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Power Rangers Actors You Might Not Know Passed Away

An unlikely pop culture phenomenon that took America by storm in the 1990s, the Power Rangers were the brainchild of Haim Saban, the founder of Saban Entertainment. Saban came up with the idea of repurposing a Japanese tokusatsu (kids shows about superheroes doing battle with giant monsters) after he saw "Choudenshi Bioman," the eighth installment in Toei Company's long-running "Super Sentai" series. The Israeli-American producer struck a deal that allowed him to use the battle footage from Toei's "Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger" in his own show, and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" was born.

U.S. actors were hired for the non-fighting scenes, and a whole new plot was invented based around the fictional California town of Angel Grove. High school students Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Billy, and Trini were recruited by the interdimensional wizard Zordon, who needed a group of "teenagers with attitude" to stop the recently escaped galactic villain — Rita Repulsa — from wreaking havoc on Earth. Sadly, not all of the original Power Rangers are still with us today, and we've lost many more stars from the franchise in the years since "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" debuted back in 1993. These are the Power Rangers actors you might not know passed away.

Thuy Trang (Trini Kwan)

She was known by kids (and big kids) across America as Trini Kwan, but Thuy Trang was actually a last-minute addition to the cast of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." The part of the first Yellow Ranger originally went to an actor called Audri Dubois, though she was unable to fulfill her obligations, and producers were left scrambling for a replacement. Trang, whose family had immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam, almost backed out of the audition after getting cold feet, but she ended up nailing it and became a valued member of the "Power Rangers" team. When she died following a car crash in 2001 at age 27, her former co-stars were devastated.

"I remember calling Thuy's voicemail a few times after I found out just to hear her voice and leave her a message saying I'll miss her," David Yost, the original Blue Ranger, told Entertainment Weekly on the 25th anniversary of the show's debut. "Learning about her early childhood and everything she and her family went through leaving Vietnam, becoming refugees and immigrating to the United States, I admired her and her family's strength to rebuild their lives here. I'll always remember her great laugh and infectious smile."

After her time on "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," Trang went on to appear in the Leslie Nielsen comedy "Spy Hard" and "The Crow: City of Angels," something original Black Ranger Walter Emanuel Jones said made her castmates "so proud." He added: "She was way too young and had so much more to share with the world."

Machiko Soga (Rita Repulsa and Mystic Mother)

Japanese actor Machiko Soga played villains in several "Super Sentai" shows, but outside of Japan, she was best known as the original Power Rangers antagonist, Rita Repulsa. The events of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" were kickstarted by Rita (whose character was called Bandora in "Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger") busting out of her space prison and setting up a base on the moon, the perfect place to launch an assault on Earth. It was her escape from prison that prompted Zordon to assemble the original Power Rangers, who battled her Putty Patrollers and the bizarre monsters she conjured up on a weekly basis.

Soga reprised her role in "Power Rangers Zeo" and "Power Rangers in Space" after "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" came to an end, becoming the longest-serving antagonist in the history of the franchise. In the early '00s, it was revealed that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. According to reports, she was found dead in her home by a friend in 2006. As a tribute to the late actor, producers brought Rita back as a good guy in "Power Rangers: Mystic Force," using footage from the "Magiranger" series. Her character, Magiel, Queen of the Sky Saints, was reimagined as the Mystic Mother.

Her career dates back to 1965 when she voiced a character in the series "Obake no Q-taro." Soga later voiced numerous characters for the video game "The Space Sheriff Spirits," released the year of her death.

Richard Genelle (Ernie)

New York native Richard Genelle was best known for playing Ernie, the genial owner of the juice bar at Angel Grove Community Center in the "Power Rangers" universe. He made his acting debut in 1990 as a resident of the Hefty World Condominium in an episode of the sketch show "In Living Color," and he made his first big-screen appearance the following year as a guard in the Lawrence Tierney-led action thriller "The Death Merchant." His big break came when he landed the role of Ernie in "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." He made his bow as the owner of the Rangers' favorite hangout in the first-ever episode (1993's "Day of the Dumpster," a reference to Rita Repulsa's prison), and he went on to appear in over a hundred episodes of the show.

