Interview: Jason Earles and Leo Howard For KICKIN’ IT

jason earles leo howard
Recently, Jason Earles and Leo Howard took some time to talk about Disney XD’s new original series, KICKIN’ IT, a live-action comedy set at a Martial Arts Academy, where a crew of lovable misfits works toward earning black belts in acceptance, loyalty, friendship and adventure.

Jason Earles plays the role of Sensei Rudy, who runs the Bobby Wasabi Martial Arts Academy, the worst dojo in the nationwide Bobby Wasabi chain, and finds possible salvation for the academy in Leo Howard’s character, Jack, who not only is talented at martial arts, but has the leadership, confidence, and capacity to inspire others.

The series premieres today, June 13, at 8:30pm on Disney XD. And if you can’t wait to find out more, make sure to read the interview below.

What excited you about the show?

Jason Earles: After coming off of Hannah Montana, I was excited at the prospect of doing a show that was geared a little more towards boys. It’s an action show and so we have a lot of cool stuff. There’s some karate and fights and skateboarding and all sorts of action, and then we do more boy jokes. We’re allowed to fart a little more in Disney XD.

Leo Howard: For me I think it’s just that it’s never been done before. It’s an action mixed with a sitcom which I think is really attractive to boys the age of six to fourteen. It’s attractive to me.

Can you talk about your characters?

Jason Earles: I play Sensei Rudy who runs the worst dojo in the Bobby Wasabi chain. I’m sort of like a very goofy Mr. Miyagi type. His heart is in the right place, but sometimes his methods are a little unorthodox and maybe cause more trouble than they help.

Leo Howard: My character is Jack. Jack is kind of an energetic, fun, cool guy. Everybody likes Jack. Even though he’s cool and all of that, he still makes his mistakes. Jack also has a talent to be able to lift people off the ground and encourage them. So, if someone is not wanting to do something or feeling down he is able to encourage them to do something that they want to do and something that they ultimately believe in.

And how do your characters interact?

Jason Earles: I’m getting ready to lose the dojo because it’s under performing, and so I have this sort of rag tag ‘Bad News Bears’ group of kids, and we’re just not performing up to snuff. I basically sucker Jack into joining the dojo to help me out and he discovers that he loves these kids and they’re his friends and he wants to help us all get better.

So, he’s being altruistic for you?

Jason Earles: I think that Jack discovers, like the other kids, that as a group they are greater than the sum of their parts. Our dojo, while it’s underperforming from a tournament standpoint, it’s a safe place for these kids to discover who they are, gain confidence in who they are and learn how to interact with each other in a good way.

Do you have a favorite episode so far that you’ve shot?

Leo Howard: The ’70’s mine. We all got to dress up in ’70’s outfits. There was very ’70’s dialogue. It was great. There was this action fight in a lava lamp factory which was really cool.

jason earles leo howard

If there was one word to describe each of your characters what would it be?

Leo Howard: Probably Jack is very confident in what he does, in a good way though.

Jason Earles: I would say that Rudy is unorthodox.

Is it a challenge to film all that action?

Leo Howard: Oh, yeah. There’s a lot that goes into every episode. Not only are we saying our lines, our blocking, everything, we’ve still got tremendous fight scenes in every episode.

Is there a lot of choreography?

Leo Howard: There’s quite a bit of choreography that goes on every week.

Jason Earles: It has to be safe, too.

Leo Howard: Yeah, and I think it’s going to come out on camera because we work hard in front of the camera.

Are all the kids in the dojo the same age?

Jason Earles: Our characters are all about thirteen years old, and then our kids in real life range from about thirteen to fifteen. They’re actually sort of young for the shows on the channel right now. It’ll be a cool opportunity for the kids who watch the show to sort of grow up with our characters on the show.

Should girls watch this show and why?

Jason Earles: Yes. Well, one, the boys are super cute. Leo is going to be dreamy, but also we have a character, Kim, who’s also a sort of black belt, kick butt sort of a girl. There’s very much a girl empowerment element to her. I think she’s testing very well and the kids seem to like her.

Leo Howard: She pushes us all around in the episodes. She bosses us around. So it’s a good balance.

Is she the only girl?

Jason Earles: She’s our only girl series regular. She has a very cool role in that she’s one of the guys for the most part, but she’s beautiful and picks and chooses her moments and flaunts her femininity. She’s a very strong character which is very refreshing, especially for a teen show. She’s a good role model in that way.

Were you involved in martial arts before this came up?

Leo Howard: I personally have been doing martial arts for about nine and half years which really helped me.

How old were you when you started?

Leo Howard: I was four.

Jason Earles: And Leo is a black belt.

Leo Howard: I have been training since I was four. It really helped me for this show, believe it or not. I’ve been able to teach them and help them with the karate and all of that. It’s one of my favorite things. So I got to combine what I love the most, martial arts and acting and comedy into one show.

jason earles leo howard

How did this series come about?

Jason Earles: I think the creator of the show, Jim O’Doherty, had pitched another show to Disney, and they were like, ‘We think you’re really funny, but we want a karate show. Go write us a karate show.’ He went back, took the idea and ran with it and then pitched ‘Kickin’ It’ and they loved it and here we are. It was Disney basically looking for something along these lines and he was the one that delivered.

Leo Howard: He gave it to them, and really, we keep talking about the action, but action is only the backdrop of the show. The main show is about five kids and a sensei who come together in a dojo and they really learn lessons from each other. Life lessons. Peer pressure lessons. Bully lessons. There’s a good message in every episode.

Jason Earles: All the stuff that teens would go through they’ll go through, and hopefully we can integrate a way where the martial arts is maybe the foundation for about how they go about learning the lesson, but it’s really more about the kids growing up. Not so much that we’re going to have big tournaments every episode. That would get old after a while. It’s really watching these kids growing up and seeing who they are.

Are the other kids in the dojo as experienced in martial arts?

Jason Earles: No, not in the story or in real life. All the kids, we had a couple of weeks of pretty intense training leading up to the start of the series and there’s been some ongoing training as we’re shooting, but we’re all pretty new to it.

Leo Howard: They’re progressing unbelievably.

Jason Earles: Every episode we do get a little bit better and we do quite a bit of our own fighting, our own action in the show. I mean, it’s quite a bit actually.

What’s your average day with all that choreography?

Jason Earles: It depends. At least nine and a half and then on our shoot days they’re like, twelve, thirteen hour days for me.

Leo Howard: Even though they’ll let us off we stay another couple of hours after, not working, with the kids, hanging out with the kids behind the scenes. We’ll stay there just talking and doing whatever we do, playing basketball or something to just chill out there.

Having grown up in this world how realistic do you think it is?

Leo Howard: The martial arts world, especially in the show, I think kids will love it because really it’s just how kids talk. It’s not different from what normal kids’ interactions are like. It’s the same. As for the martial arts, it’s very realistic.

Jason Earles: I think it’ll get a lot of the kids excited to try it out. I wouldn’t be surprised that if the show takes off and is popular that there’s an up tick –

Leo Howard: A big boost in martial arts. That’s our goal.

You can take a sneak peek at the photo of the show below:

kickin it disney xd

(Episode Photo: ©DISNEY XD/DEAN HENDLER)