the kind of character I play. But when I played the old school games, I played Raiden a lot. When I played Street Fighter, I played Ryu. Ryu was, is my favorite character. Ryu and Blanka actually.

Nerd Reactor: Well, you did play Ryu in the live-action short inspired by Street Fighter vs. Tekken, right?

Dan Southworth: I did, and I thought it was really cool that I got a chance to play that, you know, because I grew up playing that. We used to put down quarters. The other kids would come over, and if you put down a quarter against each other, it would mean we’d get a tournament happening.

Nerd Reactor: You’ve been in really cool fighting game projects, because you’ve been in both Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat projects.

Dan Southworth: And Tekken as well. I got a chance to do the Video Game Awards commercial for Tekken.

Nerd Reactor: What’s next after Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2?

Dan Southworth: I would really like to get a chance to continue to play Kenshi for a few more episodes. Or even if the film comes out. I know the film is already in production and Kenshi hasn’t been written into the film that they’re producing. If they do a sequel, I would hope that Kenshi makes it. I would love to continue playing Kenshi. I haven’t finished exploring who the character is yet and I think that would be fun.

Other than that, I am in Romania and getting ready to do something pertaining to The Expendables and the character that I play is really cool. He double wields some really kick-ass tanto blades. Also I am working on my web series of course which is sci-fi action show called Divergence. We’re getting ready to release five more episodes. We’re in the top five web series of about 105 on

I usually can’t make plans because I don’t know what’s coming down the pipe and I want to do a little jump back if that opportunity becomes available.

Nerd Reactor: That’s true. And I always wonder how does an actor plan future roles? Do they try to keep themselves open so that if there’s a really cool project they can just jump right in?

Dan Southworth: You kind of have to stay neutral. If there are roles you want to focus on getting then you sort of have to gear your training and your preparation in that direction. Because I play a lot of action roles I still have to maintain my acrobatic skills. And my overall physical maintenance has to be pretty close to top form so that I can get a role. I can move within striking distance of getting my body in shape, doing whatever I have to do, just because that’s where I’m focused. I do love to play comedic roles. I get a chance to play those every once in a while. I also do enjoy playing straight dramatic roles without any action.

Nerd Reactor: I’ve seen a couple episodes of Divergence.

Dan Southworth: There are six released right now on YouTube, and we’re getting ready to release five more, so that will be a total of eleven. And the next five episodes we are going to release, there will be a link to a Kickstarter campaign for the finale episode. We kind of want to make that a special event. And we are also getting a bearing on how well-received the show is by the audience. If it’s received well then we’ll probably be able to raise enough money to do the finale episode and kick off a series of my new web series, which we think is going to be really cool. But it all hinges on whether the show sinks or swims. Basically member-supported programming is what we’re doing here.

Nerd Reactor: I think you guys are going to do a panel at Comic-Con for Mortal Kombat Legacy season two. Excited?

Dan Southworth: I am. I haven’t heard whether or not I will make it onto that panel. I did not apply for my entry badge this year because I was just too busy. But who knows? Maybe I will get a surprise email and I’ll be invited to come down if I can get a seat on the panel, that would be nice.

Nerd Reactor: That’s why you can use your Ninjutsu skills to sneak in.

Dan Southworth: I can always do that. I did that last year. I’m a little too booked this year to devote that energy in that direction. But you know, they’re great people to work with. I’m sure if they can bring me, they will.

Nerd Reactor: For those aspiring martial artists and stunt actors out there, do you have any tips for those who are trying to get into the business?

Dan Southworth: When I first came out here, people were telling me I had to network. That doesn’t mean you have to come out and shmooze people. What it means is, you have to connect with people that are like-minded like yourself. The way I did that was, I worked really hard. I made sure that I had the goods. I made sure I could perform what I said I could and deliver what I said I could deliver. Of course there’s a limit to being able to deliver, so work hard. Be diverse. Read a lot. I think you should be versed in history and have a broad knowledge of things to be an actor because you’re playing characters where you never know where or how they’re going to come from.

You’re playing characters very often from science fiction or video games genres that a lot of people know the ins and outs of it in details. So being knowledgeable helps. Reading a lot, and not just being a dumb guy who can throw kicks and punches. That way you’ll have more long term work of course. You’ll also be able to enrich the characters that you play. But on top of that, there are many days where I’m running low and I’m exhausted and beat and broken down sometimes. I still push myself to work out to make sure that I’m maintaining or improving my condition. You should always be able to look back at the end of a year and monitor your progress, whether it’s physical or mental. Those are the areas to work in my eyes.

If you do well, you will get an opportunity. Everybody gets an opportunity out here, whether or not you are prepared, both mentally and physically when that opportunity comes. And if doesn’t, learn from it, because you’re going to get another opportunity. Seven or eight opportunities down the road, if you’re still not prepared, you’re not doing something right and you’re not going to be successful.

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Also check out our other interviews with the MK Legacy II cast and crew.

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