*Editor’s note: This story was originally published in The Daily Nonpareil on July 6, 2017. It was published again in Thursday's Faces of Arts & Culture section of the e-edition.
David Yost is “blue,” but not in an emotional way.
The Council Bluffs native — who has been living in California since the early 1990s — is widely known for his work on the television series “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” The show, which was the original series in what would become a cultural phenomenon in youth television programming, toys and three full-length feature films, focused on five teenagers “with attitude” who — as the Power Rangers — would protect the planet from evil. Yost played the role of Billy Cranston, otherwise known as the “triceratops-zord” wielding Blue Ranger.
Born in Council Bluffs in 1969, Yost moved from the area to Lamoni when he was 3 years old. He said his family traveled often, and he also resided in Denver, Billings, Montana, and Death Valley, California. After he graduated high school in Pleasanton, California, he returned to Lamoni to study communications and dramatic arts at Graceland University.
Following his college graduation, he packed up his life and moved to Los Angeles, eager to begin his career as an actor.
“I don’t remember having fear about it,” he said in an interview with The Daily Nonpareil. “I’ve always been an independent person and I was excited about the move. I’m not a small-town person. I felt out of place. I’ve always wanted to be in a big city so, when I got to L.A., it just felt like home.”
Yost arrived in his new home two weeks after the Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of officers accused of beating Rodney King. He said the riots initially made finding work difficult, as many companies had stopped hiring in the destruction and aftermath of the riots. Eventually, he was able to find work as a room service waiter at a hotel on L.A.’s historic Sunset Boulevard.
“I had to work the graveyard shift, from 11 at night to 8 in the morning, but I got to meet a lot of stars,” he said. “Whoopi Goldberg lived in the hotel, Gloria Steinum stayed there, Pierce Brosnan, River Phoenix ... there were a lot of cool people. It was exciting for me, getting to meet celebrities right out of the gate.”
Not long after he arrived in Los Angeles, Yost auditioned for a show pilot called “Phantoms.” The producers were looking for five adults in their early 20s who could play teenagers. He said he had no idea at the time what that audition would eventually turn into. He auditioned eight times over the course of two months before landing the part. The show title was soon changed from “Phantoms” to “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
“I had always wanted to be on television, and to know you’ve landed the first step, which is filming a pilot for a potential series, is exciting,” he said. “When you get that phone call, it’s a huge relief, because the audition process is very, very stressful.”
Between 1993 and 1999, Yost filmed more than 150 episodes of the show. In 1995, he co-starred in the brand’s first feature film. He was only 22 years old when he took the role of the Blue Ranger, and he said he couldn’t have predicted how big the show would become.
“We filmed the entire first season, which was almost 40 episodes, before the show even started airing,” he said. “We had no gauge as to what really was going to take place. And then when it started airing, it shot straight to the top, not only in this country but throughout the world. It was really hard to comprehend that it was the success that it was. The very original cast is still looked upon with admiration because of that.”
Since the original series, there have been more than 20 spin-off shows, all featuring variations on the original Power Rangers. The most recent version of the show is called “Power Rangers Ninja Steel.” While Yost said he has met some of the cast members from the spin-offs, he has not watched the other series. He added that he didn’t watch the series he worked on either.
“I personally struggle with watching myself,” he said. “I’ll see things I wish I could have done differently, or could have done better. So it’s not productive for me to do that. For me as an actor, it’s good to create the character, study my lines, figure out what I think is going to happen, go and do it and then be done with it. If I sit and watch it, I’m going to pick it apart.”
The Power Rangers are all skilled in martial arts so playing the Blue Ranger meant a lot of physical work for Yost. However, the real challenge for Yost laid in playing the part of the smartest character on the show.
“I played the most intelligent character in the cast and I’m not truly that intelligent in real life,” he said. “I always had these tough long words and lines, so I would have to break out the dictionary to figure out what I was saying. That was my biggest challenge, saying those lines and making them sound normal.”
After the “Power Rangers,” Yost started focusing on behind-the-scenes television work. He produced several reality television shows, including “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” as well as shows for Comedy Central and the SYFY Channel. In addition, he has been involved with several charitable organizations.
He performed in the play “Fallen Guardian Angels,” which raised funds for the AIDS Project L.A. and continues to advocate for Project Angel Food and The Trevor Project.
“My favorite part of the show now is the incredible stories that we hear from people, from the fans of the show, about how we impacted their lives,” he said. “We hear so many stories about kids being in abusive homes and Power Rangers being their one refuge. How we helped them get through difficult times, or they were being bullied at school and we gave them confidence to study harder, become martial artists, become gymnasts ... to hear that, day in and day out, is truly awesome.”
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