Back in 2010, a short film titled “Street Fighter: Legacy” took the internet by storm, and the world partly has Christian Howard to thank for it. Appearing in the short as one of the game franchise’s staple characters ‘Ken Masters’, Christian would go on to reprise the role in the acclaimed “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” in 2014, reprising the role again in 2016’s “Street Fighter: Resurrection”, astonishing viewers each time with his incredible martial arts abilities and uncanny resemblance to Ken himself.
Already well-versed in using YouTube as a platform to present concepts for larger projects to the world, Christian is back at it with the new YouTube channel, “Rogue Origin” alongside fellow martial arts pro, Josh Mabie. Rogue Origin is intended to be a hub of Christian and Josh’s creative endeavours with different intellectual properties, having already released the James Bond-based short “Oddjob”.
With other big properties coming down the pipeline, Rogue Origin also has the Iron Fist-based project “Immortal 65” coming up, in which Christian portrays the grizzled immortal weapon of K’un-Lun, Orson Randall, and fans of action and superheroes alike will definitely want to watch out for it to drop in the coming months.
Today, Christian sits down with KFK to talk about the beginnings of Rogue Origin, the making of “Oddjob”, the various projects the channel has in the works, and what fans can expect from “Immortal 65”!
Hi Christian, welcome back to Kung Fu Kingdom! It’s great to connect with you again and we hope you’re keeping well during the coronavirus situation?
Hi Brad, I’m doing well, thanks! The situation is kind of wild. I’m in Hollywood and other than people wearing masks, but it’s still kind of busy, so it’s a little weird.
Been a really taxing year for everyone. On that note, our mission is to encourage 100 million people around the world to get into martial arts for all the positive benefits that it brings to individuals, physically, mentally and socially – what do you think about this goal?
Right on, I think that’s fantastic. Me personally, I started doing martial arts when I was 12 years-old, and it gave me so much in terms of structure and respect for other people, and it’s a way of living your life that gives you a different outlook.
The New Geekdom-Fandom YouTube Channel: Rogue Origin
Absolutely! Okay, so let’s dive in on your new YouTube channel Rogue Origin. How did Rogue Origin come about?
So, just through trying to make your own luck and make things in the same way that we had done with “Street Fighter” that I’d wrote with Joey Ansah, and since I moved over here, I started rebuilding my network. I know a lot of different performers and filmmakers and stuff.
Actually, off the back of “Street Fighter”, a lot of people were saying, “Oh, there’s an Iron Fist series coming up, that guy who played Ken would be a great Danny Rand!” And I was like, “Yeah, I love that character, and I’d love to do that.” But unfortunately, with the Netflix series, I didn’t even get a look in for the audition or anything, and I was sort of sorely disappointed with how that turned out.
Live-Action Anime Remakes & Working with Josh Mabie
So, I had this idea to do this “Iron Fist” story, and just through working with different people on different projects, I ended up working with a group called Re:Anime, who do live-action anime remakes and stuff like that. I started collaborating on some projects with one of the members, Josh Mabie.
I told him about this Iron Fist idea, and we sort of ran with it and it sort of became a possibility, and developed into something a little different. The channel that we’ve come up with is more geared towards not only anime and comic book stuff, but also re-investigating different movie ideas.
With “Oddjob”, it’s not the exact same universe, but there was a comic book run done by a guy named Greg Pak, who basically re-invented “Oddjob”. We know him as the overweight, sort of big, heavy guy, and then he did this comic book run that was this young, sexy “Oddjob”.
Josh Han plays “Oddjob” in our film, and he said “I want you to play Bond and Josh to direct it”, and we thought “This could be good material for this channel. And so, it sort of built organically out of that, different ideas for projects had come up, and we were thinking “Where are we going to put this?”, so we developed the Rogue Origin channel to house all of that geekdom-fandom content.
We’ll have a lot of content on the channel and behind-the-scenes stuff, and also original content as well, and we’re pushing forward with these IP’s that people recognize like Bond, Iron Fist, Fatal Fury, and hopefully, once people recognize the brand of action and filmmaking that we’re doing, they’ll be invested in what we come out with, as well.
