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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Russell terrier versus a pro-wrestler. Who would win?

From the same folks who brought you those Air Bud movies, “Russell Madness” revolves around a tiny terrier that enters the ring against multiple wrestlers in order to be adopted by a family. And he have some great wrestling moves.

The film stars John Ratzenberger, Fred Willard, Mason Vale Cotton, Mckenna Grace and John Hennigan. The animal stars are Bomber the Dog and Crystal the Monkey.

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with wrestler/actor John Hennigan on his role in this delightful movie. We talked about the attraction of these types of movies and working with these well-known animals. In addition, we also talked about his wrestling and acting careers.

“Russell Madness” is currently available on VOD, Blu-ray and DVD.

Read the interview below.

Latino-Review: So what attracted you to this project?

John Hennigan: It’s awesome. It’s a movie about this Jack Russell terrier who talks who decided to become a wrestler so he could have a family. There’s also a talking monkey. There’s John Ratzenberger and a bunch of other wrestlers with other talented comedic actors from Vancouver. That sounds like the kind of thing I would not say no to. What about you? Would you do it?

Latino-Review: Talking monkey? Talking dog? And everything else? That’s an interesting thing to put on your resume for sure. [Laughter]

John Hennigan: These are the stuff I wanted to do for a very long time—wrestling, acting and comedy. I’ve never worked with [a dog] or a chimp before. I thought both of them were super fun. And then working with the kids Mason Vale Cotton and Mckenna Grace were also talented and always smiling. Bomber the dog, who played Russell, is very cute and super talented.

And then there’s Crystal the Monkey. First of all, Crystal the Monkey is the most amazing monkey ever. She’s been in everything from “The Hangover” franchise to “Night of the Museum” franchise to “Friends” TV show and now “Russell Madness.” That monkey can walk across the room and hit a mark. He can smile or look scared or even hit his head in shock. Basically, he is the most talentedactor I’ve ever worked with.

What attracted me to the project was that it was so wacky and awesome. Doing the project with everybody proved my original thought about the project—that it was wacky and awesome. We got a movie that’s just pure fun. Everybody had a good time doing the project. It also sends a positive message. When people see it, it’ll all come across on camera.

Latino-Review: Did you have to make any adjustments to play a wrestler, The Hammer, on screen? I know you had an entire career in wrestling before.

John Hennigan: No, I approached it like any acting role. The best characters are portrayed when an actor puts himself as the role. It was super easy for me, because of my career as a pro-wrestler. For me to play a part of a pro-wrestler hit home pretty nicely. I have a deep well of experience to pull from for The Hammer.

The point of this movie—you have to go watch it—is to go and say, “Yeah. That was awesome. That was hilarious.” There’s that positive message that I wanted to see with Russell having a family by the end of the movie. I think we accomplished all those goals and then some. When people see it, I think they’ll agree.

Latino-Review: I did see the movie. I thought it was light-hearted and very laughable. Was it particularly hard for you to act around the animals, particularly with wrestling with the dog? Or was that CGI?

John Hennigan: The dog was a combo of a real dog and CGI. We actually did some rope spots—criss-crossing by hitting the ropes with the dog. [Laughter] I was nervous, but Bomber the Dog was so well trained that it was not difficult. It was probably easier to wrestle with that dog than some wrestlers I did with in WWE.

Latino-Review: All the stunts were all done by you then, right?

John Hennigan: Yeah, I didn’t have a double for this.

Latino-Review: Which did you prefer—your wrestling career or going into your newfound career in acting?

John Hennigan: I say they are both different chapters of my life—sort of speak. They are both different and yet both interesting. Wrestling is awesome, because it’s instant gratification. It fully exists in the moment. The energy shared between the people in the ring and the people watching with the stories told in that way.

In entertainment film and TV, that energy doesn’t exist. The performances you give in that medium for an actor are much smaller. I would say also that it has more layers and more depth. You can tell different stories with film and TV.

