Jason David Frank, the actor who originated the role of Tommy Oliver a.k.a. the Green Ranger in the “Power Rangers” franchise, died Nov. 19 in Texas. He was 49 years old.
Frank’s death was confirmed to the Associated Press by his manager, Justine Hunt. No details about his death could be confirmed, but she asked for the “privacy of his family and friends during this horrible time as we come to terms with the loss of such a wonderful human being.”
“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” premiered in 1993 on Fox Kids, drawing a young audience for three years with its dynamic casting of kung-fu savvy vigilantes.
“Can’t believe it…. RIP Jason David Frank.,” Walter Jones, one of Frank’s co-stars on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” wrote on Instagram. “My heart is sad to have lost another member of our special family.
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At the onset of the series, Frank was introduced as an antagonist — placed under a spell by the Power Rangers’ nemesis Rita Repulsa, the Green Ranger almost wipes out the gang of crime-stopping ninjas in the process. Originally slated for appearances in 14 episodes, Frank ended up becoming a series regular due to the character’s popularity among fans. After the Green Ranger is freed from Rita’s mind manipulation, he is transformed into the White Ranger, a role that Frank fulfilled for the two seasons that followed.
Frank went on to accept roles in other “Power Rangers” shows and films, like that of a Red Zeo Ranger in “Power Rangers Zeo” and the first-ever Red Turbo Ranger in “Power Rangers Turbo,” though he departed from latter project mid-season. Other highlights from the franchise include appearances in “Power Rangers Wild Force,” “Power Rangers: DinoThunder,” “Power Rangers Ninja Steel” and more.
But Frank’s fighting abilities were no thanks to movie magic; the acclaimed actor was also an eighth degree black belt in karate and possessed experience with various other styles of martial arts, including Taekwondo, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, to name a few. He first started learning karate at four-years-old and received his first black belt at just 12-years-old.
In 1994, Frank began opening martial arts schools to spread his knowledge. At these dojos, Frank taught a new, self-created system of fighting called Toso Kune Do, which translates to “Way of the Fighting Fist” and incorporates many different martial arts styles.
When “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” wrapped, Frank met Kyoshi Rick Herbster, who became his long-time business partner. Together they started running Rising Sun Karate Academy, where Frank remained an educator until his passing.
Frank made his 2010 debut in the mixed martial arts ring at the U.S. Amateur Combat Association’s first-ever “Lonestar Beatdown” in Houston, Texas, where he annihilated fellow MMA fighter Jonathon “the Mack Truck” Mack in the first round. He started to receive MMA coaching from UFC lightweight Melvin Guillard a year prior to the fight.
Beyond his MMA training, Frank routinely trained and fought with close friend Mike Bronzoulis, who took to Facebook just after midnight Nov. 20 with a heartfelt tribute.
“RIP my brother from another mother Jason David Frank. I’m still in shock,” Bronzoulis wrote. “I’m feeling terrible. He called, left me a message and I took too long. Jason was a good friend to me and I will miss him. Love n prayers for his wife Tammie and their kids, I prey [sic] that God gets y’all through this difficult time.”
Most recently, Frank was set to star in an upcoming film from director Aaron Schoenke dubbed “Legend of the White Dragon,” a spin-off feature about Frank’s titular character White Dragon. A release date has not yet been announced but was originally slated for 2023.
Born Sept. 4 in Covina, Calif., Frank’s legacy remains embedded in the World Karate Union Hall of Fame and the Black Belt Hall of Fame. He is survived by his two sons, Hunter and Jacob, and his two daughters, Skye and Jenna.
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