Andrew Koji and Olivia Cheng lead an international cast (Photo: Cinemax)
Deadline Hollywood reports that the upcoming Cinemax action historical series WARRIOR, based on Bruce Lee’s original treatment of KUNG FU has set its cast. Produced by YOMYOMF Founder Justin Lin and BANSHEE co-creator Jonathan Tropper, the series is set during the 1890s San Francisco during the height of the Tong Wars.
British actor Andrew Koji has been cast as the lead, and Assaf Bernstein (Netflix’s FAUDA) will direct the pilot. The 10-episode series is slated to begin production on Oct. 22 in Cape Town, South Africa.
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The cast includes Andrew Koji as Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy who travels from China to San Francisco and ends up becoming a hatchet man for the most powerful tong in Chinatown; Olivia Cheng as Ah Toy, Chinatown’s most accomplished courtesan and madame; Jason Tobin as Young Jun, the hard-partying son of a powerful tong boss; Dianne Doan as Mai Ling, a beautiful and ruthless Chinese woman who, through sheer force of will, has achieved a position of power in one of the tongs; Kieran Bew as Officer “Big Bill” O’Hara, a hard-drinking Irish cop charged with forming a Chinatown squad; and Dean Jagger as Dan Leary, the unofficial godfather of the Irish community of San Francisco and leader of the Workingmen’s party.
Also cast are Joanna Vanderham as Penelope Blake, The aristocratic heir to a railroad fortune, trapped in a loveless marriage to the mayor; Tom Weston-Jones as Richard Lee, a transplanted Southerner and rookie cop; Banshee and Outcast‘s Hoon Lee as Wang Chao, A wiley fixer and profiteer in Chinatown; Joe Taslim as Li Yong, a tong Lieutenant and kung fu master; Langley Kirkwood as Walter Buckley, a civil war veteran and Deputy Mayor with his own political aspirations; Christian McKay as Mayor Samuel Blake, the Mayor of San Francisco; and Perry Yung as Father Jun, the leader of the most powerful tong in Chinatown.
“As WARRIOR comes together, I can’t help but feel the pride of correcting a wrong and helping bring Bruce Lee’s dream project to life,” Lin said. “We have assembled a cast of incredible actors from all over the world including our talented lead, Andrew Koji, an exciting discovery out of the UK. I’m also thrilled to be re-teaming with Joe Taslim and Jason Tobin.”
What does Justin mean when he says “correcting a wrong?” It all stemmed from a conversation he had with his head of TV production Danielle Woodrow:
Lin recalled “growing up as an Asian American, and hearing the story behind Bruce Lee and the relationship to David Carradine’s Kung Fu”. For years, there had been rumblings that Lee had had a concept for a TV series — coincidentally (or not) called The Warrior, according to Lee’s widow Linda Lee Cadwell — that would’ve featured Lee as an Asian hero in the American West. The version of events that has been widely circulated (but never fully confirmed) is that the studios did not think viewers would embrace an Asian leading man, and Kung Fu was ultimately created with Carradine as the star.
It was Lin’s producing partner Woodrow who asked him whether the Lee TV series pitch was real or an urban legend. To get an answer, the two reached out to Lee’s daughter Shannon, who confirmed that an 8-page treatment by Lee existed and showed it to them. “That’s how this project came to life,” Lin said. He added that Shannon Lee has boxes and boxes containing writings by her late father.
When Lin, Woodrow and Lee pitched the idea for Warrior to HBO/Cinemax, “we talked about the aspirations of combining really well developed characters with an action-oriented show,” Antholis said. “We had the idea of bringing in Jonathan Tropper based on the work he did on Banshee not knowing that he is a black belt in karate and idolized Bruce Lee as a kid. He fit right in.”
WARRIOR is expected to launch on Cinemax at the end of 2018.
To read the rest of the article, head over to Deadline Hollywood: ‘Warrior’: Cinemax Sets Cast & Director For Bruce Lee-Inspired Martial Arts Series