STACK chats with actor Andrew Koji about taking on the character of Storm Shadow in Paramount’s action-packed reboot, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.

The HasbroVerse is on the rise and as the other two major superhero universes duke it out, the wheels are in motion to bring together some of Hasbro’s most iconic toy lines. The Transformers franchise is already well established, and following two previous G.I. Joe films, the series is about to be reinvigorated with an all-new chapter telling the story of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, two ninja warriors whose alliance dates back to the original toy line in 1984.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins tells the story of these brothers-in-arms and how they were trained by the ancient Japanese ninja clan, Arashikage, before being recruited to the G.I. Joe team. Of course the history of the characters has had them at odds with each other throughout the years, and their story is one of a complex relationship.

Andrew Koji (HBO’s Warrior), who plays Storm Shadow, sat down with STACK over Zoom to discuss the upcoming film, revealing that he didn’t have any G.I. Joe toys as a kid and had to embark on his own exploration of the character.

“I grew up more with video games, and some toys, but we had Action Force in England, and that wasn’t the same. So I had to do some research once the role came in,” he admits.

With a history spanning that initial toy line to the cartoons, animated films and comic books, Koji’s work was cut out for him – a task he describes with amusement.

“It wasn’t all on the page and it was definitely a deep dive because the script is the starting point, but then there was still work to be done, and when I got the early draft of the script, it was still finding itself. We wanted to know what was the best thing to do with the characters, and the universe as a whole, with the tone and setting and everything.

“So yeah, you do the deep dive and figure out what is useful and what is not, and I think the main thing with this being an adaptation with a modern spin on it, you basically have to find the soul and the essence and the spirit of the characters.”

Curiously – and appropriately – it was a G.I. Joe super-fan who helped him connect with Storm Shadow.

“I got the basic spirit of the character by talking to fans, and one fan in particular who was a Storm Shadow fanatic, was my main resource for that,” he explains. “And once I figured it out it was kind of like layering in all of the usual actor-y prep work that you do, like scene analysis and breaking everything down. Oh, and the Japanese culture and the samurai influence – Robert [Schwentke, director] was a huge lover of Japanese cinema. So all of those things just go into the mix.”

Having risen to fame as the star of HBO’s Warrior, Koji says that shifting from television to film wasn’t a big stretch.

“There’s not much difference, and it depends on the director. TV though, with Warrior you have to be fast, man, because TV is on a lot smaller budget and you’ve got to get through ten episodes of filming in a short time.”

With the previous two G.I. Joe theatrical films – The Rise of the Cobra (2009) and Retaliation (2013) – having received a lukewarm response, Koji eagerly reassures fans that the new film should be considered a fresh start.

“Yeah, it’s a reboot, a revival and a refresher. It’s a new beginning, man – a completely new spin on it.”

With rumours of a potential G.I. Joe franchise crossover with five other Hasbro properties – including Transformers, Rom and Micronauts – gaining traction, Koji was somewhat reluctant to spill any hot goss on the pending HasbroVerse, offering with a grin, “I can’t really speak about that. I think it’s teasing. Yes, it’s teasing stuff for the potential. And I know there are talks of things and I think it’s early days. I’m sure that some mastermind is twiddling his fingers with some plan, but yeah…”

And as Snake Eyes is poised for release, the development of a follow-up was announced back in May. When asked about what the future holds for Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, Koji was again expectedly tight-lipped.

“Oh no, I think we have to wait until this comes out first, man. Because they do listen to the audience reaction. So, they’ll find that out and they’ll listen to that. I mean there are some things in the works, but I think you’ve got to take one step at a time.”

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is in cinemas on July 22

G.I. Joe at JB Hi-Fi.