Posted on Friday, March 3rd, 2017 by Blake Harris
What ever happened to the little brother from Surf Ninjas? Is he still acting? Still surfing? Still using martial arts to make the world a safer place? I sat down with Nic Cowan, who played little brother Adam in Surf Ninjas, to find out…
Synopsis: When surf-lovin’ brothers Adam (Nic Cowan) and Johnny (Ernie Reyes Jr.) discover that they are actually long-lost princes from a small China Sea Island, they set out on a combat-filled adventure to save their birthplace from an power-hungry tyrant.
Tagline: Surf’s up! Time to save the world!
Yesterday, Howl launched a new podcast called How Did This Get Made: Origin Stories, where listeners can go behind-the-scenes to learn about the making of cult films like Surf Ninjas. How Did This Get Made: Origin Stories will be exclusively available on Howl (discount code “Bonkers” gets one month free), starting with these six Surf-Ninja-themed episodes:
- Dan Gordon: Surf Ninjas scribe Dan Gordon talks about breaking into the business, getting blackballed by Hollywood and the unique horror of slowly discovering that his directorial debut was actually a meant-to-fail, money-laundering scheme for the mob.
- Dan Gordon II: In Part II, Dan talks about how Passenger 57 taught him to always bet on black, how Wyatt Earp spawned a vengeful copycat and how after years of struggle, all it took to get The Hurricane made was a three-word realization.
- Dan Gordon III: In Part III, Dan reveals what his misadventures with the mob taught him about who really killed JFK.
- Yoni Gordon: Dan’s son Yoni who laughs his way to an all-star cameo in Surf Ninjas, shares behind-the-scenes scoops and talks about the endearing quirks of Rob Schneider.
- Nic Cowan: Actor Nic Cowan, who plays little brother Adam in Surf Ninjas, talks about the odd life of being a child actor, his strange bond with Tone Loc and whether or not he’d be willing to pick up the proverbial surfboard if he were called upon to reprise his role for a Surf Ninjassequel role.
- Ernie Reyes, Jr.: Actor Ernie Reyes Jr., who stars as Johnny in Surf Ninjas, talks about his background in martial arts, scoring a breakout role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and the strangely powerful legacy of a little film called Surf Ninjas…
Today, it’s my pleasure to share an interview with Nic Cowan, who co-starred in the movie as one of the aforementioned (and incorrigible) surf ninjas.
It’s been a few years since Nic last acted, so in addition to talking about his breakout role in Surf Ninjas and what it was like to film his first movie in Thailand, we also discussed the ups and downs of Hollywood and the unusual life of being a child actor.
Below is a copy of our conversation…
Blake J. Harris: Hey Nic?
Nic Cowan: Yes.
Blake J. Harris: Hey, it’s Blake Harris. How are you?
Nic Cowan: Hey, Blake. It is good. How are you?
Blake J. Harris: I’m good. Are you still at work?
Nic Cowan: Nah, I’m free as a bird.
Blake J. Harris: Excellent. So what do you do these days? Where is work?
Nic Cowan: I am a graphic designer and illustrator. I work for a company that does accessories currently. Like licensed stuff. So like Star Wars, Disney, Hello Kitty, Pokémon. That kind of thing.
Blake J. Harris: How did you get into that?
Nic Cowan: You know what, I’ve gotten into such weird jobs just by word of mouth…Like I didn’t try to be an accessory designer, but I had a friend working at the company and I needed a job so that’s where I ended up.
Blake J. Harris: Nice.
Nic Cowan: I’ve worked in animation. All kinds of random stuff.
Blake J. Harris: Did you ever at some point think that you were going to be a professional Surf Ninja?
Nic Cowan: Ha, no. I didn’t even know that was a job, to be honest.
Blake J. Harris: Well you gotta start the market for that…
Nic Cowan: I think so, yeah!
Blake J. Harris: Tell me about Saturday night [the live How Did This Get Made? show that covered Surf Ninjas]. How’d it go?
Nic Cowan: It was great. Yeah, it was such a random thing. You know, I’m a huge fan of the podcast and since day one I was kind of thinking maybe they should do Surf Ninjas. And you know, I’ve tried to message it to the message boards. I have friends who were saying that stuff long before I started listening. But then I saw the post about it being the live show, of all things, and I live in Los Angeles. So I’ve been to the live show. But of course it was sold out. So I hopped o Twitter, which I’m not very active on, but I think I should become more active on because clearly it gets the job done. But yeah, I messaged Paul and he got back pretty quickly. And the rest is history.
