When you see Johnny Whitworth, the first thing that probably comes to mind is “Empire Records,” in which he starred opposite Liv Tyler as the lovesick A.J. Eerily. The actor has barely aged over the past 17 years in real life, but onscreen in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” he’s almost unrecognizable as Blackout, a villainous light-manipulator who makes trouble for Nicolas Cage’s cursed flaming-skulled biker.
What can you tell us about how your character, Blackout, is portrayed in the movie without giving too much away?
I don’t really know how to answer that without giving too much away. But I can tell you that he’s more badass. He’s got some cooler powers. He was given cooler powers than in the comic. [In the comics] he was born basically a mutant, and when he went around everything turned black, and then he kind of identified with vampires and had these prosthetic fangs put in and claws, and then he was an assassin kind of guy. In our thing, he actually can control what’s going on with the light. It’s much cooler. And he has powers that make him … a good villain for the Ghost Rider.
Did you see the first “Ghost Rider” film?
I did. … I’ve got to be careful how I use my words. I saw the first one. I think I was there opening day. I go to see all of them; I’m a total geek like that.
As a geek yourself, were you a fan of the comics?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, he was definitely the coolest-looking hero, but I never followed that particular comic too much. My little brother did, and that was my introduction to it when we were younger.
What are your titles of choice?
Well, you have to say “Batman,” you know? It always has been a favorite since I was a kid. That was my guy. But I wasn’t actually a big comic-book reader. I didn’t read very many comics at all. When I say “Batman,” I was a kid and Adam West was Batman. That’s what I watched, so I was inspired to be Batman through that. It was a cool show. I still watch it every now and then when I flip past it.
How is it taking on a villain role?
It’s fun. It’s challenging just for the aesthetic reasons, and it’s fun because villains are fun. Bad guys are more interesting, you know?
You go up against the Ghost Rider himself, Nicolas Cage. Was that intimidating?
It’s a pleasure to work with Nic. What was cool was that I didn’t understand anything that was going on in Romania [where the film was shot], but we could be in a cab or a restaurant or whatever and we’d hear their language and then, “Nicolas Cage.” The only thing I would understand was “Nicolas Cage” and then “ciorba,” which is soup.