WJBF – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit the television screens in 1993 impacting kids from all around the world, and now 30 years and several incarnations later, the original cast of this worldwide phenomenon is back to celebrate its 30th anniversary with a Netflix special entitled Power Rangers: Once And Always.
Catherine Sutherland, who portrays Kat Hillard, chats with WJBF Digital about her time on the show and how this series has changed her life and the lives of those who love the Power Rangers.
Thank you, Catherine, for joining us on WJBF Digital. Now, first let’s get started with this question. How did you get started with acting?
Well, I grew up in Australia. The first time I remember being on stage was ballet. I started as a dancer. I was really young at 5 years of age. As I progressed through elementary school and into high school, I just loved being on the stage. I loved performing and singing. I played piano. When I was about 14, I asked my parents if I could go to a performing arts high school that was in Sydney that was called McDonald College. After a lot of convincing, I convinced them to let me go, and that’s where I really got to hone in and fall in love being on the stage and acting. So, when I left high school, I just continued on with that. I went to acting school, and I was modeling. My modeling agency started sending me out for acting roles because I was doing theater professionally. Then, Power Rangers came about pretty early on. I was only 19 when I auditioned for it, I think. It was crazy. It turned my life upside down.
Since you mentioned Power Rangers, let’s get into that. Now, your character’s name was Kat. Was that a coincidence as far as your character’s name being your actual birth name?
It was. I remember getting the script and saying, “Oh, her name is Katherine, and so is mine just spelled one letter differently.” So, I was kind of like, “Oh! Maybe it’s serendipity! Maybe it’s meant to be my role!” (Laughs)
You came in the middle of season 3, and your character pretty much replaced Kimberly after the actress, Amy Jo Johnson, decided to leave the show. How was that experience for you coming in to replace a popular character?
Well, I think it helped that I didn’t know anything about the show when I was cast. I actually didn’t know I was replacing anyone at first; I thought I was just an addition to the cast like another character. Then, I found out that Amy Jo was leaving, and I was going to be the new pink ranger. It wasn’t until I went to the premiere of the first movie that I realized how huge the show was. It wasn’t just a little kids’ show. It was this worldwide phenomenon, and they were so popular. Back then, it became intimidating. At first, I was like, “Oh, it’s okay.” And then, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. This is really intense.” So, I think they did a very good job making our characters different; Kat and Kimberly were completely opposite. So, I think that was helpful because I didn’t feel like I was trying to be Kimberly. I was my own person and bringing different things to the team. So, yeah, I had big shoes to fill, and Kimberly was very popular so I’m very grateful that the fans accepted me. (Laughs) Otherwise, I would’ve been shipped back to Australia. (Laughs)
Well, the fans definitely accepted you because not only were you on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but you were also on Power Rangers Zeo and Power Rangers Turbo. How was it for you going through the different variations?
Yeah, it looked like it was changing a lot to you guys, but we just kind of continued on. Other than the suits looking a little different and having different monsters, it didn’t feel a whole lot different. When we did Zeo, we did get the new command center, and we got the Ernie’s Juice Bar moved to the beach: Ernie’s Beach Hut… I think that’s what it was called. So, there were a few little changes with the sets, but it didn’t feel a whole lot different because we were the same characters.
Now, you have discussed the departure of when you [along with Jason David Frank (Tommy), Nakia Burrise (Tanya), and Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam)] all did leave the show. How was that for you because it was very interesting how you all found out that you were being replaced?