Ernie was like a father figure to the Angel Grove kids, always on hand to offer advice. They trusted him as much as he trusted them (he would even leave the teens in charge of his business whenever he needed to pop out) and was very much part of the Power Rangers family, even if he was unaware of their identities. Genelle reprised the role in the "Power Rangers Zeo" series but reportedly left the show due to weight-related health problems. He gave one last turn as Ernie in the 1997 feature film "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie." He reportedly died of a heart attack in California in 2008.

Maurice Mendoza (Richie)

Maurice Mendoza had just a single acting credit to his name when he died in Arizona in 2013 at the age of 39: he played Richie in "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," appearing in 12 episodes of the show's 2nd season. A new arrival in Angel Grove, Richie got himself a job at the town's youth center, becoming the new assistant to Richard Genelle's Ernie. He was introduced as a potential love interest of Thuy Trang's Trini Kwan, but his real purpose was to throw viewers off his scent — he was a skilled martial artist, and it appeared as though he was going to be confirmed as the White Ranger.

Season 2 saw the introduction of a new main villain, Lord Zedd (Edwin Neal), who arrives on the moon and locks Rita Repulsa up as punishment for not dealing with the Power Rangers in the previous season. A new Ranger was heralded as the only way to defeat Lord Zedd, and viewers were led to believe that Richie would be the one to take up the mantle of the White Ranger, though that honor ended up going to Thomas "Tommy" Oliver (Jason David Frank). Tommy, formerly the Green Ranger, had lost his powers, so fans were happy to see the popular character return as the new leader of the group.

Alissa Ann Bigelow (Shawna Hilton)

New Jersey native Alissa Ann Bigelow (née Smego) played gymnast Shawna Hilton in "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" Season 2 episode "Forever Friends" and died in 2013. The cause was suicide, her family confirmed to The Boston Globe. Her father, physician Dr. Douglas Smego, told the newspaper that mental illness had become "an epidemic in our country, and it's flying under the radar, and there's nobody who's really paying attention. If we think that medical care is in a shambles, medical care of mental illness is in a true shambles." She was 38.

Bigelow moved around with her family when she was young, spending time in New York and Kentucky before they settled in Connecticut. "She was the happiest child in the world," her mother said. "Everything came easy to her. And with her smile, she was always the center of attention." She graduated from high school in 1993, the year "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" began. She had ambitions of being on the screen, and she moved to California to make that happen.

Bigelow only appeared in one episode of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," but she had a big part in "Forever Friends," playing a student from rival school Stone Canyon. She went on to pop up in shows like "USA High," "Boy Meets World," and "Chicago Hope," and briefly fronted her own online cooking show before leaving the spotlight. She was teaching yoga at the time of her death. "I've never met anybody who willingly gave love so freely," said Jesse Winder, founder of Karma Yoga studios.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Edward Laurence Albert (Mr. Collins)

Family man and environmentalist Edward Laurence Albert — who won a Golden Globe for his turn opposite Goldie Hawn in "Butterflies Are Free" — died of lung cancer in 2006. "He devoted the last 10 years of his life to caring for his ailing father, Eddie," his wife, actor Kate Woodville, told Variety. "He touched many lives, even saved a few. He will be remembered as a magnificent man, loving father and husband." He was 55.

Albert was best known for his turn in 1972's "Butterflies Are Free," playing a blind man who moves into his first apartment and develops a relationship with his new next-door neighbor (Hawn). He won the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer and would do his best to live up to that in the years that followed, appearing in the likes of the World War II film "Midway" and the sci-fi horror "Galaxy of Terror." He also did some voice acting and worked on a few Marvel projects in the '90s: He was Daredevil in "Spider-Man" and the Silver Surfer in "The Fantastic Four."

In 2001, Albert joined the Power Rangers family as Mr. Collins in "Power Rangers Time Force." His character, a billionaire businessman, was the father of Wes Collins (Jason Faunt), the Time Force Red Ranger and lead of the series. "He worked tirelessly to preserve what he could of the natural wonders and Native sites in both Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains," his wife told Variety.

Peta Rutter (Udonna)

New Zealand native Peta Rutter played Udonna, the White Mystic Ranger in "Power Rangers Mystic Force," and died in 2010. She was the oldest actor to portray a Power Ranger onscreen, being in her 40s at the time. Rutter was 50 years old when she died of a brain tumor, an online memorial confirmed.

