NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Power Rangers actor David Yost: In his own words

David Yost is best known for his role as Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger, on the hit television show, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as well as the major motion picture, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. He played the role longer than any of the other original actors, playing Billy for three seasons of the show, and continuing the role into its second iteration, Power Rangers Zeo. While it’s been many years since he donned the blue tights, he remains a legend in the Power Rangers community. These days, he splits his time between acting, producing, writing, and entrepreneurship. But it hasn’t always been an easy road. I recently had the opportunity to speak with David about his career and his post-Power Rangers life.

“Ever since I was seven years old, I always wanted to be an actor more than anything,” Yost says fondly. In a second grade talent show, David played Dopey in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. “I was left onstage by myself singing and kind of being goofy, acting like Dopey and I just remember the entire school, like, laughing at me, laughing at what I was doing as Dopey and just having an ah-ha moment of like ‘Oh wow, this is really fun. This is what I want to do.’ So, from that moment on I just always did every school play I could.”

It was around that same time that Yost’s parents enrolled their hyperactive son in gymnastics at the advice of a teacher. While he showed a proclivity for the sport, acting was his true passion. “My parents would pay thousands of dollars for me to go to private gymnastics schools. So I’d go to school and after school, I’d get on the bus and I’d go downtown to where my gymnastics center was. I was supposed to be going to gymnastics practice, but often, touring companies would come through the town that I lived in doing plays and musicals, so I would skip my gymnastics practices and I would go and I would audition, without my parents knowing, for these plays, and often I would get a role. So my parents would find out much later in the process that I wasn’t going to gymnastics, that I was going to play rehearsal instead. So, I’d get in a little bit of trouble because they would spend so much money to keep me in gymnastics.”

Yost continued working in gymnastics, competing in national competitions while also pursuing an acting career. His big break came when he auditioned for an upcoming superhero show that would combine stock footage from the Japanese Super Sentai series with American-shot footage. This blended show would go on to become Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. “I guess what was something fortuitous for me is that when Power Rangers came along, it kind of melded something I was good at, as a gymnast, and also my passion as an actor. It kind of put the two together and it was a great job for me because I was getting to do two things: one that I really loved and another that I was really good at.” In 1993, the show debuted and became an instant hit. Yost, along with castmates Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, Amy Jo Johnson, and Walter Jones became idols for their young fans.

The legacy and the impact of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers can still be felt today, and it’s something that Yost feels honored to be part of. “I hear so many stories on social media every day, but if I’m going to comic cons, every kid has something positive to say about Power Rangers and how Power Rangers influenced their life in ways that I, and I know the original cast, could never have predicted or even thought about. Knowing that Walter Jones was a black superhero, that meant so much to African Americans and black people, not only in the United States, but around the world. And same with Thuy. She was Vietnamese. She has an amazing story of being a refugee from Vietnam. But for Asian children to see an Asian representation as a superhero, and not only an Asian superhero, but a female superhero is awesome. And to see Amy Jo and Thuy as women that could hold their own and be superheroes along with the guys, that gave so much confidence to women. So for us, we couldn’t really understand all that, but to know that those kind of things were going on in people’s lives, that’s really awesome.”

Despite the success of Power Rangers, Yost was privately suffering. “For me, where we were at a point in American history in the 90’s, it was still very difficult to be a gay person, and that’s what I was struggling with. I always knew that I was gay but it’s just something that I thought that I didn’t have to pay attention to or it didn’t need to affect me. But I was hiding it, pretending not to be gay, doing everything in my power, like ‘praying the gay away’, as they say, and I was really at that time, during Zeo, suicidal. And so, it was really kind of a scary situation for me. There were several, at least three days for sure, I mean, I came home, and just really…just really struggled and really came very close to ending my life. And just crying, and being up all night crying and then having to go to work the next day and try to act like everything’s okay.”

Rumors and discussions about his sexuality and its potential negative impact on the show added to his stress, pushing him to feel more isolated. “To have people say certain things about you when you just want to go to work and do your job, and it’s a job that you love doing because you’re getting to fulfill your childhood dream of being a working actor, and something that I had dreamed about forever. I moved to Hollywood, making it in the industry, and here I am, I’m living it. But because of this little part of me doesn’t affect anybody…the fact that I’m gay is somehow a bad thing.” He goes on to explain, “To have that kind of pressure put on me, being told that I’m the reason this show could potentially get cancelled, be ruined, it’s really disheartening. So that was my breaking point because those messages just kept coming at me and I just didn’t know how to deal with it.” Feeling like he had nowhere to turn for assistance, Yost chose to leave production of Power Rangers Zeo and never returned, “For my sanity, for my life, I just had to walk away.”

