When we spoke with Andrew Koji last year, the actor told us he nearly gave up on acting. His last earnest audition was something he self-taped on his iPhone and, believe it or not, he ended up getting the gig. That job turned out to be the lead role in Cinemax's Warrior, one of the last thing the late Bruce Lee began to write before his untimely passing.
Since then, Koji's been on a tear across Hollywood. His first outing on Warrior helped lead Cinemax to quickly renew the show for the second season. Then Paramount cast him opposite Henry Golding in Snake Eyes, a film that will reboot the massive GI Joes franchise for the film studio. Most recently, Koji boarded Bullet Train as one of the film's two leads opposite Oscar-winning superstar Brad Pitt.
Ahead of the debut of Warrior Season Two this weekend, we caught up with the budding Hollywood action star to chat Warrior's sophomore season and more. Keep scrolling to see our full chat.
Keeping Busy in Quarantine
ComicBook.com: I mean, every conversation kind of has to have to start off this kind of way. The past few months, have you been keeping busy? Have you been able to stay away from all that's going on?
Andrew Koji: Yeah. I came back from a film shoot, and then probably, maybe the day after I came back, I went into lockdown in England. So I've been staying with my mum for this whole time, which is the most amount of time I've spent with my mum, so that has been an experience. It's been a bit interesting. But yeah, keeping as busy as I can, I guess. How about you?
Well, I went into this thing with a to-watch and a to-read list a mile long, and now it's about two miles long because everyone keeps releasing TV, books, and all that stuff. Have you been binging anything, watching anything, reading anything?
Yeah. I've been blessed to have a project come up, so I've been getting involved in that. I've been watching a lot of old Yakuza films, recently. That has been like the past month.
But TV shows...I'm not too good at watching TV, ironically. But yeah, I've been watching a lot of old school older films, just because I just wanted to remind myself why I wanted to get into this, and those old films that inspired me. The old Brando stuff and all that.
Absolutely. No matter your mood or whatever, do you have a go-to comfort film or a filmmaker? Who's someone you always go to, to kind of scratch that itch?
Oh, man. Well, I'll go through a little list of stuff, just some things that fill my heart with joy, or that I love that I think is cleverly written. I discovered Rick and Morty, lately. Not lately, I guess. I mean, within the past year. And then I've watched it a good few times now. I watched that during lockdown again, I think it's such a cleverly written show. So, Rick and Morty.
My guilty pleasure the last month or so has been the Austin Powers films. I was never into them when I was young, but I really appreciate Mike Myer's amazing comedic style of acting and his commitment to that, and it's certainly drawn me to that, Austin Powers.
And then there are all these great YouTube creators that I'm subscribed to and some of these people are so talented, I think, and so good. I like watching Viva La Dirt League if you've ever heard of them. They do video game kind of skits and sketches, they're Gs.
But yes, those are some of my guilty pleasures. And then there's the obvious... I was a big South park guy.prevnext
Very nice, a little bit of everything. We probably should talk Warrior, since that's why we're here, after all. Oh man, I can't get enough of this show.
Thank you man.
It's the best of both worlds. It's this pretty grounded thing, but at the same time, it has these massive set pieces and martial arts fights. Then you have a character like Ah Sahm who's super complex and super layered. He's the hero, but he doesn't really want to be the hero. He kind of just wants to stay out of the limelight.
What's the thing that really, really draws you to a character like this?
I think it's because he's quite a hard nut to crack in a way. What I found tricky and a challenge is that because normally as an actor, when you get a character, a lot of who you find out who the character is, is by his relationships to people, and how they treat other people and how they behave. And if they are the top dog here or there, connect to this person, then you kind of know who they are.
But because Ah Sahm's like this kind of mad mystery, really, and he doesn't have allegiances anywhere...and he's still finding himself, I think...it was a challenge, but a fun challenge for me to go, "Who the hell is he?" He believes this and believes that. And you've got a guy who's a complete fish out of water, and he's trying to find his place in the world.
Back in his hometown, he was the top dog. But over here, he's a very small fish in a pond. So I think season one, I was kind of figuring out how someone who's really in that situation, how they would really be if they're a smart guy and they'd probably have to figure out the rules, the lay of the land.
For season two it was like, now that he's figured it out and he knows what's going on, how can I make him have all of that and have that kind of smarts, but then do it in a way which is like in the world that he's in.
I think he wants to be a top dog. He is a natural leader, but he's not in that position yet. But he's not in that position, he's not mature enough quite yet to be that top dog.
Yeah. I think there are loads of things to go into. And with Ah Sahm, who is quite different from many other characters I've done normally compared to smaller roles, but I never quite feel like I've cracked it. And that's what I kind of find interesting about him, is he could be some of these things.prevnext
Warrior takes place in...we're talking late 1800s in San Francisco, right? You previously mentioned earlier, you were going back and watching older films and such. How do you get in the right mindset, whether research orjust general prep work before you hop into a role like this? Are you scouring libraries, are you watching period piece films? What do you do?
