Assault on VA-33, currently available on Amazon Prime, tells the story of a decorated veteran named Jason Hill (Sean Patrick Hill) who must face terrorists to save his wife and hospital. Action star Mark Dacascos stars opposite him as another PTSD survivor who has gone the wrong way.
Dacascos spoke to Screen Rant about his character entry for the role, his fight choreography in the John Wick franchise, and a surprising piece of his little-known Power Rangers past.
Tell me a bit about your Assault on VA-33 character, Jackson.
Mark Dacascos: Jackson is not a good guy. I think at one point he was, but at this point in his life and career he sold himself. He’s everything I think we humans don’t want to become. He has given up on good, and all he does is make money, make his money, and work for money. He’s returned and he’s there to create challenges and adversity for Jason Hill.
What immediately struck me about this film was the Die hard vibes, which I love. What was Jackson’s role and story that interested you in the project?
Mark Dacascos: I wanted to support our military and veterans because, among a lot of people I know who were in the military, they still have a lot of emotional and mental challenges that they still face because of what they are. lived during their military careers. I think the character of Jason Hill and the portrayal of Sean Patrick Flanery are perfect.
It’s funny, because when I got on set, they had already been filming for a week or two, I think. But Sean Patrick was in the character. In fact, maybe he’s just like that all the time. He was a bit gruff, very grounded, and you could tell he has a good heart. I thought it was perfect for Jason Hill.
You can see he went through the wringer, but he still tries to give the best of himself and keep a soft heart for his family.
Can you tell me about your work with Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray and his directing style? What did he want from you and Sean Patrick as actors?
Mark Dacascos: I met Christopher Ray on June 1, on a phone call on Zoom, and then I met him in person on set. And what’s great is that he was in the military – I believe he was in the navy – and he knew this world inside out. So it was very collaborative. I didn’t have a lot of scenes, but I did have some really fun ones, and he just wanted to make sure that we could show that Jackson might not be up to Jason in terms of skills, but it’s damn damn close.
And that unfortunately it is quite easy to cross that line. From what I understand, when you’ve served in the military and been in campaigns, you see horrible things, as Jason Hill did. Her heart was broken, and it’s, it’s easy enough for evil to creep in once you’re cracked, you know what I mean? Jason was able to do it, and Jackson was not. Christopher just made sure I was staying on track as best as I could, and followed that line of “Yeah, he could’ve been a good guy again, but he crossed it.”
It’s crazy, because I’m so familiar with you being a good guy, even though you’ve had roles of questionable character before. Can you tell me a bit about the training required for a project like this, especially when playing a sniper?
Mark Dacascos: Absolutely. Christopher and his stunt coordinator, they helped me handle the gun correctly on the shoot. But I think a lot of it comes from within, in terms of the rationale for the action. It was my job to build a backstory to justify in Jackson’s mind and heart why everything was going so well.
Obviously, from an objective point of view, this is a horrible, horrible thing to do – especially when you are turning on your own. Whatever Jackson’s backstory was, it was like Jason Hill; it was crushed, and then the evil infiltrated. He wasn’t strong enough to be like Sean Patrick Flanery’s character.
Was Jackson’s backstory something you created on your own, or was it more the process of working with Christopher?
Mark Dacascos: They had it in the script. I spoke with Christopher and I just said, “This is how I see him playing.” Whatever adjustments he made, we did it just the same day. Due to the limited number of scenes I’m in, you really have to give a lot of information as succinctly in detail as possible – but without portraying the “Haha, I’m a bad guy” thing.
Because Jackson didn’t come in and serve in the military and did the things he did with the intention of being a villain. It’s a huge thing; it’s just what happens when you go through difficult and traumatic scenarios like these military people, and when you haven’t properly and properly taken care of yourself mentally and spiritually afterwards. I think it’s really easy to cross that line, and it was the dichotomy and the contrast between the character of Sean Patrick and Jackson. Jason was doing his best to get help, and he found love despite all the fools, while Jackson just gave up on that aspect of life and used his training for evil.
Do you think Jackson still has his sense of honor, even though he’s fighting on the wrong side?
Mark Dacascos: I think he appreciates qualified people; I think he has respect for the training he received and the people he served with. But I think he’s crossed that line, and he’s got a number. While Jason Hill doesn’t at this point, and he’s doing his best for his humanity and doing good with his wife and daughter.
For this movie, were you shooting pre-COVID?
Mark Dacascos: Yeah, that was right before COVID really started getting serious in America. We were already hearing about it all over the world and it was certainly a threat in America. But we haven’t yet been given the mandate to wear a mask and all those other things. It was shortly before.
Perfect. I wanted to tell you about another project looming on your horizon, based on a comic called Corto Maltese. Can you tell me a bit about this project? Because there is also an anime adaptation.
Mark Dacascos: I haven’t heard of it for a few years because unfortunately – and I miss him dearly – one of our main producers for this film has passed away. It was going to be directed by the most excellent Christophe Gans, who made the Brotherhood of the Wolf. I had the chance to work with him, and he made Silent Hill films; he did Crying Freeman, where I met my wife.
Christophe was going to direct and it was with Vincent Cassel, I believe. And he had a great cast all over the world. But Samuel Hadida, who was the producer of Only the Strong, Crying Freeman, Brotherhood of the Wolf, and many other films – he’s passed away. When he passed away, the project was put into limbo. His brother, Victor Hadida, is now at the head of his production and distribution company. I don’t know if they figured out what they’re going to do with this movie.
Hope we can see it someday. I’m sorry to hear this bad news. But you’ve been a part of so many amazing franchises. Is there something you want to get your teeth into as an actor?
Mark Dacascos: Joseph, I wish I could tell you right now, but there are two projects coming up. They both go, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. A project, I am starting in the next month and a half. And then another big project, I’ll be away for about four months. Two really great projects, and I think you would be very excited about them. Hope you will be excited about them. And I can’t tell you about it yet.
There’s no official word yet, but I hope Zero has caught his breath and returns in John Wick 4 or 5.
Unbelievable. I wanted to ask you a quick question about this, because you are an action star through and through. Can you tell me about the action in John Wick? Because I feel like the franchise’s stunts and action choreography are on the next level.
Mark Dacascos: I agree with you. 100%. What’s great is that Chad Stahelski is one of the few I’ve worked with who’s just a great director, but he has this real sensibility for action because he was himself- even a stuntman. He’s worked with Keanu for over 20 years, and Chad has worked on great movies with a lot of talent. He’s a great martial artist himself, so the people he brings – in terms of everything, but mostly martial arts – are the best he can find.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time. I spoke with Chad Stahelski on a Monday, not knowing I was playing that role. Monday afternoon, we signed the agreement. Monday night, I flew to New York from Los Angeles. There, Tuesday morning and Wednesday, I shaved my head. Thursday I was working. So I didn’t have the training that I would have liked to have had with Chad and his people. But I have certainly been supported and guided by some of the best in the business. What’s great is that Chad being a martial artist, he’ll look through the lens and see what he wants, and then he can make the adjustments. And then he could come on set and show us what he meant. It was unbelievable.
Next: Interview with Rob Van Dam for Assault on VA-33
Assault on VA-33 is now on Amazon Prime and in US theaters.
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