Back Story: RJ Cyler

rj2RJ Cyler landed his first movie role in 2015’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which that year won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, the 21-year-old Cyler (pronounced Ky-ler) has filmed two more movies: War Machine with Brad Pitt and the Power Rangers reboot, in which he plays the role of blue ranger Billy. Both are due in theaters next year. But only a short time ago, Cyler was taking classes at Englewood High.

How did you get started acting? I heard this commercial on the radio for a celebrity actors’ camp in Orlando. I was in the car with my dad and he was like “No, I don’t have time to be scammed out of money.” But that’s why God gave me two parents, one to say no and the other to say yeah. I got to my mom before he did. I gave her the number and she did it like I knew she would. [Months later,] I got a call for a camp in L.A., and that’s where I found my agent.

How do you and your parents like living in Los Angeles? It’s beautiful, but it’s dry. If you could bring some of the moisture from Florida, then it would be the perfect place. But you can’t have everything.

What do you like to do when you’re in Jacksonville? I was just down there a few months ago. It was good seeing my friends again. I miss them. We go skating most of the time. I love skating, but I can’t do a lot of the tricks and stuff. I’m still pretty swaggy though.

Did you watch Power Rangers growing up? Yeah, a lot. For Halloween, I used to dress up as the blue one or the red one, because those are my favorite colors.

Did you have to do a lot of martial arts training for the role of Billy? I trained in LA for a few months before going to film [in Canada]. We also had choreography training. We had to do a lot of our own stuff to coincide with [the Power Rangers’] personalities. Billy’s more evasive—he doesn’t really like confrontation in life, so when it comes to violence he’s gonna go the other way. It’s like he accidentally makes the right decisions when it comes to confrontation.

Are you similar to him? When it comes to his wholehe­artedness and sweetness, yeah. Also, we’re both cute as a button.

Family: Parents Katina & Ronald, two older brothers
Favorite Jax Food: “I always go for Publix chicken first.”
Pets: “I used to have a shih tzu named Bruiser. We gave him to my god-sister when we moved to L.A. He won’t drink water unless it has ice in it.”