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‘Power Rangers’ Helmer on LGBTQ Protagonist: ‘We Were Truthful About Representing Teenagers’

Lionsgate’s “Power Rangers,” the third big screen iteration of the mega-successful franchise from Haim Saban, is the first blockbuster action flick to feature an LGBTQ-identifying superhero.

Such visibility is a breakthrough, and a big deal, but it’s not a departure from status quo. Rather, it’s more of a sign of changing times. The “Power Rangers” cast and crew shared their thoughts on the landmark film with Variety on at its Thursday premiere at The Village Theatre in Los Angeles.

“I think people are scared to represent issues that are going on in our world that are controversial,” director Dean Israelite said. “I think people don’t want to divide audiences, honestly, when you’re making a movie of this size, scale and with this price tag, but what was important to us is that we were truthful about representing teenagers and what they go through today, and giving voices to characters that are underrepresented in not just movies, but also superhero movies.”

Becky G portrays the Yellow Ranger, Trini, a teen who questions her sexuality in a brief and slightly opaque reference in the film. “It’s something that I’m really proud of with my character — this ‘Power Rangers’ is a lot of firsts,” said the actress.

RJ Cyler, who plays Billy the Blue Ranger, also helps the film reflect many marginalized teens who walk the hallways of real-life schools.

“You have the Blue Power Ranger, who is on the spectrum — who has a level of autism, and that’s huge,” Becky G continued. “Me, being the older sister of a brother who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, to know that he will be able to look up to a superhero [like him] is amazing because I feel that way about my brother, so I can only imagine how people feel about my character.”

The film’s narrative is driven by empowerment through self-discovery, according to screenwriter John Gatins.

“I feel like, it’s 2017 and we need to reflect 2017,” Gatins said. “I grew up on ‘The Breakfast Club’ and Dean (Israelite) and I had a lot of conversations on, if we were making a movie now, what would teens be facing — things like the LGBTQ community, the autism spectrum, cyber bullying and social media — things that didn’t exist when I was a kid. I think it was really important and something we fought to handle in the right way, but it needed to be in the movie.”

Elizabeth Banks, who has a turn as the alien invader Rita Repulsa, echoed similar comments. “I guess it’s a big deal but it doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal,” Banks explained.  “She just feels like a modern teenager questioning who she is — they’re all questioning who they are; it’s just a part of growing up.”

“Power Rangers” bows March 24.

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