In 2015, Cinemax began developing a series called Warrior, billing it as a project from the mind of Bruce Lee. You see, Warrior was an idea the martial arts icon dreamt up some 50 years ago, passing away long before he was able to see it come to light. Now, 47 years after his death, his daughter Shannon Lee has teamed with Cinemax to bring the project to the masses.
Last year, Warrior's first season debuted on the premium cable network to critical acclaim. 10 episodes later and Cinemax ordered the series for a second season, featuring the return of series leads Andrew Koji, Olivia Cheng, Dianne Doan, and others for at least one more go-around.
In the weeks leading up to the premiere of Warrior Season Two, we caught up with Shannon to talk about the show's sophomore outing, continuing her father's legacy, and much more. Keep scrolling to see our full chat!
ComicBook.com So, you do a lot with the Bruce Lee Foundation and earlier this week, I watched your TED Talk and it was very motivational and very inspirational. I know this has nothing to do with Warrior or anything at the moment, but you click on the news and it's disaster after disaster after disaster. You hop on Twitter and it's the same thing. How do you manage to still find your light at this time, when everything is kind of swarming with darkness at the moment?
Shannon Lee: I mean, I think that light comes from within and I think there still is a lot of light in the world. I think that even though there seems to be a lot of darkness at the moment, I try to do what my father said, which is, "You attract what you put your attention on."
He was in a very strong practice of trying to keep his mind on positive things, on optimism, on his goals, on his dream, on being helpful and caring and all of the lighter things, right? Like all of the better things and so, I think I try to do the same. I don't watch the news much. I'll check in on the radio or on my phone occasionally, just so I know what's happening in the world but I just try from where I am, to continue to be a source of light for myself and for whomever else and hope that with enough people doing that, that ultimately we can drive out this darkness.
Some day. Some day.
Some day. Yeah.prevnext
Escapism, right? Speaking of which...Warrior! I watched the first Season of Warrior and I don't think I've ever fallen in love with a show so quickly. It can be huge with these massive set pieces, but at the same time, it's small and grounded and very, very character-driven. Then with you, it's a super personal idea.
You've kind of been in Hollywood your entire life, for the most part. Why bring Warrior forth now? Why do you think 2015 and the past five years was the right time to bring Warrior, this idea of your father's, to light, to fruition?
I mean, really it was a combination of circumstances and I believe it happened in exactly the right timing that it needed to happen, in the sense that my father had created this idea 50 years ago and was not able to get it made, or able to star in a TV show back then because he was Chinese and so away it went, while he focused on other things.
And it really took... Look, I had acted in my 20s but I had not been a producer. I had written some things and I always have a creative sense and then I started to take care of my father's legacy. As part of that, I really wanted to put forward some of his creative ideas, more about him as a philosopher and an entertainer, in the very meaningful way that he was, but I didn't have the ability just because I was not some huge famous actress. I didn't have clout, as it were.
So I had been starting to try to do things in the industry. It was very challenging. A lot of people didn't take me seriously. A lot of people still don't take me seriously. It really took Justin Lin, getting to know him and then him coming to me. He came to me and he said, "I've always heard this story about this treatment that your father wrote. Is it true?" And I said, "Yeah, it's true. And here it is."
He read it and he was like, "Wow, this is actually really good," number one. Number two, like, "We should do this." And I got to be honest, I don't think we could have got this show made to the caliber that it was made, any sooner.
I just think that Hollywood has been evolving, our times have been changing and evolving, there's been more discussion around representation. There's been more desire to break down some of the barriers or at least make them easier to cross, or even be willing to look across them. So I really don't think even if five years earlier, the show would have been as good as the show is.
You say Justin approached you and obviously, Jonathan [Tropper] involved as well. What made you feel comfortable with both of these creatives? I don't want to say handed the property over to them, but to let them develop it and write it?
