Article from Blackbelt Magazine

Special Thanks to Andrea Mesich for providing the article.

Mortal Kombat Conquest

The Hot Movie is Now a Cool Television Show

by Kimberly Owens

Whoa! Can you hear the music? You know, that high-energy techno theme song that automatically drums in your head the second you hear that primal scream, "Mortal Kombat!" It's got my adrenaline pumping. I could go out and fight the sorcerer Shang Tsung right now.
What is it about a movie (or two), video game (or four) and a new television show that can bring out the excitement, strength and immortality in almost every martial artist? Just thinking about it makes you feel like the villains of Outworld could not beat you In a tournament.
"What?" you ask. "Did she say new television show?" Yep. I sure did. The Mortal Kombat gurus at Lawrence Kasanoff/Threshold Entertainment, New Line Television and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution have bestowed upon the fall TV lineup a new show: Mortal Kombat Conquest And it's playing right now.

What’s It All About?

For those of you who aren't familiar with Mortal Kombat, here's a quick rundown on the plot: Shao Kahn, the ruler of Outworld, wants Earth. The Elder Gods (who rule all realms) devise a means by which humans could honorably protect their Earth. And that method is Mortal Kombat, which is a face-off between Earth's humans and Outworld's warriors. If a human wins, no invasion will happen. If evil wins, the portals to Earth are weakened for Shao Kahn.
"But wait," you say. "How can this be different from the movies? Weren't all the bad guys disposed of?" Well, yes, they were ... in the movies. Mortal Kombat Conquest takes you back in time-1,500 years back. To a time fore Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Jax lived and Shao Kahn ruled all.


You'll be happy to know that the show features your favorite heroes and villains. Let's start with the good guys, the warriors in white hats.
First, there's Paolo Montablan, who plays Kung Lao. Jeffrey Meek plays Rayden, the God of Thunder and Protector of the Realm of' Earth. Daniel Bernhardt plays Siro, a bodyguard, and Kristanna Loken plays Taja whose fife, was spared by Kung Lao after a botched robbery.
You're probably familiar with the evil villains. First, there',-, Shang Tsung. Bruce Locke, who has guest-starred on NYPD Blue, plays everyone's favorite soulstealer. Tracy Douglas plays Vorpax, who is described as a "villainous she-prisoner."


The warriors we love to hate are returning too. There's Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Reptile. And there are some familiar faces playing these characters. For example, former sport karate star Chris Casamassa and current sport karate star Jon Valera are two of those who will be kicking, flying and spinning their way across your TV.
Casamassa, who has appeared in a variety of movies, including Blade, guest-stars in the first three episodes as Takeda, the character who eventually becomes Scorpion.
"Initially, Takeda was friends with Kung Lao," says Casamassa. "They were sparring partners and workout buddies. Eventually, Shang Tsung steals my soul, and I become the evil warrior Scorpion." Valera, a member of Team Paul Mitchell who is renown for his near-flawless forms and weapons routines on the tournament circuit, is excited about playing Reptile.
"I'm excited because I'm going to be showcased," says Valera, who attends DeAnza College in Cupertino, California. "This gives me an opportunity to test my acting skills. I'm going to put those two years of acting school to work We'll see if they paid off. But yes: being a character on a well-known show is a big thing. I'm excited about it."
And so are his friends.
In the first three episodes, the 23-year-old Northern California resident did a variety of stunts And people recognized him.
"People who did not realize I was on the show came up to me and asked me if I was on the show," says Valera. "That feels good. Normally people come up to me at tournaments and praise my performance. This, however, is another level."
Appearing on a major production such as this is good news for aspiring actors who are currently on the sport karate circuit, says Valera, who was hired after the directors, producers and stars of the show came to watch him compete in the U.S. Open.
"I think it sends a message and gives hope," says Valera. "A lot of' people are frustrated with the martial arts, especially sport karate because there's so much politics in the sport. As a result, some guys were dropping Out. This, however, keeps them motivated."


OK. You've got the plot, and you've got the characters. How about the end product? Will it be good, bad or ugly?
If you liked the movies, you will definitely like the television show, says Casamassa.
"The show is action-packed," he says. "Not only are they putting a lot of money in it, the show features great returning characters, including Sub-Zero, the great Scorpion and Rayden. There are also some new twists."
You can see all of your favorite good guys, such as (Kung Lao, below) and bad guys, such as Shao Kahn, above) on Mortal Kombat Conquest.

They are also using the best martial artists in the universe, "They are using top-notch people and a phenomenal stunt team," says Casamassa. "The martial arts helped the films become successful and they will do the same for the TV show."
Valera, who toured on the Mortal Kombat Live Tour, agrees.
"Not only does the show have a good story line, but they are using a wide variety of martial artists," he says. "You're not going to see just one style. For example, you'll see Richard Branden perform wushu and a variety of other styles. You are going to see stuff you haven't seen on film before--720s, 540s and aerials."


Of course, you can't have Mortal Kombat without fighting. That is obvious. But how violent is the violence?
"A certain amount of violence comes with the territory," says Valera. "Even Jackie Chan's movies are violent, although they are comical. You can't go to a martial arts film and not expect to see violence. After all, the name (Mortal Kombat) has violence all over it. But the violence in Mortal Kombat is certainly not gory like the video game. It's toned down, but the action is good."
There's another way to look at fighting, too, he says.
"The public's appreciation of the martial arts has risen," he says. "They still see it as fighting, but they are beginning to see the art aspect, the beauty of manipulating the body."
Casamassa, who was a regular on the television show W.M.A.C. Masters, offers a different perspective.
"The fighting is a means to an end on the show," says Casamassa. "The characters fight as a last defense. It keeps the martial arts in a positive light."

Beyond Episode 13

So we can expect to see Reptile later in the season, but will Scorpion be returning after his three episodes'?
"Scorpion is an evil spirit that inherits the bodies of fallen warriors," says Casamassa. "He is a lost soul focused on revenge. Scorpion never dies."
What fun would it be if anyone really died?

Mortal Kombat Conquest premiered the week of September 27, 1998. Check your local listings for the day, time and station.