The Making of “OddJob”
Well, speaking of “Oddjob”, what was your experience of making it? What mishaps or injuries occurred in the making of “Oddjob”?
That was a pretty interesting one, because we were in the pandemic at the time, and it was like, “How are we going to still be producing content and do it safely?” So it was a very, very small crew, and it was one of the first things we were putting together for the channel, so it was myself as Bond, Josh Han as Oddjob, Josh Mabie as the director, and we had our DP, Cameron.
(Love to) Fight in an Elevator…
We went to Chinatown in downtown L.A. – it was completely deserted, and we wanted to do this elevator fight, and originally, we didn’t have an idea that it was going to specifically be in this location, but just taking advantage of the fact that no one was around, we managed to get into this elevator, and shot basically a constantly ascending fight.
Bond has his briefcase and Oddjob has been sent to secure that package, and that was a good challenge to try and shoot something that’s constant action, but also constantly moving since we’re going up.
In terms of filmmaking, we’re doing a take where if we get to the end of the choreography before we get to where the elevator stops, we have to go back down and do it again. So there was a lot of up and down, and we shot that over three or four short nights, because obviously, we didn’t want to cause too much of a disturbance with everything going on, and it was a really interesting experience.
When you’re not onscreen, you’re trying to keep everything safe, and I think a lot of projects and films have started picking up. I’ve done a lot of jobs where every single one has their own COVID test just to make sure everyone’s safe.
Even though we’re doing our own independent stuff, we’re trying to follow social distancing rules and keep everyone safe, because the worst thing would be for something to happen and everything gets shut down. It’s a challenge for everyone right now.
It certainly is. So, what would you say were the most memorable experiences from the making of Oddjob? What was the most physically demanding thing that you had to do in the elevator fight, which is very reminiscent of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”?
Well part of the inspiration was that Captain America fight, where you’ve got this claustrophobia being trapped in there. And especially the way Josh is moving the camera – it almost becomes another character in it. It was very, very tight in there, and without the budget to be taking walls out and having a set. We’re literally just in the location, so it was very challenging to do. Thankfully, Josh Han and myself have enough skill and control that we didn’t hurt each other. Also, fighting in a suit, it looks very suave for Bond, but it’s not the most comfortable thing to fight in. You’ve got a jacket and a tie and all the rest of it, so it was a good challenge.
The Influence of Daniel Craig & Timothy Dalton’s ‘Bond’, & Bourne…
I’m sure. It’ll definitely be interesting to see Daniel Craig fight in a suit and tie one last time in “No Time To Die”, but he really knows how to handle that!
I’m a fan of his Bond as well. I think Timothy Dalton was also a big Bond influence on me, he was going down that darker route before it was really cool to do so. Then, when Bourne came out, people were like “Oh, yeah, we want it to be more gritty and real”, so Daniel Craig really capitalized on planning this more troubled Bond. We’d also done “Oddjob” before Sean Connery died, so it’s sort of in his memory as the original and greatest Bond there had been.
Playing Orson Randall in Rogue Origin’s “Iron Fist”
Indeed with Connery kicking the whole enterprise off. So, looking at Iron Fist now, you portray Orson Randall in Rogue Origin’s Iron Fist film. How did this come about?
Well, basically, the Netflix series was announced and a lot of people were like “Yeah, that guy with the blonde hair from Street Fighter”. And that’s a character I love and he’s supposed to be the premiere martial artist in all of Marvel, and especially with the way the “Daredevil” series was looking. The action in that was just phenomenal and now they’re doing something, so hopefully they’re going up the ante and make it even better.
Who’s a Martial Artist: Finn Jones or Charlie Cox?
And no disrespect to Finn Jones, but I wasn’t looking at it like “Wow, he really looks like a martial artist” in the same way that Charlie Cox really looks like he can do it, regardless of doubles and what the choreography is.