Rutter got her start in the 1981 film "Strange Behavior," an Illinois-set slasher that paid homage to the pulp horror films of the 1950s. It was released to positive reviews and still holds up well to this day, with a solid 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. She took a lengthy break from acting after that, not appearing onscreen for a decade. She returned to the big screen in 1992 with a role in the comedy "The Footstep Man," a film about a sound technician, but yet another decade would pass before she was seen in another movie — 2002's "This Is Not a Love Story."

She wasn't exactly prolific in terms of television, either, but Rutter was beloved by fans of "Power Rangers Mystic Force," acting as a badass mentor for the young Mystic Rangers. She learned magic from the Mystic Mother (the reformed Rita Repulsa) and put those skills to use when the Morlocks (the main villains in the "Power Rangers Mystic Force" series) broke free. Udonna's husband died fighting them, and she was determined to put them back where they belonged, recruiting a new team of Rangers to help her in her quest.

Jack Banning (Professor Phenomenus Ingenious)

Bronx-born actor Jack Banning — who was best known for his turn as the impossibly wacky Professor Phenomenus Ingenious in "Power Rangers in Space" and "Power Rangers Lost Galaxy" — died in 2005. The cause of death was reportedly complications from pneumonia. He was 73.

Born Jacob Becker, Banning first appeared onscreen in a 1974 episode of "Apple's Way," a short-lived CBS sitcom. He later showed up in TV shows like "Renegade," "Silk Stalkings," "The Invisible Man," and "The Chronicle," but his biggest role was in "Power Rangers." Professor Phenomenus Ingenious first appeared in the third episode of "Power Rangers in Space," becoming the new foil to the hapless bully duo Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Narvy). His introduction coincided with a new direction for Bulk and Skull, who were known for their madcap antics before they became the straight arrows to the alien-obsessed professor.

The three appeared alongside each other in over a dozen episodes of "Power Rangers in Space" in 1998 and reunited briefly in the follow-up series "Power Rangers Lost Galaxy." In terms of feature films, Banning plied his trade in comedies like "Playing for Keeps" and "That's Adequate," but he was best known for his turn as a hot dog vendor in the Chuck Norris action flick "Top Dog."

Harry Frazier (Neptune)

Perpetually bearded actor Harry Frazier  — who played Santa Claus on numerous occasions but was known to Power Rangers fans for his turn as King Neptune in "Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue"  — died in 2007. The cause was complications from diabetes, a spokesperson from California's Motion Picture and Television Hospital told The Monterey County Herald. He was 77.

Frazier's career began in the 1960s when he began cutting his teeth in the theater. He landed jobs on Broadway and became a fixture on the stages of California, where he was known for his turns in Shakespeare productions, playing the character of Sir John Falstaff on several occasions. Local theater fans will best remember him for memorable turns in "The Tempest," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Henry IV." His most notable TV credits include "Batman," "Night Court," "Cheers," "Hill Street Blues," and, of course, "Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue."

Frazier played King Neptune, whose daughter, Marina, fell in love with Chad Lee, the Blue Lightspeed Ranger (Michael Chaturantabut). In a "Little Mermaid"-style arc, Marina becomes human so that she can seek the help of the Lightspeed Rangers. Her father's trident was stolen by Diane Salinger's Bansheera (the main villain of the "Lightspeed Rescue" series), and his lifeforce is slowly fading away without it. The episode "Neptune's Daughter" aired in 2000 and would mark Frazier's final onscreen appearance.

Hal England (Earl)

Character actor Hal England, who made his final career appearance in the first season of "Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue," died of heart failure at the age of 71, per the Los Angeles Times. The North Carolina native played Earl — a friend of Captain Mitchell (the father of the Pink Lightspeed Ranger Dana Mitchell and the Titanium Ranger Ryan Mitchell) — in "A Matter of Trust." In the episode, Dana is annoyed when her dad orders her to keep Earl company on a fishing trip while the rest of the team escorts an important scientist with a powerful fuel cell to safety. But she later realizes that the other Rangers are on a decoy mission, and Earl is actually the one with the fuel cell.