Blake J. Harris: Yeah. Paul’s really the best. I’ve been, you know, lucky enough to hobnob with a bunch of, you know, pretty successful people, and Paul is really the nicest and most genuine of all the celebrities I’ve ever met and known.
Nic Cowan: You can really tell. Yeah. It comes across even on the pod or when he’s on TV or whatnot. And then now that I’ve chatted with him, just the little bit that I did, I can just totally feel it.
Blake J. Harris: Good. I’m glad it comes through.
Nic Cowan: Yeah.
Blake J. Harris: But let’s talk about you, let’s go back in time.
Nic Cowan: Okay.
Blake J. Harris: How did you get involved with Surf Ninjas?
Nic Cowan: Well, you know, I was doing the actor kid thing. I had done some commercials, you know, some one-off television episodes. The usual thing. And then this audition comes along called Surf Ninjas and I was like: uh, what’s that? The rundown says it’s kind of like Ninja Turtles (it was in the middle of all that whole boom), I don’t remember if I knew that Ernie Jr. was in it yet, but of course he was from Ninja Turtles and Ninja Turtles 2, especially, because you know he had a speaking role.
Blake J. Harris: Yup.
Nic Cowan: So I was a fan of that. I kind of got pretty excited pretty early on about what that could be. And started going through the audition process.
Blake J. Harris: And what do you remember about the audition? I know it was a long time ago, by the way.
Nic Cowan: [laughs] Yeah, it’s coming on 24 years now. Long time ago. It’s weird to think the 90s were that long ago.
Blake J. Harris: Yeah, very weird.
Nic Cowan: But I remember at some point I got a little bit more of a script so I could kind of feel it out. There was a couple things I remember about the audition process. One was that in the script it was heavily featuring a “Game Boy.” As opposed to Game Gear). I don’t know if that was just a placeholder or what (because I know eventually I found out that Sega was a financier on the project.
Blake J. Harris: Yup.
Nic Cowan: So they had a huge stake with their Game Gear and everything. But I remember because Game Boy was in the script I would bring a Game Boy with me and wait in the hall for my call. To kind of be like: hey, look, I’m that guy! I’m already him! Which is pretty…I think that worked. Because I remember a casting agent walking by and noticing that I had in and chuckling to themselves. So maybe that worked. Maybe that was all it took to get the job.
Blake J. Harris: Ha.
Nic Cowan: I remember also in the process there was a point where I was pretty sure I didn’t get the film.
Blake J. Harris: How come?
Nic Cowan: It was two or three callbacks down the line, getting closer to narrowing it down, and this was the one where those of us reading for the part were reading opposite Ernie Jr. for the first time…I went to read with him, but in the waiting room there was this kid who looked like spot-on him. It looked just like Ernie, but younger. So for me I thought: there goes my chances, he got the role for sure. And I kind of…I don’t know if that effected my audition, but I remember feeling rejected by the time I left. Without even being told, I just kind of felt: well, that was that, onto the next thing. But eventually I got another call back.
Blake J. Harris: What happened?
Nic Cowan: It turns out that Ernie liked me and my performance and that I reminded him of one of his actual younger brothers. Who I actually kind of do look like. I look more like his little brother than this other kid looked like earn. So I guess he kind of felt that and we vibed…and he had a big say, I think, because the brothers had so many scenes together; so I think he wanted to pick someone who wasn’t a diva and who couldn’t, you know, act his way out of a paper bag.
Blake J. Harris: Ha, yeah…even before that, you said you were doing the “child actor thing.” Was that a choice on your part? Was that a choice on your parents’ part? And what are the memories…I imagine it’s pretty brutal, lots of rejections for a young kid. What was that like for you?
Nic Cowan: Yeah, well it was absolutely something I wanted to do. It was never put on me, it was never brought up. I started officially when I was 8. I was raised by my grandma and my mom, so my grandma was always home. And I told her one day, “I think I want to do that.” I was watching some kids on television and I asked her “could I do that.” And she’s like, “Well, if that’s something you really want to do, what you do like to try it?” And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to.” So she got on it. Did the research and figured out how to get agents. I don’t know. She figured out and I figured out how to get me in front of agents and pretty quickly I was on a roll with auditioning.