So, aside from not getting a chance to audition for the Netflix series, it was like, “I still want to do something with this character and showcase what I can do”, and for people who were asking about it. But, since Danny Rand had already been shown in live-action, I thought, how else can we do that, and looking into the history of Iron Fist, Orson Randall is actually a character that’s a lot more my speed.
Danny Rand’s a nicer guy and a little more light, and Orson Randall’s troubled and got more of an edge to him. He’s a bit more of a Batman-esque vigilante, and that to me was a much more interesting character – this war veteran who uses guns and who’s got just a different moral code to what you’re used to with a superhero.
He’s kind of a Punisher-esque anti-hero, and also his whole get up is cool as hell. He’s got the gun holsters and the trench coat and all of that stuff. So that really spoke to me, and we started investigating if we could do that and set it in the 1940’s, and we came up with a short that I wrote so we started putting it into production and bringing in all the favours and help I could get.
Christian’s Background in Design
My background’s in design and I used that on “Street Fighter” as well with the costume designs, and that mask I made myself, and I was overseeing the art direction. I like to continue that into projects that I’m doing now, and to make the Orson Randall costume was really cool, and what better to use it on than this “Daredevil”-esque battle royale with a bunch of The Hand. We’re going to drop a trailer for it, hopefully soon.
With the choreography, Josh and I started working on previz, and that’s a big thing for what we do on the channel; previzing everything to make sure you know exactly what the action’s going to look like. And, of course, on the day, everything changes! (Both laugh) So, “Iron Fist” was actually a really tough shoot, because we’re doing it independently, and I’m calling in a lot of favours, and it ended up being night shoots, which is a big ask for anyone anyway.
Putting in the Blood, Sweat, & Tears
So everything changed on the day, all the previz that we did, a lot of it we couldn’t use, or you get to the edit, and it’s like “This doesn’t flow”. As they say, you get three different versions of a movie, even a short. You’ve got what you originally wrote, what you filmed, and what ends up in the edit of the final product. So, it was a really interesting process, it was my baby, my passion project, I’m putting all of my blood, sweat, and tears into it, and it was a gruelling shoot.
There’s a bit towards the end where all The Hand are sort of overwhelming me, and there’s a choreography sequence that’s one take where I’ve got ten different guys coming at me. We must have done that twelve or thirteen times, and it was a real catharsis when we finally got it. Lighting the Iron Fist was another thing that I wanted to be just right and really blow people away, and that’s the kind of thing we want to do with the channel of “What haven’t you seen?”, and for me as a fan watching something go “Wow, you’ve got to check this out!” and start sending the link out.
Sounds solid! Did Marvel have any involvement or need to give any approvals for Iron Fist?
No. It’s basically a case of we’re a YouTube channel and we’re doing content that’s unofficial in the sense of channels not necessarily securing the rights as we did with “Street Fighter”.
It’s a short that’s like a calling card that’ll hopefully lead to bigger and better things for the channel and me as performer and writer.
The Iron Fist Project…
So, what were some of the more memorable experiences for you in the making of the Iron Fist project?
Well, it’s a cool situation because we prevized everything out where it’s like, what is going to motivate the action more than just saying, “Oh, it’d be cool if they do these moves”, there’s got to be a reason for it. So, of course, Orson Randall has his twin pistols, how does he use them? How does that then become something else?
My initial idea was that I wanted The Hand to be pretty high tech, so it was going to be a modern-day thing, and they were going to be ninjas with machine guns and night-vision goggles. But then, as the story developed, it was like “Well, we’re going to set it back in the 40’s, so it makes sense time- period wise”, so the ninja probably can’t have automatic weapons and stuff.
They’re going to come in with their ninja weapons, I’m going to have my guns, and then I lose the guns and go hand-to-hand. And basically, it’s a whole build-up to the point where finally, there’s nothing left other than to unleash the Iron Fist.
Quite a culmination to battling The Hand. Can you describe a bit more about your costume design rationale?