England began his long and varied career treading the boards and had several Broadway credits to his name at the time of his death in 2003. He made his onscreen bow in an episode of "Sunday Showcase" in 1960, and later that year, he debuted as Lt. Douglas Merrill on "The Clear Horizon." He would go on to appear in over 250 episodes of the CBS soap opera. Other notable small-screen credits include "Dr. Kildare," "My Favorite Martian," "Bewitched," "Quantum Leap," "Sanford and Son," "Barnaby Jones," "Wonder Woman," and "Murder, She Wrote." He also plied his trade in the critically acclaimed revisionist Western "Hang 'Em High," starring Clint Eastwood.

Frank Salsedo (Sam Trueheart)

Native American actor Frank "Grey Wolf" Salsedo, who was known to "Power Rangers" fans for playing Sam Trueheart, died in 2009. "As a member of SAG, he made over 50 movies and helped other Natives in the industry," his obituary read. He was 80.

The California-born actor spent time in the Navy before breaking into Hollywood. He learned his trade at the acting school of Jay Silverheels (the Indigenous Canadian actor known for his role as Tonto in "The Lone Ranger") in Los Angeles, of which he would later become president. He made his onscreen debut in the 1975 TV movie "I Will Fight No More Forever" and became a go-to actor for Westerns in the years that followed, appearing in NBC shows "The Quest" and "Centennial" as well as the films "Across the Great Divide" and the Kurt Russell-led "The Captive: The Longest Drive 2." But he wasn't confined to that genre.

Salsedo was well known to sci-fi fans: He played an Enterprise crewmember in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and would later appear as a Tribal Council Member in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." He also popped up in an episode of "Quantum Leap." Notably, he had a small part in the original "Mighty Morphin" series before his three-episode arc in "Power Rangers Zeo," in which he helped Tommy find his long-lost brother. Outside of his Power Rangers roles, he was best known for playing White Eagle in "Walker, Texas Ranger."

Jon Simanton (Lerigot)

Actor Jon Simanton, who made his onscreen debut in 1997's "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie," died in 2015. "Jonathan was loved by many and is survived by all the wonderful family and friends who were in his heart, especially by his beautiful daughter Audrey, whom he loved the most," his obituary read.

Despite his crucial role in "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie," fans of the franchise may not recognize Simanton, as his face was covered. His character Lerigot is a Liarian, a race of small, furry beings that hail from the planet Liaria. Lerigot, a comrade of Zordon and the Rangers, uses his golden key to channel magic and open portals to other parts of the galaxy. His family is kidnapped by the evil Divatox, but with his help, the Turbo Rangers defeat the villain and return Lerigot's loved ones to safety.

Simanton was perhaps best known for his turn in "The King of Queens," playing the character Phil in the 2004 episode "Silent Mite." Other notable TV credits include "Ally McBeal," "Shasta McNasty," "Off Centre," and "Reno 911!," in which he portrayed a discrimination auditor. In terms of feature films, he followed up his "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie" appearance with roles in "The Creeps," "Men Cry Bullets," "Surviving Christmas," and the parody film "Epic Movie," in which he played an Oompa Loompa. Upon his passing, his family urged mourners to make donations to the nonprofit organization Little People of America.

Pua Magasiva (Shane Clarke)

Samoa-born New Zealander Pua Magasiva played Red Ranger Shane Clarke in "Power Rangers Ninja Storm" and "Power Rangers Dino Thunder" and died by suicide in 2019. He was 38.

Magasiva was convicted of an assault on his wife two weeks before his death, which reportedly cost him a part in a feature film. The couple appeared to have a happy relationship on social media, but the actor's widow, Lizz Magasiva, told the New Zealand Herald that he was often violent toward her behind closed doors. "I made excuses for him and made it easy for him to be that way," she said. "The reality I was facing was it could've been me who died that night." Lizz told the outlet that Magasiva got drunk and attacked her before taking his own life, leaving her bleeding from the head. "I was hazy but managed to run into the bathroom," she recalled. "I went into the shower but the blood just poured out." When she emerged, she found him unresponsive. She attempted to revive him but was unsuccessful.

He was probably best known for his "Power Rangers" role outside of New Zealand, but Kiwis knew Magasiva for his long stint on the soap opera "Shortland Street" and for his role in the rom-com "Sione's Wedding." He wasn't in many Hollywood movies, but he did have a minor role in the Josh Hartnett-led horror film "30 Days of Night."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.