Welcome to Trailer Watch, a regular feature that helps put the spotlight on series that may fly under the radar in the crowded Peak TV landscape. Each installment of Trailer Watch will explain what the show is and why it looks interesting. This week it’s Warrior, Cinemax’s period martial-arts drama based on Bruce Lee’s unmade television pitch which allegedly inspired Kung Fu.
It’s an exciting time for prestige television. With more platforms and therefore more projects than ever, studios are branching out and telling unexpected stories that have previously been ignored. Cinemax’s Warrior offers up a new twist on one of American cinema’s most beloved genres: the Western. Set in 1800s San Francisco, the series focuses on the Tong Wars, a historical period of brutal disputes between rival factions within America’s various Chinatowns. Warrior stars Andrew Koji as Ah Sahm, a talented martial-arts prodigy who moves to the city and becomes a political hatchet man for one of the most powerful Tong leaders.
There’s been a spate of martial-arts-heavy shows in the last few years, including AMC’s Into the Badlands and Marvel’s Iron Fist and Daredevil, but the connection to the iconic Lee immediately makes Warrior stand out. The trailer showcases a gritty crime drama which seems to be action-packed, but more along the lines of Peaky Blinders or Boardwalk Empire than any of the highly choreographed series of late.
Adapted by blockbuster director Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond) and Jonathan Tropper (Banshee) and executive produced by Tropper, Lin and his Perfect Storm Entertainment topper Danielle Woodrow, Warrior was made in conjunction with Lee’s daughter Shannon, who found a collection of her father’s writings on which the show is based. It’s a particularly interesting project as not only is it inspired by an often-ignored period of American history, but the project itself is a famed piece of Hollywood folklore.
During the height of his fame, Lee pitched a martial arts television project to Warner Bros. and Paramount, centered on a martial arts master in the Old West. It was a passion project for Lee, but was passed up by the studio heads. Soon after, Warner Bros. would release Kung Fu, the David Carradine series that featured a very similar premise. Though it was never confirmed, Lee’s family has long stated that the show was inspired by Lee’s unmade pitch, The Warrior.
This legend was one of the things that drew Lin to the project. “I was intrigued when Danielle told me about the urban legend of his never-produced idea for a TV show and suggested we bring it to life,” he said. “Then, when Shannon shared with us her father’s writings — rich with Lee’s unique philosophies on life, and through a point of view rarely depicted on screen — Danielle and I knew that Perfect Storm had to make it.”
Alongside a roster of Cinemax’s scripted originals like Strike Back, the studio is hoping that Warrior will stand out from the rest with an intriguing premise, strong creative team and a connection to one of martial art’s most iconic practitioners.
Warrior is set to premiere April 5.