Well, another interesting thing they do with superhero stuff is they want to see the actor’s face a lot with things like “The Mandalorian” or Karl Urban’s “Dredd”. There’s something to be said for superheroes and wearing disguises and how do you set that more in the real world. That’s another thing I really liked about Orson Randall was his outfit was not like “I’m wearing a superhero suit!”, it’s his army clothes and his utility equipment, and the bandana was just another part of that. So definitely when I was designing the costume and trying to make it as realistic as possible, you create a world where that’s possible and a normality, and I hope that comes across.
Making Your Own Luck…
On the topic of Orson Randall,Season 2 of the “Iron Fist” series ended with an Orson Randall tease, before it and the other Marvel-Netflix shows were cancelled. Now that the two-year moratorium on Marvel’s cancelled Netflix shows has ended, does the Orson Randall Iron Fist project represent a pitch on your part to Marvel?
I would say so. The initial idea even from the concept of doing the Iron Fist short was ‘how can you kind of throw your hat in the ring’, and with a lot of shorts, like “Legacy”, there wasn’t a lot of expectation that we might be able to do this. But that’s what it’s about, making your own luck and showing people what your abilities are as a filmmaker and a performer.
So even if they were to do an Iron Fist series and not necessarily go with what you did, it’s good for awareness. It’s a good way these days of putting yourself out, and you can put something out on YouTube and get a lot of eyes on it like you never could before. YouTube’s so much bigger now than when we did “Legacy”, so that’s the idea of exploring the character, and even if it wasn’t Danny Rand and “The Defenders”, imagine even a mini-series of Orson Randall running around.
He’s got a lot of adventures that lend it to different characters like Prince of Orphans, and that was actually an idea for this one, but without the means to do him justice, I decided let’s just stick to what we can do.
The Immortal Weapons: Basis for a Series?
A lot of Iron Fist characters like the Immortal Weapons could be the basis of a series in their own right.
Yeah, and that was another idea Josh and I had talked about, of having the chance to do those stories of all the different Immortal Weapons. The short is called “Immortal 65” because Orson Randall is the 65th Iron Fist, but there’s 64 other stories of characters before him who have all got really interesting arcs and stories about how they pass on the mantle of the Iron Fist, how they got to be the Iron Fist, how they had to fight the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying.
Independent Productions & Developing a Niche
I think now because things can be done a lot more independently, you do get stories like that where it’s not so much influenced by having to please everyone, you can have pretty niche, cult sort of things going on. With Iron Fist, if you don’t know about him, the intro at the beginning will bring you into that world, and if you do, then hopefully you get more out of that. But it’s not inaccessible to people who don’t know about Iron Fist, and hopefully, they look at it and go “Yeah, I want to see more!”
So, when will “Immortal 65” be dropping on Rogue Origin?
It’ll be further down the line. We’ve got a bunch of other stuff slated for the channel, and “Iron Fist” is a bigger one where we had a bigger budget, so we just want to get as many eyes as we can on the channel, so it’ll probably be in a couple of months.
Let’s See Daredevil-Style, One-Shot Fights on Iron Fist!
Really looking forward to seeing it when it arrives! Daredevil’s one-shot fights were incredible, so who wouldn’t love to see that with Iron Fist?
Yeah, they did it amazingly with the hallway fights like with “Daredevil” season 3 when he was in the hospital.
I also looked at the show and thought “Their Hand look exactly like my Hand”, and I thought that was funny, but obviously, I don’t want to step on any toes either, we’re doing our own thing. We touch on things like the Crane Mother and the Crane Sisters, so there’s a lot in there for fans of the source material.
Anime Geekfest: Watch Out for Naruto, Fatal Fury & Cowboy Bebop!
So, what other projects does Rogue Origin have in the works in relation to James Bond or Iron Fist?
Well, even with stuff that I’m not necessarily in as a performer, we have some anime content coming up. There’s a “Cowboy Bebop” short that Josh wrote and directed, and we have a “Naruto” short, as well. Naruto is an anime that I’m not necessarily that familiar with myself, but even to take something from an anime source material and make a bone sword was really cool.
So, there’s a lot of content with anime, comic books, and some original stuff, like a series we’ve got coming up involving immortal warriors. We also have a “Fatal Fury” one coming up that we actually shot in the L.A. river, and we had a great location with a bridge that looked very “Fatal Fury”-esque and a couple of inches of water underneath, and it was like “Do we fight on concrete, or do we get in the water and make it look epic?”
