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Justin Smith on Power/Rangers and Producing Poker's Next Big Show
There’s been a few different versions of Justin Smith throughout the years.
First there was Justin Smith, the high school student who worked in a grocery store.
Then came Boosted J, the short-haired online poker phenom with a red Full Tilt name.
After Black Friday hit, Boosted J vanished and Justin Smith reemerged with sleek, long combed hair.
He kept one foot in high-stakes cash games and planted the other in Hollywood.
Now there’s Justin Charles Smith (as per his IMDB page), a participant in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship who, both visually and artistically, is more reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands than Boosted J.
The Human Hybrid
“Everyone has different sides to themselves and it's interesting to explore that and not just be stuck in the same place all the time,” Smith said.
“I can switch to different things and adjust very quickly, which is probably one of my greatest strengths as a person.
“I’m kind of like a hybrid.”
Smith currently has his hybrid setting set to 'Poker' for the $50K Championship.
“I'm pretty careful about the poker spots I take nowadays,” Smith said.
“I'm very, very busy and to think that I could also compete seriously with guys who are only about poker would be very foolish of me.
“Can I show up to this tournament and think I have a shot? Yeah, but to be battling day in and day out is a completely different mindframe.”
That was a mindframe for a different Justin Smith. It was one that Boosted J had until Black Friday hit in 2011.
The Post-Black Friday Smith
After Black Friday Smith considered moving to Mexico to keep playing online but decided against it. He had other options.
“I already had a foot in some Hollywood business,” Smith said.
“I produced a movie [Detention] in 2010 and that opened more doors for me.”
With the online poker door sealed behind the Mexican border and a number of new ones open in Hollywood, Smith decided to test his adaptability in a completely different business.
“It’s almost the opposite of poker,” Smith said, “because poker is so super analytical and about quantifiable decisions, where art is much different for how you need to be thinking.
“I thought moving into something creative would be very interesting and stimulating for me and it was.
“I had never really experienced that since I’d been so focused on poker for almost a decade.”
Creation and Power Rangers
Another difference that appealed to Smith was that he was collaborating and creating rather than competing.
“I think it's very interesting to be able to develop content that's very inspiring to people,” Smith said. “Poker's not very inspiring.
"It's very competitive, and that's cool, but to really create something that could be inspiring or entertaining to people or give them a little bit of happiness for their day is extra special to me.”
Some of Smith’s projects have already brought a fair bit of happiness across the internet.
After Detention, Smith produced Linked, I Like You A Latte and the Power/Rangers short that went viral earlier this year.
“The Power Rangers thing was awesome of course,” Smith said. “A lot of people enjoyed it so I’m happy for that.
“I always watched the show and pretended to be the Black Ranger as a kindergartner on the playground during recess.
“But being a five-year-old thinking about Power Rangers is different than being [a 27-year-old] thinking about Power Rangers.
“I’m always looking for a different perspective on things and Power Rangers was something we could take a different perspective on, make it a little bit more real.”
The New Poker Show
Smith, who was an executive producer on Power/Rangers, worked on the film with director Joseph Kahn.
Aside from Detention and Power/Rangers, Kahn has directed music videos for Eminem, Britney Spears, Blink 182, 50 Cent, the Backstreet Boys and Taylor Swift.
“[Kahn is] very talented and very arguably the best commercial music video director of the past 20 years,” Smith said.
“And now he's really making his break back into feature films.”
Aside from the feature films, Kahn and Smith are working together on a poker-related show.
While Smith isn’t allowed to reveal specific details about the show just yet, he’s confident about one aspect of the show.
“It will be the poker show,” Smith said.
“It's going to be fun, very very very fun and I think it's going to test a lot of limits and boundaries in reference to morality and ethics in a funny, super-entertaining way.”
Drawing From the Poker World
Smith, who’s dealt in the tricky business of the gambling world for the past decade, says he’s conjured up a lot of these situations --some real and some fictional-- for the show.
“You can be in a situation like, well, this guy is my friend," Smith said. "Do I fleece him for all of his money or do I fleece him for half of his money?
“Or do I not gamble one dollar with my friend and just bet on pushups? So, all these things are going to come into play and I think that's interesting to explore and see how people deal with those situations. And I’ve seen it first hand of course.”
Smith -- who’s been working on the show for years -- says that he and Kahn “got news last week that’s really, really good.”
“I think it's going to go into production very soon,” said Smith. “And it's not going to be just a pilot, so I'm super excited.”