Which is better? It’s like comparing apples and oranges. They’re different. I love both of them. I like the creative freedom you get with film and TV. I did a movie called, “Boone: The Bounty Hunter,” which is in post-production right now. It’ll be done late March. When it comes out, I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done. So when people see that, I think that it’ll feel really good to say, “I can see into this story.” I wrote it, produced it and acted in it. The freedom that you have with that is…..much, much more. You can do a whole lot more.

You can’t just fly to Mexico for wrestling. You can’t have a match where you travel half-way around the world and then have relationships with these different complex characters just like in a movie.

I just want to say that they’re different. I like both of them for different reasons. I wanted to wrestle as long as I can still perform at my highest level. I don’t want to burnout and lose the same type of energy that I have now at my peak. With film and TV, you can just do it for a lot longer.

Latino-Review: Of course, you’re doing both acting and wrestling at the same time. How do you keep the balance on your busy schedule?

John Hennigan: You can ask that question to anybody? Nothing is more important than what you’re doing at the moment. Right now, nothing is more important than doing this interview and this conversation that we’re having. I’ve limited my wrestling bookings so I could make sure I have time for auditioning and working on TV/film projects. When I’m doing all that stuff, I leave myself at least two or three hours a day just to exercise. I keep myself into top condition so I can go back into wrestling. It’s kind of cool for me, because if I don’t work out for a couple of days then I’ll feel like there’s something wrong. That’s how I’m wired.

Latino-Review: That’s pretty awesome. Hey, just out of curiosity, what do you think is the secret of these Air Bud movies and now Russell Madness in which people just want more and more of it?

John Hennigan: There are several things. For one, I think it’s such a weird wacky concept—animals are talking. But, when you’re watching especially as a kid—it’s just cool. It’s just magical. I had dogs growing up. I would talk to the dogs and I would always wonder what they would say if they can talk back. In these movies, that’s what happens. The animals do talk back. It’s very magical on what happens with those things. So that’s a huge part of it.

I think the other part of it is that they’re fun. They’re positive movies that have messages about family. They’re absolutely inspiring. When you’re watching those things—it’s the kind of movies that you do want to watch over and over again. There are those othermovies that you’ll watch once like “Birdman.” You won’t watch that over again like ten times. [Laughter] You know what I mean? Have you seen “Birdman?”

Latino-Review: Yes, I did. I have seen “Birdman.”

John Hennigan: It’s an amazing movie. It’s not the type of movie you’ll watch with a kid over and over again.

Latino-Review: That is true. That is true. Well, let me wrap this up with one more question, Jonathan. Can you talk more about your upcoming projects? I believed you said something about a movie that’ll be out really soon.

John Hennigan: Sure. I’m currently on this show called, “Lucha Underground” that airs on the El Rey Network on Wednesdays at 8 PM. My character there is called Johnny Mundo. It’s all about Lucho wrestling and I’m their token white guy. [Chuckles]

The other project I’ve mentioned to you was “Boone: The Bounty Hunter.” I wrote, produced and starred in it. We’ve shot it in the past few months and now it’s in post. We’re looking to finish it in late March. We’re working on the color, sound and other stuff right now. This is the first movie that I’ve produced and I’ve never had this much fun in producing. In most movies, there’s a concrete plan in place.  I’m figuring out this process as we’re going along.  When it’s done, in best scenarios, it’ll be a theatrical release in places maybe in October. If not—well, I’m still figuring this process out. It’s part of the reason I’ve left wrestling so I could do this.

It’s a part of the journey that I’m really enjoying. The process is really stimulating that I’m trying to figure out. It’s how to get that project made and then how to finish it. Now I’ll have to figure it out on what to do with it after it’s done. I’m going to find everything out at the same time like everybody else when it’s done.

Latino-Review: Wow. That’s pretty awesome. I wish good luck. And hopefully, I’ll talk to you later on when you want to promote “Boone.”

John Hennigan: That’ll be great. Let’s hope so.

“Russell Madness” is currently available on VOD, Blu-ray and DVD.

Source: Latino-Review

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.