Yeah, I mean, for season one, you do your normal backstory search and you go through his life up to the current day. I mean, there's only so many details. What's the significant bits of his life? And so you're doing the backstory kind of thing.
But then there's also the... we were all sharing this documentary about... I can't remember the name off the top of my head. But it was about the late 1800s, about the Chinese Exclusion Act. We watched documentaries to understand the world back then. The attitudes that the Chinese had living then.
There's another book called Chinatown Squad, but I can't remember who wrote it. But that kind of gave you some insider information about what it was like for the more criminal side of it.
Ah Sahm in particular. I was reading a lot of Bruce Lee's work I had a couple of his books. There's one by Matthew Polly and watching this footage and documentary and trying to figure out what his qualities were that I can bring to Ah Sahm and do in my own way. Like his self-assuredness, or belief in himself, or certain qualities that I was thinking were right for Ah Sahm, try and tap into that.
So season two, much of the backstory research is actually season one, so we've experienced and lived through that. There's less work you have to do season two because you know the world, you know what they've come through the past couple of months or so.
And so then you can focus on other areas and go, "Okay, how can I add a comedic beat here?" or "How can I show different stuff in here?" So you can kind of approach it in a very different way on TV, which I find quite fascinating. A different approach from season one to two, yeah.prevnext
Warrior Season Two
Speaking of season two...season one ends, and even though Ah Sahm really wants to be this lone wolf, he rejoins the Hop Wei once again towards the end. Where do we find him once season two picks up?
Yeah, I think his relationships at the end of season one have all been tested, and he kind of sees things more for what they are. I think he's in a place where he's still recovering from the end of season one, and he's still mentally recovering from season one.
At the beginning of season one, let's say he's just basically a fighter, a very highly skilled fighter, and hatchet man. And season two is definitely his transition. I think he's transitioned into trying to become what Bruce Lee would have described as a warrior, the qualities of a true martial artist. He doesn't just fight just because they're angry and they want to beat people up. It's what is worth fighting for.
Beginning season two, he's definitely testing his skills and trying to figure out his loss from the end of season one and then he's also trying to put into action certain things that he thinks how the world's changed.
I think Ah Sahm some kind of represents a new world, a new world going forward. I think that they've got the Hop Wei that represents the old way, the old school way of doing things, Young Jun coming up in those ranks and then the other factions representing these traditions and these certain codes and things, which I think Ah Sahm feels they're very outdated, which I think is what Bruce Lee thought, because he was a very progressive thinker, and he didn't quite subscribe to anyone's system.
So I think he definitely, in the stages of branching out and doing his own thing, but still because he's in the world that he's in, he still has to go through the Hop Wei, play the Hop Wei game for now, if that makes sense?
Do you feel the second season adequately tells the story you would want to tell with Ah Sahm, or do you still have some story left in the tank you think you'd like to tackle?
Yeah, man. I mean, obviously, because the whole current climate of the entertainment industry is in flux, so we don't know if we manage to continue his story. But for sure, I would love to see that. I would love to see Ah Sahm becoming a warrior, the true warrior, the meaning of...well actually, Bruce Lee's definition.
I'd like to see him redefine himself and become what I think he was trying to become, so I definitely feel there's more to say in his story. It doesn't feel quite like he's finished yet. I mean, obviously that will depend on so many factors, but yeah, I do think there's more, and I'd jump in and play him any day.prevnext
Last time we spoke, you told this story about how you were on the verge of just quitting acting saying, "To hell with it," and doing something else. Then you get Warrior, and it's this critically acclaimed show. Then you land G.I. Joe. And now the news is you're starring in another film, this time opposite Brad Pitt. It's pretty safe to say you made the right decision to stick with it, huh?
Yeah, man. I'm going with the Sloan. It's like a blessing, I'm not going to take it for granted. I'm going to absolutely do my absolute best. And I remember a quote that Shia LaBeouf said, because I really rate him as an actor. He just said, "I'm just trying to figure my piece of the pot. Trying to figure my piece of the whole out." That's what I'm going to try and do.
There's some reason the world, the universe, and whatever, pointed me in a different direction when I was on the brink of going down a different direction. And these opportunities have come my way, and I'm just going to do my best while the work comes.
And I think there'll be a time, five years, however long, just like in all peaks and troughs of life, where I might not be getting that work or whatever. But while it is there, I'm just going to do my best. And I know that I want to make my own films, and write and produce meaningful, good, and fun films. So I'm just going with the flow, and see if I can achieve that. Yeah, it's a blessing, man, for sure.
One step at a time, right? I do have to ask and be completely honest with me. You land Snake Eyes, how many of the figures did you go out and buy? Is your room full of G.I. Joe action figures at the moment?
Is my room full of G.I. Joe? [laughs] No, they didn't give me any. Yeah, they didn't give me any yet.
Warrior Season Two debuts this Friday, October 2nd on Cinemax.
Cover photo by Christopher Jue/Getty Images for Paramount Picturesprev