So, Josh and I were fighting in that one, and we spent three days in wet shoes, and it was a good challenge, but I think people will like that one, too.
Sounds great, I actually have a friend who would love to finally see “Dragon Ball” done well, so maybe that’ll be in Rogue Origin’s future, too…
Dragon Ball Here We Come…!
It’s interesting with these adaptations like with “Street Fighter”, we were inspired by the Van Damme movie and “The Legend of Chun Li”, which weren’t quite what I wanted to see as a fan. So, the good that comes out of that is the inspiration of “Oh, what if it was like this?” And yeah, “Dragon Ball” is another one that I don’t think has been done justice in live-action, and maybe it needs a go.
The Fate of “Street Fighter: World Warrior”…
Well, looking back a bit now, earlier this year, Joey Ansah announced the planned “Street Fighter: World Warrior” series had unfortunately fallen into limbo.
The “Assassin’s Fist” universe that we did was sort of our lightning in a bottle, and I always wanted me and Mike Moh and everyone to get back together and continue with those characters.
With “World Warrior”, it’s obviously a shame, but sometimes, that’s the way the cards are dealt, and fingers crossed maybe one day, never say never. It could even be something like Ryan Reynolds and “Deadpool”, where he first shows up in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, and it’s like “Ah, that’s what I wanted, but not like that”, and eventually he got to do it how he wanted to do it, and it was amazing. So never say never.
Christian’s Training & Dietary Habits
Well moving on, let’s talk training. What kind of training do you do these days, especially with the pandemic going on?
I would say the good thing that came out of the isolation was having to switch things up a bit. Before that, I was going to the gym, doing weights, and sort of getting into a bit of a mundane routine, but since this happened, it was like, “Well, I can’t go to the gym, I can’t lift weights, what can I do with the resources I have?”
My building has a fire escape, so I thought, “Oh, maybe I can do some stuff on here.” So, you sort of adapt to your environment and your surroundings, and you do a lot more stuff outdoors and more pad work and things.
I definitely try to take advantage of that, and there’s a certain amount of determination that I hope I can keep going where I’m like “Okay, by the time quarantine’s over, I want to get full splits back.”
I think it’s a mentality you have to get around when you can’t go to the gym, so am I going to do nothing, or am I going to figure out another way to do stuff?
Always Look for the Silver Lining & Challenge Yourself!
Yes, we’ve had the same practical mentality through the pandemic, as I’m sure a lot of people have.
Yeah, I’m trying to look at the good in things and the silver lining. If you get too comfortable, nothing changes and you don’t challenge yourself, and it’s good to change things up and start things you might not have started if not for something awful befalling the world or yourself.
When the quarantine started, it was like, “Do you just lock down and do nothing, or do you use it for some other kind of creative process?” I’ve really enjoyed seeing what a lot of people are coming out with in quarantine. It just goes to show that creativity can’t be stopped, and sometimes it’s inspired by something bad happening.
Agreed. So, what kind of diet do you follow?
I would say it’s not changed that much, to be honest. Having everything locked down definitely made me prepare food at home a lot more, which I was sort of guilty of not doing quite a lot. I don’t really eat a lot of treats and stuff, but I can see how quarantine can get people into a bit of a depression and a lot of people are drinking a lot more and that sort of thing.
With Christmas, I would normally go back to England and visit my family for a proper English Christmas, but with everything going on, but I stayed in L.A., and it’s something different spending Christmas in the sunshine with palm trees, and I ate Thai food on Christmas day, so, first time for everything!
Christian’s Favourite Martial Arts Movies & Fights
Nice. What are some your favourite martial arts movies of all time?
The stuff I grew up on that inspired me to get into martial arts was stuff like “Enter the Dragon” and the old Jackie Chan films. “Rapid Fire” with Brandon Lee was one of the first martial arts films I remember seeing and just wanting to emulate.
