Michael Jai White Talks ‘Falcon Rising’

September 4th sees the release of Falcon Rising, the newest action film from Michael Jai White.

We had the chance to chat with him about the movie and the character John “Falcon” Chapman.


John “Falcon” Chapman (Michael Jai White), is an ex – marine anti – hero plagued with a terrible secret consuming him with guilt. On the self – destructive edge, he learns his sister Cindy (Laila Ali) has been brutally beaten in the slums or “favelas” of Brazil and travels there to hunt down her attackers. In the process he discovers an underground world of drugs, prostitution, and police corruption ruled by the Japanese mafia and protected by the powerful Hirimoto (Masashi Odate). With incredible fight sequences and edge of your seat action, Falcon Rising is an in your face thrill – ride introducing America’s newest action hero.


In Falcon Rising, Chapman is obviously a damaged individual. He is suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. As far as action films go, he is more layered and not a one note action character. Not only is he fighting bad guys he is fighting his own demons. Is that one of things that attracted you to this role?

Absolutely. The main attraction for me is that character being a combat veteran, I think was a wonderful and responsible thing of the writer and producer to make a hero out of a real American hero that we see nowadays in everyday life.  It is such an interesting and contemporary issue and that really is the first thing that attracted me. That is the thing superheroes are made of; trying to deal with their affliction and I really respected that.

There is a lot of action but not action for action’s sake – John is not one to use violence unless pushed, and then he has no trouble going that route. It seems that any conflict triggers his flashbacks so even as a trained killer, that is not his first course of action and that was interesting to see.

Yeah, the characters are written to bring you back so we can continue the series as it is intended to be a franchise and I believe that is a real strong part of it.

I know it is early days yet but has the series already been confirmed?

Oh absolutely. That has been the idea from the onset – to do several films examining the character of “Falcon”.

You worked with Larnell Stovall who previously worked on Blood and Bone, Black Dynamite and Metal Hurlant Chronicles to name but a few. Do you have a favorite action sequence from the film?

I really enjoyed doing some of the tactical stuff when Chapman is fighting several people and it becomes like a ballet of martial arts and bullets.

Much like the final fight you jump kick one opponent while shooting another. How do you keep the fight scenes fresh and original?

I would never fight the same in two other movies and I think the easiest way to do that is to approach it from the standpoint of what the character would do. I approach it from inside. In this movie the fighting has to be organic to the character and he doesn’t have the luxury of time. He has to be efficient because his life depends on it and you can see why he has been the lone survivor of a few of the units he served with. He has that survivor guilt that plagues him but it is because he is such an efficient fighter that he has lasted that long.

So in a way he is a victim of his own skill…

Exactly. His gift is his curse.

For this movie it looks like you really let yourself go. You didn’t think about lifting some weights or anything?

(laughs) It’s funny because for every movie I did it is a process of ‘leaning down’ and what I am doing is nothing but cardio, but when you get lean it looks like you have been working out. You would think I had been lifting weights but is the total opposite.

Well you look totally jacked in this and maybe the biggest you have looked in any of your films.

(laughing) Depending on who I am standing next to. That has some bearing on it because there were not a whole lot of people who were bigger than me in this movie.

It’s funny though because we have heard from other actors in action roles saying how if they stay really muscular it can have an adverse effect on their speed and agility, but with you that does not seem to be the case.

Part of it I think is because I am slightly dysmorphic and don’t accept myself as a big guy; I see myself as a much smaller person and I move as such. I think Shaq kind of has that same mentality too and thinks of himself as a smaller person, but I honestly think I am, so when I see myself on film I go through some discomfort because it is really not how I see myself. When I competed and fought, I didn’t understand why I was able to stop people with say, a simple jab. I never realized I was a bigger guy who was moving faster than the other guys. I guess very much like John Falcon my affliction (laughs) was like my secret weapon…

This is your first time working with director Ernie Barbarash, who has done films with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins, so he is no stranger to the action genre. How would you describe his directorial style?

Oh it was great because unlike the directors I am used to, and the leading actors he is used to, we are both from theater, so we spoke the same language. I started in off Broadway productions long before TV or movies and he directed that type of stuff, so we really enjoyed layering the character and just talking about things that makes it more in-depth.  Having that was such a benefit because I am rarely directed in movies and I love to be directed because that is just making me better and I think he enjoyed having someone from an acting background from the on-set.

Well, we really enjoyed the movie and definitely think that ‘Falcon’ is the new action hero. We reviewed it and gave it 4/5 stars, because we can’t just give every movie 5/5…

(laughs) I appreciate that. A few weeks back I attended my first screening with an outside audience and I was really happy. There were seven applause breaks during the film and I was shocked to see that. I was actually a little choked up and had to get myself together to do the Q&A. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that kind of reaction.

CAST:  Michael Jai White, Neal McDonough, Laila Ali, Lateef Crowder
DIRECTOR: Ernie Barbarash

Falcon Rising is in select theaters and VOD Sept 4th