It began with Justin and I think what made me feel comfortable with Justin is, look, everybody says the right things in the room, right? "Oh, we want you to be a part of it. We'd want you to be involved and all that." And then you get the contract and it's like, "Yeah, but not really." But here's the thing: Justin not only did he say the right words, but he seemed to really mean them. He said there's really no point in doing this show unless we do it well and unless we do it right and we do it the way your dad would have wanted it, in terms of representing his energy and his spirit in the project, accurately. And then he said, "And I need you to be involved. I need you to guide us in this way."
When it came time to make a deal and start working on it, it happened very quickly. He did all the things he said he was going to do and we were off to the races. Then started looking for writers. We started hearing some takes from some people and of course, we wanted to have as much representation in front of and behind the camera as possible.
An interesting thing is that when we met Jonathan Trapper, he was a martial artist. He was a huge Bruce Lee fan. He had read the books. He also is a great action writer. He was on Banshee and his understanding actually of the material and of my father and of the legacy and of action and genre, were so on point, that we all just saw the show immediately. And it was like, this is what it has to be.prevnext
Future of Warrior
You bring up representation. I think right around when the second season of Warrior started production, Cinemax actually announced it was no longer going to produce originals. That's unfortunate here, because the vast majority of the cast of Warrior is Asian, right? Do you have any intention of shopping this around or continuing it past Season 3? Do you think it could land somewhere, should you decide to pursue that?
I would love for this show to go on. It was really saddening and disheartening when that decision came down, about the Cinemax originals and not just for us, but for all of the originals that Cinemax does and those shows and those creators. I do think, in my opinion, our show is extremely important, in terms of representation. I would say in the one hour TV space, we are exceedingly unique. In fact, I don't know if you have heard but after Season Two airs on Cinemax, HBO is going to make the show available on the HBO platforms, which will hopefully garner it a larger audience, which will be great.
Now that still doesn't get us to a Season 3. That said, yes, I would do whatever it takes. Of course, it's not only my decision. We really got cut off in the middle of telling our story. Season Two ends and you can see that it's not a finished, wrapped up piece, right?
There was a lot more that we wanted to do and it was unfortunate that we were caught up in the timing of all of this and I do hope that if people start to understand the importance of the show and more and more people get to see the show, that a demand for the show to continue will come about and at some point we'll be able to do that. I do think that it will be hard to do but certainly not impossible and if I could shop the show, I would shop it. I would do whatever it takes.
You mentioned your father wrote this 50-some years ago and Justin had heard about it through the grapevine. Are there any other writings or developments of your father's that you'd still like to pursue?
Yes, definitely. My father actually wrote several treatments for films and TV and had nuggets of ideas. Everything from nuggets of ideas, to full treatments, to actually one script that he never was able to produce. And so these are all things that I am working on developing in different ways and through different vehicles, film, television, and publishing as well. So yes, stay tuned. There's more.prevnext
When we get off the phone here, this afternoon, tomorrow, what's next on your plate? What are you working on right now?
So right at the same timing as the airing of Warrior Season Two, which is October 2nd, I am releasing my first book, which is called Be Water, My Friend on October 6th. And that is a book that I've written about my father's philosophy and breaking down his Be Water philosophy and how he used it, how I've used it, and also giving people access to how they might be able to use it in their lives, so that's been a big project.
I have a number of other film and television projects that I am wrapping up some deals on now that hopefully, I'll be able to talk about soon. We have a number of museum exhibits we're working on, a newly revamped exhibit with the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Hong Kong and the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. We're going to be represented in the opening of the Academy Museum when that opens next year. We're also talking to the San Francisco Chinese Historical Society about an exhibit. We have our summer camp programs through the Bruce Lee Foundation that we're working on and some social initiatives through the foundation to support different causes.
My father's 80th birthday is in November and so we have a number of great celebrations we're going to be doing. And again, some more fun things that we will be launching, starting right around the beginning of November. So I would just encourage people to follow us on social media at @brucelee and go to brucelee.com to check out all of the awesome things because I can't tell you... I'm so busy right now.
That's very apparent.
Yes, but it's all really exciting and we're just also trying to be in flow to borrow my father's philosophy. It's through this changing world that we are in and trying to continue to be a light within it.
Warrior Season Two debuts on Cinemax beginning October 2nd.
Cover photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Imagesprev