Athletes & Celebrities

Interview: Michael Jai White Talks Training, Movies, and His Real-life Fight Experience

He's got eight black belts, more than 80 movie credits, and could most likely kick your ass in real life, too. His only weakness? Elves.

Michael Jai White
Noel Daganta

M&F: How has your approach to training changed at age 48?

Michael Jai White: I train smarter because my window [to get in a workout] is a lot narrower. My weight training has a lot of explosive movements; it’s like a combination of classical weight training and how a track athlete trains.

At 235lbs, does your size interfere with agility?

No, you develop a lot of core strength from martial arts. I train to stay functional, so I would never do heavy curls because adding size to my biceps is kind of useless.

What are you working on?

I have some big projects coming up this year: Black Dynamite 2 and the TV spin-off; Never Back Down 3; a drama called Cops and Robbers; and I have my sitcom, Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse. What I’m focused on right now is producing better movies.

How do you feel about being typecast as the big, ripped martial artist?

It’s funny because I’ll walk into a crowd and hear people arguing, saying, “Is that the guy from Blood and Bone?” And someone else will say, “No, that’s the guy from that Tyler Perry movie,” or, “No, that’s Black Dynamite.” To me, that proves that I have a pretty wide audience. If you count it up, I’ve done more comedies than action films.

Throughout your career you’ve worked with plenty of tough dudes. Is there anyone left with whom you want to make a martial arts movie?

Donnie Yen. On-screen, he’s the best right now, and he's constantly evolving.

When you’re acting it’s common for you to take on more than one attacker in a fight, but have you ever had to do that in real life?

Yes, years ago. It was five guys vs. me. It started at a club in New York City. When I left, these guys followed me out. If I know I’m going to fight someone, then I use a little acting to put everyone at ease. One guy flashed a gun, and, although I was acting scared, I was glad he did that because I knew who I was going to take out first. I hit the first guy with a side kick to the throat and took out the other two, all within a few seconds. I had to chase down the fourth guy; the fifth guy threw a punch that missed my chest, and then he ran away.

What is your favorite cheat meal?

Town House crackers. If they’re around I’m eating the whole sleeve...those damn Keebler elves.

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