Yes, we found out because Johnny bought a newspaper to the set, and we found out that they were looking for new rangers. So, that was kind of humiliating and shocking and all of those things, but in retrospect, I don’t often look at life as regrets because I believe you learn from everything you experience. But in retrospect, I think it probably would’ve served the show better if they would’ve had us finish the season and started the new cast with In Space because it was very hard for the fans to go from… all of a sudden, these new people were there, and we were ripped away. And they were like, “What just happened?” And it wasn’t fair to the fandom to do that. They done that with Walter [Jones] (Zack), Thuy [Trang] (Trini), and Austin [St. John] (Jason), and so, it was kind of disappointing for the fans that they did that. For us, it was hard because that was my family. They were my family from the moment I stepped foot on American soil. So, it was really hard. I didn’t know if I was going to see any of them again. It was a very sad day. And the new cast were great. They really did a good job. No hard feelings at all to them. They were wonderful, and they are friends of ours to this day. But I think it was a little bit of a disservice to the franchise when they did that.
You spoke you all being friends which is great because we have a big RANGER NATION because you all go to conventions all the time. The fans love you. How is it being able to talk to the fans up close and personal and the fans telling you how you all changed their lives?
It never gets old. I still can’t believe it. The first convention I ever did was in 2009, and I remember not even knowing that the show was [still] on. I was a new mom, and I was like, “Power Rangers is still on? What’s a convention?” I had no idea what any of that was. And now all of these years later and still doing conventions, I feel like the franchise is growing and growing, which is crazy. It really amazes that this “little kids’ show” has had such a huge impact around the world and so many people’s lives and that they felt that the show brought something to their lives that was missing. It made them feel that they belonged; they connected to somebody. It’s a gift to be a role model and a superhero in someone’s life and bring them so joy. So, I love it. It never gets old for me. I could listen to people’s stories all day long. I just love being able to connect to them in this way. That’s the beauty of social media too because I actually get to interact and have a relationship with them now that I didn’t get to have in ’95 when I joined.
Now, you all have returned with a new Netflix’s special Power Rangers: Once And Always. When you received the call that you all were coming back with this special, what were your feelings about it?
Well, I was in talks with them [the producers] for a while because I did the Ninja Steel episode. I went back for that so I had become friends with the producers and was in touch with them after that episode. So, when they reached out to me, they were still tweaking the script and figuring things out, but they wanted to know if I was interested and were throwing around different dates. To be honest with you, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do for two reasons. First of all, it was still COVID, and I didn’t want to get stuck overseas and be dealing with all of that stuff. So, that was a concern for me. I was very fortunate that everything had lifted by the time I went. I also didn’t want to go back the same way. If I was going to go back, I really wanted Kat to come back as her character; not just a few lines and a brief cameo. I wanted to honor her. So, when I was in talks with them, that was the kind of the back and forth. I wanted to be a part of it, and once they explained to me what they were doing with it, I was on board. I just thought it was so great. It was finally giving the fans what they wanted, which is a stand-alone tribute episode to the original series, and I think they did such a beautiful job.
Now, in your honest opinion, do you think there could be a continuation to this stand-alone special?
I 100% think so. They left it open-ended. They left a lot of questions. At the end, Billy (David Yost) said he had work to do on Earth. He has created Cranston Enterprises, which is like his little scientific, Rob Stark [Iron Man] headquarters. (Laughs) With Adam and Aisha with the SPA, that intergalactic rangers kind of were put out there. They left a lot of open-ended things. So, I definitely think they are open to that. I think they were testing the waters to see how they did.
This Power Rangers special was a different variation of rangers together like we never saw Zack with Kat. Now, you all are together all the time at conventions, but how was it working on set with this different variation of characters?
Walter is extremely talented, and he is very professional and a lovely human being. It was really fun to work with him for the first time. Also, as his friend, I said this on our [Nakia Burrise and I] YouTube channel, it was lovely to see him coming back respected and honored because he left the show with such a bitter taste in his mouth. To come back and shine, he really was the star of the episode – him and Minh (daughter of Trini, played by Charlie Kersh). I just really loved that he got to do that. It was really cool to see him as Zack as a man; not Zack as a boy. It was lot of fun. It was very nostalgic and really cool to just be with my friends. We all just kind of fell back into it too, which was kind of funny like muscle memory. (Laughs)
Power Rangers: Once And Always can be streamed right now on Netflix.