Warrior is an American martial arts crime drama television series that premiered on April 5, 2019, on Cinemax. It is based on an original concept and treatment by Bruce Lee, and is executive-produced by his daughter, Shannon Lee, and film director Justin Lin. Jonathan Tropper, known for the Cinemax original series Banshee, is the showrunner.
In April 2019, Cinemax renewed the series for a second season which premiered on October 2, 2020. It was Cinemax’s final series before ceasing production of original programming. In April 2021, the series was renewed for a third season, along with the announcement that the series would move to HBO Max, later rebranded to Max. The third season premiered on Max on June 29, 2023.
- Andrew Koji as Ah Sahm, a Chinese martial arts expert from Foshan who travels to San Francisco in search of his elder sister, Xiaojing, who emigrated years prior.
- Olivia Cheng as Ah Toy, a madam who runs a brothel in Chinatown and is adept at wielding the dao.
- Jason Tobin as Young Jun, Father Jun’s son and successor who befriends Ah Sahm and is skilled with throwing knives.
- Dianne Doan as Mai Ling, the wife of Long Zii, the head of the Long Zii Tong. Formerly known as Xiaojing, she is Ah Sahm’s elder sister who fled China to escape her abusive husband, the warlord Sun Yang, whom she was forced to marry to save her brother’s life. She acts as the de facto leader of the Long Zii.
- Kieran Bew as Bill “Big Bill” O’Hara, an Irish police officer promoted to lead the Chinatown squad. He is former friends with Dylan Leary, as both men were Union soldiers during the American Civil War. Due to his gambling problems, he is often in trouble with both the Chinese and Irish gangs.
- Dean Jagger as Dylan Leary, an American Civil War veteran, labor unionist, and leader of the Irish Mob. He loathes the Chinese, whom he blames for taking away jobs that he believes are meant for the Irish.
- Joanna Vanderham as Penelope Blake (seasons 1–2), the wife of Samuel Blake, the mayor of San Francisco. She and her husband do not get along, as she only married him to save her father’s failing business. She later falls in love with Ah Sahm after he saves her life.
- Tom Weston-Jones as Richard Henry Lee, a new police officer from Savannah, Georgia. He is disliked by his Irish colleagues, who are Union veterans, due to his family having fought for the Confederacy. Despite being from the South, he is much more racially tolerant compared to his peers.
- Hoon Lee as Wang Chao, a black market salesman who acquires various contraband for the Tongs and the San Francisco police. Because of his connections, he is free to travel throughout all of the Tongs’ territories and even serves as a mediator between them. It is later revealed that he was enslaved for a time in Cuba.
- Langley Kirkwood as Walter Franklin Buckley, the Deputy Mayor of San Francisco who secretly conspires with Mai Ling to start a gang war between the Hop Wei and the Long Zii.
- Christian McKay as Samuel Blake (seasons 1–2), the Mayor of San Francisco and Penelope’s husband. Despite espousing anti-Chinese views to gain the support of his constituents, he secretly frequents Ah Toy’s brothel to be serviced by both male and female Chinese prostitutes.
- Perry Yung as Father Jun, the leader of the Hop Wei Tong and Young Jun’s father.
- Joe Taslim as Li Yong, a skilled martial artist who serves as the Long Zii’s chief enforcer. He is Ah Sahm’s main rival and Mai Ling’s lover.
- Dustin Nguyen as Zing (season 2–present, recurring season 1), the new leader of the Fung Hai Tong and Mai Ling’s ally.
- Céline Buckens as Sophie Mercer (season 2), Penelope’s reckless younger sister who seeks to gain Leary’s attention.
- Miranda Raison as Nellie Davenport (season 2–present),a wealthy widow who owns a large vineyard in Sonoma that offers asylum to Chinese migrants, particularly prostitutes. She later becomes romantically involved with Ah Toy.
- Chen Tang as Hong (season 2–present), an abrasive, young new recruit brought over from China as part of reinforcements for the Hop Wei. He quickly befriends Young Jun and Ah Sahm when they come to his defense after he is ridiculed for being homosexual. He often fights with a chain that he wears as a necklace.
- Maria-Elena Laas as Rosalita Vega (season 2), a resilient Mexican woman who runs illegal fighting tournaments on the Barbary Coast, which Ah Sahm frequents.
- Chelsea Muirhead as Yan Mi (season 3), the daughter of a printing shop owner, who seeks to settle her father’s debt to the Hop Wei by aiding Ah Sahm.
- Mark Dacascos as Kong Pak (season 3), the former leader of the Jiang Yao Tong, which is assimilated into the Long Zii, and an old friend of Li Yong.
- Adam Rayner as Douglas Strickland (season 3), a railroad baron who receives a contract from the U.S. government to build on Nellie’s land.
In 1971, Bruce Lee developed a concept for a television series titled Ah Sahm, about a martial artist in the American Old West. However, Lee had difficulty pitching the series to Warner Bros. and Paramount. According to Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, Warner Bros. retooled and renamed Lee’s concept into Kung Fu, starring David Carradine in the lead role. Warner Bros. stated that they had already begun developing a similar concept, created by writers and producers Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander, which was later confirmed by Fred Weintraub’s memoir and Matthew E. Polly’s authoritative biography. According to these sources, Bruce Lee was not cast in the lead role in part because of his ethnicity, but more so because of his accent.
In 2015, Perfect Storm Entertainment and Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, announced that the series would be produced and would air on Cinemax, and that filmmaker Justin Lin would serve as co-producer with Lee. Production began on October 22, 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa, at Cape Town Film Studios. The first season featured ten episodes and premiered on April 5, 2019.
Fight choreography was created by Brett Chan as the main stunt coordinator, with Johnny Yang and Jason Ng serving as assistant stunt coordinators. Both Chan and Yang are members of the Hitz International stunt team, though Nomad Stunts and Titan Stunts also performed choreography for the series.
On April 24, 2019, Cinemax renewed the series for a second season. It was Cinemax’s final original series before ceasing production of original programming. In January 2021, both seasons began streaming on HBO Max. With the cancellation on Cinemax and the uncertainty of renewal, fans created a petition asking for a third season of the series. The petition received over 68,000 signatures as of April 2021.
On April 14, 2021, the series was renewed for a third season, along with the announcement that it would officially move to HBO Max. Production for the third season began on July 18, 2022, in Cape Town, and finished at the end of October 2022. The third season premiered on June 29, 2023.
October 2, 2020
- E01 – “Learn to Endure, or Hire a Bodyguard”
- E02 – “The Chinese Connection”
- E03 – “Not How We Do Business”
- E04 – “If You Don’t See Blood, You Didn’t Come to Play”
- E05 – “Not for a Drink, a F*ck, or a G**damn Prayer”
- E06 – “To a Man with a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail”
- E07 – “If You Wait by the River Long Enough”
- E08 – “All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic”
- E09 – “Enter the Dragon”
- E10 – “Man on the Wall”
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