The following years were challenging for Yost trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Having been raised in a religious family, he attempted to cure what some told him was a “disease” through prayer. He voluntarily entered into conversion therapy but suffered from an internal tug of war which led to him coming close to a nervous breakdown. Knowing he needed help, Yost checked himself into a hospital. “I remember the first night in the hospital, and I was just like, ‘God, I swear I’ll be gay if you just get me through this.’ So you know, that night was the night of having to start accepting who I was. And it wasn’t an easy road for me. Some people say when they finally admit that they’re gay and they really come to this realization, it’s like a weight is lifted off them. I never had that experience, and maybe it’s because when I went into the hospital, and I describe it as my mind imploding, I had to start putting the pieces back together. And that took me years and years and years.”

While it did take years, Yost eventually reached a place where he could not only embrace his sexuality and speak about it openly. “In 2010, we just saw such an uptick of teenagers and young people committing suicide because they were gay and because they were being bullied, or teased, or being told ‘You’re against God’ and all that kind of stuff. So, I just felt that it was important for me just to step forward and say ‘Hey, I know what you’re going through. And I want you to know that you’re okay as you are. You are as God created you and there’s nothing wrong with you. I want you to be strong. I need you to be strong. And I know you can get through this’.” So that was sort of the opening for me to come forward and tell what I had been through, just to hopefully also help people avoid putting their children through what I went through. Or people doing like how I did. I did it to myself. It wasn’t my parents saying ‘you have to go do this’. It was me, David, saying ‘you have to do this.’ So, I just really wanted people to know that ‘you can get through this.’”

Since coming out, Yost has participated in the NOH8 Campaign, as well as working with other organizations such as the AIDS Project Los Angeles and The Children’s Hospitals AIDS Center, as well as raising awareness for organizations such as The Trevor Project, Project Angel Food and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. His activism and openness have touched countless fans, which he speaks about very humbly. “Every day, and that’s not a lie or an exaggeration, every day I get at least one message on one of my social media sites talking about ‘thank you so much for sharing your story. You helped me. You helped my brother. You helped me explain it to my parents.’ I’m so grateful for those kinds of messages and just knowing that I have not only helped myself by telling my story, but I’m able to give people confidence to be themselves.”

In 2016, David entered a new business realm when he teamed up with Cris Andrade and Mason Andrade to start Affirmative Clothing Company. The term “Affirmative” is a reference to Yost’s Power Rangers character, who frequently said “affirmative” when agreeing with people. “I said, ‘If we’re going to do this, I really want it to mean something to people and I want there to be a message behind the company.’ And so, I just came up with ‘Embrace who you are. Believe in who you are. Affirm who you are.’ So that’s sort of the mindset of Affirmative Clothing Company.” Aside from clothes, the company has also begun selling items such as face masks, tumblers, hats, and other items. Yost says, “It’s been a fun thing to have. It’s been extremely successful. I’ve been very lucky that so many fans of Power Rangers have embraced it, gotten behind it, and supported it.”

While he has never returned to the Power Rangers television show, Yost hasn’t completely left it behind. In 2019, he worked with actor Noah Baron on the YouTube mini-series, Life After Power Rangers, playing Max, a casting agent working with Baron’s Green Ranger. “The thing that I remember liking was him on one of those electric scooters in the Green Ranger costume going down Melrose Boulevard in Los Angeles, and I just thought, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s hilarious.’” Yost and Baron got in touch through social media and Yost offered to appear as a cameo, which Baron happily accepted. “It was so much fun, and I just thought he did such a good job. It’s all improvised. It’s not written or anything like that. It was a good time.”

Yost is also working on trying to reunite the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cast. “I don’t know how this is going to pan out, or if it’s going to work or not going to work, but I’ve really been focusing on writing a reunion because the original cast is coming up on our thirty year reunion in a couple years. We didn’t get a twenty-five-year reunion, and it’s a request that I get, and I know the original cast get every day.” While no deals or contracts have been signed, David is hopeful that he will be able to work with Hasbro, the company that recently acquired the rights to the Power Rangers franchise, to reunite and honor the original cast. Time will tell if something comes to fruition.

David Yost’s personal and professional journey has had numerous ups and downs. He’s overcome deep personal struggles and managed to find the strength to not only help himself, but to help and inspire others. Billy Cranston may have been given superpowers, but in many ways, David Yost is the real hero to so many.