By Adriaan Odendaal  |  23 September 2018   

Filmed exclusively in Cape Town, South Africa, the first season of HBO Cinemax’s Warrior comes in April 2019, based on an original long-lost idea by Bruce Lee.

Bruce Lee gave much to the martial arts community before his death in 1973. In one of his private notebooks, there was the idea for a Kung Fu television series that he had sketched out, but which never saw the light of day. Until now.

Re-Discovering the Story Behind ‘Warrior’

 HBO Cinemax’s Warrior is a 19th-century crime drama set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the brutal Tong Wars, a series of violent disputes beginning in the 1880s among rival Chinese criminal organizations in the USA. It came to a particularly violent crescendo in San Francisco.

The series follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a young and gifted martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco. Upon arrival, he becomes embroiled in the eruptive conflict of the Tong Wars, quickly conscripted as a hatchet-man for one of the most powerful factions.

Warrior Series Poster | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Source: imdb.com

Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter and CEO of Bruce Lee Enterprises, brought her father’s private notebook containing the idea for Warrior to director Justin Lin, famous for helming the Fast and Furious franchise. Lin has great admiration for the legacy of Bruce Lee, and he directed a film about Lee in 2007 called Finishing the Game.

“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 – Executive Producer Danielle Woodrow and I knew that [Lin’s production company] Perfect Storm had to make it”, Lin said in a statement.

Johnathan Tropper, best known for creating the Cinemax series Banshee, quickly came on board as co-creator and executive producer of Warrior. He added: “As a show that proudly bears the imprimatur of Bruce Lee, it’s our intention to deliver not only explosive martial arts action – which we will – but also a powerful and complex immigration drama that is as relevant today as it was in the 1870s."

The topic of immigration is something that permeates Lee’s history and consequent legacy in entertainment. In 1971, Lee pitched a Kung Fu western television series to Warner Brothers which he called The Warrior.

Lee was turned down because at the time big studios like Warner Brothers were reluctant to cast an Asian lead. But soon after the pitch, Warner Brothers produced a series called Kung Fu, which had an uncanny resemblance to Lee’s original idea.

The series stared American actor David Carradine – who had no martial arts experience - and gave no credit to Lee. As such, Cinemax’s new series, bearing the same title as Lee’s erstwhile Kung Fu western pitch, can be seen as a historical restitution to his legacy.

Filming ‘Warrior’ in Cape Town

Despite being set in San Francisco, HBO Cinemax’s Warrior  was exclusively filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. The large 19th-century Chinatown sets were built at the Cape Town Film Studios along the South African coast.

Cape Town’s provincial minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, stated that “Cinemax’s decision to shoot the ‘Warrior’ series in Cape Town further cements the reputation of our destination as a leading filming location.”

Genevieve Hofmeyr of Moonlighting Films, the local service company working on the series, said that the production employed “over six-hundred (600) local film crew, of which around 60% are previously disadvantaged individuals (PDI), and there are approximately 6,000 man-days budgeted for extras and stunt performers”.

HBO/Cinemax’s Warrior includes some of South Africa’s foremost stunt performers. Toni Jean Erasmus was involved with other big projects filmed in Cape Town, including Maze Runner and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Shaun Verth and Ian Williamson, veteran stunt-performers of the series Black Sails which also filmed exclusively at the Cape Town Film Studios, are also involved with Warrior. Cape Town actors Langley Kirkwood and Robert Hobbs star in the series, alongside an accomplished international cast that includes Olivia Cheng, Jason Tobin, and Perry Yung.

HBO Cinemax’s Warrior looks like it is going to be a riveting, action-packed series that ­­­brings Lee’s long lost idea, and endearing influence on modern martial arts entertainment, back to the screen. HBO Cinemax’s Warrior premiers on Cinemax on the 5th of April 2019. Title image courtesy of Cinemax.

Loved this? Spread the word

About the author

Adriaan Odendaal is a writer and digital designer from Cape Town, South Africa. He has published a number of short fiction, travel writing, and essays in South African publications, as well as countless websites and blogs. He has been a practitioner of Wing Chun and Tai Chi for a number of years and has a fondness for old Golden Harvest Kung Fu movies. He currently resides and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Related Articles You Might Like to Read:

Recovery Posts

Stay Loose To WIN! Recovery Hacks

By Lisa Stone  |  18 May 2021   Recovery techniques cover many bases. You do not want to wait until you are injured to start thinking about it. In fact, using [...]

Nutrition Posts

How Soda Slows Down Your Punch

By Christina Major  |  21 February 2021   You know the guys who drink soda after soda. And we know you've heard you should be drinking water and not soda. So, [...]

S&C Posts

Power Up Your Fight Muscle Now!

By Lisa Stone  |  26 May 2021 What is your 'Fight Muscle,' anyway?  Is it your fist? Your big guns? Glutes or pecs? Nope. Not even close…and yes, it really [...]

Stuff We're Eyeing

Athletic Apparel With a Purpose – Feed Me Fight Me

By Jordan Newmark  | 6 March 2021   Feed Me Fight Me is all about the Mission. For John Watkins and Brian Eayrs, who became friends while serving in the US Marine [...]

Oceania, Where We're Headed

A Title Bout Looms, but Mental Health Remains Megan Anderson’s Biggest Fight

By Jordy McElroy  |  31 October 2020 Megan Anderson fears no woman. Even with a scheduled December bout against Amanda Nunes—a two-division UFC champion that napalms faces for a living—a [...]

What We're Reading

What we're reading is made up of books, articles and other reading materials across all fighting disciplines, philosophical perspectives, strategies, tactics and other topics we think you will find of ...

What We're Watching

Ronin has Class and Clout in Equal Measure

By Eireann Mannino  |  20 March 2021 With a cast like Robert DeNiro (Sam), Stellan Skarsgård (Gregor), Sean Bean (Spence), Jean Reno (Vincent), and Natascha McElhone (Deirdre) to its credit [...]

Injury Management Posts

How to Prevent Neck Injuries in the Dojo

By Dr. Pamela Fernandes  |  13 March 2021 Neck injuries are an unfortunate possibility in the dojo.  Especially in certain martial arts like jujitsu, judo, and mixed martial arts because [...]

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}