The early Van Damme movies were also phenomenal with a guy who could do the splits like that, that was what made me want to train in martial arts.
“Kickboxer” is always going to be a classic, and “Bloodsport” is amazing. I would say those are the ones that really got me going. Recent ones like “The Raid” have been amazing, what 87 Eleven does with “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde”, also the The third “John Wick” was incredible.
That was out of this world! On that topic, what are some of your favorite fight scenes of all time?
Any time Bolo Yeung and Van Damme threw down, that was just awesome stuff. I like a lot of the fights in “Bloodsport”, and recently, I was re-watching “The Quest”.
I think that was Van Damme taking that concept of “Bloodsport” and going “Now I have the star power that I can make this on a budget that I want to.”
Fun & Leisure
He took the “Bloodsport” template and did it ten times bigger with “The Quest”! So, looking at fun & leisure now, what’s one geeky or interesting thing that people don’t know about you?
Since my background is in design and making things, I do a lot of the prop building on things, especially with my own projects. As I mentioned, I made the mask for Iron Fist, and hopefully, this will be seen in behind-the-scenes stuff. To just put a bandana on doesn’t really hold true, so I had to make a mold of my face to basically hold that structure in place.
It should be a funny video, but I basically got some dental alginate and put my face in it to make a mold and had straws coming out so I could still breath, then I made a plastic cast of that. I think that’s what sells it without being like a Batman cowl sculpted into a scowl, it’s supposed to look like you just tied it on, but it’s still got to have some structure.
I don’t know if that’s geeky enough, but I definitely enjoy that process of the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into it. You’ll also see with The Hand that they’ve got these gauntlets on, and I essentially had to go and get a bunch of soccer pads and paint them up to make them look like ninja arm guards. All that stuff is something I really enjoy as part of filmmaking, and hopefully on the channel, we’ll have more behind-the-scenes of that kind of stuff.
Sounds fun! If you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to have? Presumably, aside from Iron Fist!
Teleportation would make it a lot easier to get around. I think also now with Hugh Jackman having retired, Wolverine is such an iconic character.
I would grow some mutton chops for that and have a bit of a Wolverine look going on. (Both laugh)
Before I shaved, I was really rocking that Wolverine look! I think everybody’s gotten a bit shaggier in quarantine.
Yeah, and when it started, I was thinking, “Okay, don’t have to get a haircut for right now.” But then for acting, you have to send in tapes of yourself, so I still have to look presentable. I used to not like doing self-tapes, because I’d rather go into an audition, but now, it’s a lot more comfortable doing it at home, and I ended up booking a couple of jobs out of that. One was a romantic drama in Italy called “When The Mist Clears”, and it’s a romantic drama and little bit of a departure from what people might know me as.
So, what other dreams, goals and ambitions are you keen to accomplish?
Rogue Origin is a big part of that, in taking inspiration from things and saying “Well, I’d really want to see this version of that, so why not make it yourself?”
I’d also really love to lead a feature, hopefully with some action in it, like if they did take “Iron Fist” and run with it, and that’s sort of my goal once the world comes back together.
Christian’s Message to KFK Followers & Fans
That’d definitely be something to see! So, what are some warrior-wisdom quotes or philosophy has helped you become who you are today?
I think just try to live an honest life, and especially with quarantine and the way the world has gone and life being a bit more fleeting. I think that’s helped me more than anything else.
Solid. Well, as we prepare to sign off now Christian, what special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?
I’d just want to thank everyone for continuing to support Kung Fu Kingdom and martial arts in general and martial arts in cinema. To everyone who knows me from “Street Fighter”, I appreciate all the support over the years.
That’s how I’ve ended up where I am now, being able to do the things I’m doing now. And I want to tell everyone to train hard, stay safe, and keep pushing forward even with everything going on right now.
Great words to abide by as the world slowly attempts to emerge from the pandemic. Thank you so much for the privilege of speaking today, Christian! We wish you all the best of success with Rogue Origin, “Immortal 65”, and all your upcoming action projects in 2021!
Thanks Brad and thank you for having me on Kung Fu Kingdom!