Interview: ‘Mortal Kombat: Legacy’ Creator Kevin Tancharoen

By October 2, 2013
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After inhaling season 2 of Mortal Kombat: Legacy last week (and LOVING it), I’m back with a little bonus: an interview with creator/director Kevin Tancharoen.

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And away we go!

How did Mortal Kombat: Legacy go from short film to series?

It was kinda crazy how it just happened organically because a lot of people timed it out perfectly, but my short film (Mortal Kombat: Rebirth) went out two days before the launch trailer for MK VIIII was to be released at E3, so all of a sudden, MK was the thing to talk about in general and I couldn’t believe the timing work out so perfectly. If it had been any other time, I’m not sure it would’ve happened the same way. But since the game was about to come out in four or so months, they (Warner Bros.) brought me in and said “Hey, the game is coming out; we should make ten more of these and we’ll release them digitally. We’ll roll ’em out in support of the game and vice versa,” and that’s exactly how it worked out.

How did you come to pick up new cast members (including Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Mark Dacascos)?

Because season one did so well, casting was a lot easier – you could just make the call –  “Everyone knows that no one was gonna make any money off this thing but some and play a cool character for a couple days for something called ‘Mortal Kombat'” and I think everyone was very into that.

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Because of season one, I was able to get Cary Tagawa to come back; he saw what we were doing with MK and LOVED it because I think he was still frustrated with how the sequel for the ’95 film didn’t work out. He liked what we were doing and said, “You guys are doing it RIGHT, you’re doing it the way it’s supposed to be done. Count me in for Shang Tsung.”

He came in and shot for a couple of days – KILLED his scenes – the man is phenomenal.

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I knew Mark (Kung Lao) from his film Only The Strong – and I played it over and over again when I was younger, so getting Mark was a really fun thing for me and I got to surround myself with people I’d admired ever since I was a kid.

Season one links back to the FIRST Mortal Kombat game…why?

I wanted to go way back because those are the games I grew up playing (MK I, II, III), so I wanted to go in that direction – that’s why I picked the characters I picked and tried to avoid being tied to the first film.

What was the idea behind the non-linear episodes in season one?

I thought it would be fun to do – different stories, different artistic direction…but it was also a product of us not having enough time to try and tell a linear story or craft an arcing narrative because we had to move really fast. But for season two, we had that time and I think now that we have viewers kind of attached to it that allowed for a more linear style of storytelling. Season two is much more linear like a TV series, which is definitely a reason why we released the entire season at once so viewers can binge watch if they like!

What’s the secret to keeping a calm and happy set?

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I’m a big collaborator and I think the spirit of all of us working together keeps everyone creatively invested and having a good time. No one ever ever feels like they’re being told what to do; everyone has a voice on set – whether it be camera operators, cinematographers, fight choreographers, stunt coordinators and DEFINITELY the actors – they were ALWAYS heard. They were NEVER treated like “say your lines, do this and shut up,” it was a communal and spiritual experience and I think that kind of atmosphere and spirit keeps everyone calm and happy and willing to work the extra ten steps that was asked of them.

And the fact that most of the cast (even down to the stunt coordinators and fight choreographers) knew each other or had worked together prior to MK: Legacy lent a family environment to the set…that kind of camaraderie was very helpful!

Given your extensive background in dance, how did that translate in the fight scenes?

We (stunt coordinators and fight choreographers) all get in a room and design the camera work around the choreography or vice versa and take a couple days to “shot list” the hell out of it. We worked VERY hand-in-hand with each other and choreography with an actual progression into the fight sequences.

How has the fan reaction been at San Diego Comic-Con and online?

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It’s been a CRAZY experience in just being there from the original short film that was meant to be a one-off, ten minute film that was put together mainly for me to have some sort of calling card to do genre movies to becoming one of the most successful YouTube series that warranted a second season AND for WB to say “Yeah, let’s develop the movie.” I love how it worked out!


Yeah, I love how it worked out, too, because Mama wants a movie. And because I know how much passion and respect KT has for the Mortal Kombat IP, I’m willing to wait as long as it takes to get the movie fans deserve.

Thanks again to Kevin Tancharoen for an enlightening kind of day!

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee http://www.imdb.me/crixlee