We recently sat down with actor Byron Mann (The Man with The Iron Fists, Street Fighter) to discuss his latest movie, an action film called Mercenary: Absolution in which he stars alongside Steven Segal (Under Siege) and Vinnie Jones (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).
First things first, can you just give me a brief outline of the film?
The film is about my character Chi and Steven Seagal’s character John Alexander we go from New York to Russia to take on a syndicate ring headed by Vinnie Jones, who it turns out is doing terrible things to women and we have to stop him.
Your character, Chi, tell us a little bit about him?
He is a hong kong triad enforcer- him and John Alexander (Seagal) go way back and have done many jobs together. He is contacted by Alexander to help him take on this syndicate ring. Like Seagal and I in real-life the characters have a lot of history and the fact that this reflects our personal relationship helps us build a stronger bond on the screen, making the characters more believable.
I’m sure you’d agree when I say the film is a good old fashioned action flick, but it is also something of a redemptive tale, what was it about this film that caught your attention?
One of the key things that attracted me to this film is the relationship I already have with Steven Seagal and the director Keoni Waxman. Film makers are like family and the fact that we have worked together countless times in the past and will likely continue to do so in the future contributes to my decision. When you’re working with people you know so well and who are such close friends the creative process and the film making is much easier.
As you just mentioned you have worked with Keoni Waxman several times in the past, what qualities does he possess as a director that help you get the best out of yourself as an actor?
He’s a very smart writer and director and he specialises in action films, he’s very genre literate and this makes him very easy to work with. The fact that we know each other so well helps us add a lot to the script as well. Before each film we often sit down and discuss our ideas of the character, what they would say, how they would react to certain situations and we generally help get the best out of each other. All in all we just have a great working relationship.
You’ve also worked with Waxman briefly on the TV show True Justice and appeared in several other TV Shows yourself, what are the differences between making a TV series and a film in terms of your approach?
It depends on the character. Like Chi, I’ve played this character many different times, I grew in Hong Kong so this role comes naturally to me, with TV the characters are often more fleshed out.
Vinnie Jones stars as the villain of the film and is quite sadistic and terrifying – he is known in the UK for his hard man persona, is he as scary in real life as he is on screen?
This was the first time I had met Vinnie but he and Steven have worked together in the past and have been friends for quite some time. I wasn’t aware of Vinnie’s past that much until I met him then I found out he had previously been a football star and that he had made several gangster movies with Guy Ritchie in the past.
Whilst he is incredibly menacing in the film in real life he was very down to earth and incredibly charming. He also has a brilliant sense of humour and was great to have on set.
Your character Chi has quite a rough ride during the film, did you shoot your own stunts? and if so which scene was the most challenging for you?
I have done my own stunts for the majority of my career so I am used to a lot of it by now, however one scene does stand out as being particularly surprising. During the final scene of the film I fight Josh Barnett, who is playing a henchman for Vinnie Jones’ character. Unbeknownst to me at the time it turns out Barnett is one of the highest ranked MMA/UFC fighters in the world.
So I arrive on set for the scene and this guy is just telling me to kick him harder and to not worry about going soft with him. It wasn’t until I got back to my hotel room that I realised this guy beats people up for a living. It was certainly a different experience working with someone who just loves fighting so much.
And finally, the film is the third film based around Seagal’s John Alexander, with The Good Man and Forces of Execution being the previous two, any word yet on whether this will be the last we see of the character?
No, no official word on it yet but the producers are looking at doing a big film reuniting several of the characters from the previous films for another outing, keep an eye out for an announcement later on in the year.
Mercenary: Absolution is available to download and view-on-demand from May 18th, including iTunes.