Brandon Baker grabs air and reprises his role as Johnny Kapahala in the Disney Channel Original Movie "Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board," a sequel to the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie "Johnny Tsunami." Baker plays 17-year-old Johnny, back in Hawaii and learning to ride a new kind of board - a dirtboard. The role allows him to show off real life boarding skills while showcasing his ability to bring a genuine, likeable character to life. (Check local listing for air times.)
Q: What were your thoughts when you heard Disney Channel was going to make a sequel to the "Johnny Tsunami" original movie?
A: "I understood they were trying to make it for a while. I had my hair long for two years, and then I went backpacking through Europe this past summer. But, backpacking through Europe with a full head of hair... not too fun. So, I shaved my head. And, right when I came back, they gave me a phone call: 'Hey, we're going to do the movie.' Oops! Oh, well. I guess Johnny grows up. Johnny gets a hair cut. But, I was really excited. I was really excited about doing this sequel, because Johnny was such a 'dream come true' role for me. In the first one, to be a snowboarder, surfer kid was just like everything and more for me. But, it was a really cool experience coming back to it, because I had the same parents, the same grandfather, Cary Tagawa. It's been a long time since that first movie, but everything came full circle. To see them again, it really felt like I was coming home."
Q: How easy or difficult was it to slip into the character again. It had been a few years, and in those teen years everything changes. Was it simple, like riding a bike, or not?
A: "It was pretty easy getting back in the role of Johnny, I'd say. Johnny and I are pretty similar. Because I played Johnny in the first film, making up for the lost time, the gap in time, I could have taken the character wherever I wanted to. But, Johnny is such a good guy. He's the hero. He's loyal and prideful. He's a little confident, a little bit sarcastic at times, but a really good guy. It was so much fun to get back in the role; so much fun to do all the stunts, and to relive it again, but in an older sense.
Q: What's this movie about?
A: "This movie, Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board, is about, basically, Grandpa is getting married, and his wife has a 12-year-old son, who is now my 12-year-old uncle. So, we're all coming back to Hawaii. Jake T. Austin, who plays Chris, my 12-year-old uncle, he's kind of like the new Johnny. He comes from Philly to Hawaii and finds a board sport, mountain boarding, as a means of like fitting in and finding his place in Hawaii. For me, for Johnny personally, this is more of a 'coming of age' thing. Whereas, all the wisdom that was poured into my head by my grandfather in the last movie, I'm learning that I'm not just the only kid in this family. Now I have this little runt that I have to deal with, I've got to be this big brother. And I'm spitting out the same Hawaiian wisdom that I got from my grandfather, to the rest of my family and to Chris. In this movie, Johnny is a lot more wise, a lot more of the calming presence."
Q: Can you talk about mountain boarding or dirt boarding; what it is and what the training was like that you had to do, if any, for the movie?
A: "I think mountain boarding is the last frontier for the board sports. We've conquered snow with snowboarding, water, sand... and now we have mountain boarding, which is basically like snowboarding with wheels. It's a large board that you are actually strapped into, like a snowboard, but it has large inflatable wheels. So, it rides like a skateboard. I've done surfing before and done snowboarding. It's definitely completely different, but it is tons of fun. It is really easy to learn right off the bat. As long as you stay on it, you don't have to worry about cracks and rocks in the road, you're just going to bully over them anyway.
I trained for a month in California with Akoni Kama, who is basically the Tony Hawk of mountain boarding. The guys that we had on this movie doing the mountain boarding, Leon Robbins and Akoni Kama... they are the Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero of mountain boarding. They are the greatest mountain boarders who have ever lived. I trained for about a month before I went out there, and it was just too much fun. It's really not fair that this is what I do for a living. Me and Akoni would always say, 'another day at the office,' or 'another board meeting,' as we were sitting on our surfboards surfing California waves. It was fun. Luckily, I didn't break anything (he laughs). I had a good time. I'm a decent mountain boarder, but I'm definitely going to be a mountain boarder from here on out. Definitely something I'm going to do when the movie is done.
Q: Now that production is over, is there a mountain board in your closet?
A: "Definitely. Actually, I have two. I have my stunt board and my regular board. And me and my buddies go up to like the back trails and hit it on the weekends. It's totally fun. I snowboard and surf in the meantime, but mountain boarding is perfect for when there is no snow in the mountains. Why not? Totally."
Q: Is there a message that you hope people get from this movie?
A: "I think the movie is good for a number of reasons. I think there are a lot of cool themes. I think the first one was really cool, in the sense that it was a movie between adults and kids. Obviously, there was the surfing and snowboarding, but it was a movie in which there was an actual relational element between parents and kids, rather than just parents talking down to kids, you know, reprimanding.
In the first movie there was a connection there, there was a relationship, there was communication and dialog. So, when there are all these things going on, the communication between me and my grandpa... he wasn't telling me what to do, he was asking what I thought was right. So, I think that same relational message comes across in this movie, especially with the fact that there is a merging of families. I think that's something that America or the World is dealing a lot more with. I know in my family, I have aunts and uncles and cousins that are all dealing with the same things, as far as melding the two families together.
The point of this movie is, even if there are differences and everything goes haywire, and everything seems like it's not going to work out, there is still that loyalty, that faith and, ultimately, that love, that undying passion for your family. You are just going to stick by them regardless of what happens, regardless of if it's blood or not, because family is family, even if you are not related."
Q: Why should people watch this movie? Why will they enjoy this movie as much, if not more, than the original?
A: "People should watch 'Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board' for a number of reasons. The obvious reason is for the action. I always made sure I stayed after (production) to watch these guys do incredible stunts. So the action itself is cool. The scenery is beautiful. New Zealand is great. And, honestly, I had so much fun on the set, with all the cast and all the directors. Me and Lil' J, who plays Sam in the movie, me and him actually ended up growing up five minutes away from each other, which we just found out. But, me and him are like boys, we hung out every day in New Zealand and we still hang out back here. The relationships between me and my grandpa and me and my parents, even me and Rose McIver who plays Val, they are all real. Hopefully that gets translated to the camera because, honestly, we are having a great time. Hopefully everyone will enjoy it."
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