Bruce Lee had a dream of diversity in Hollywood.
Over 40 years ago, the man considered the greatest martial artist of all time felt ostracized. Not content with being a star of the screen in both America and Asia, Lee envisioned a world where Asians and Asian-Americans were represented more, and with more authenticity, in Hollywood.
To that end, he drafted a slew of scripts and treatments. However, at the time, he was denied and told by Hollywood’s power brokers that America wasn’t ready for authentic Asian stories with leads and majority casts.
Lee put the treatment in a box in the family garage, where his dreams sat undisturbed for decades until his daughter, Shannon Lee, decided to act.
Someone has to start fighting back. #WarriorMAX premieres Friday, April 5 at 10PM.
A Dream Deferred
“My father created a treatment which he then pitched to Warner Bros., and they said, ‘We’re really sorry, but we just don’t think that a Chinese man can be the lead of an American TV series. Audiences won’t go for it'”, said Lee during a sit down with The Shadow League at HBO.
“Cut to  and ‘Kung Fu’ the series comes out starring David Carradine as a Chinese man. This was the role that my father was supposed to do.”
Fast forward to tonight where the late star’s dream of an Asian American hero makes its in debut as “Warrior”.
The new Cinemax series is set in 1878 San Francisco and sports a largely Asian cast. The show tells an often overlooked part of American history about the mass Chinese immigration to the West Coast. This is the other Ellis Island and Lee uses his lead character, Ah Sam, to show the duality of new opportunity meeting extreme racial resistance.
The show is executive produced by “Fast and Furious” Director Justin Lin, also an Asian American who contacted Shannon Lee about her father‘s fabled scripts.
With an international ensemble of actors that include Olivia Cheng, Dianne Doan, Hoon Lee, Tom Weston-Jones, Perry Yung, and Rich Ting, Warrior is living up to Bruce Lee’s vision.
“We are here with a cast that’s organically Asian or Asian American,” Lin told The Shadow League. “One thing I’ve learned is that the talent is out there. It’s about trying to create the opportunity.”
The crime drama takes place in the latter half of the 19th century during brutal gang wars in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
It follows martial arts prodigy Ah Sahm, a Chinese immigrant who arrives in the City of Lights under mysterious circumstances. Once he proves his prowess as a fighter, Sahm becomes a hit man for one of Chinatown’s most powerful organized crime families.
As he is mentored by the son of the crime family’s leader, learning the ins and outs of gang warfare, Al Sahm wins the confidence of brothel madam Ah Toy, eventually revealing to her his true intentions.
According to Lee, her, Lin and “Banshee” co-creator Jonathan Tropper are already plotting out storylines beyond the 10-episode first season. Also, the fact that Bruce Lee has more treatments and scripts that haven’t even gone into production yet is the ultimate excitement.
It’s not just productions like “Crazy Rich Asians” making sure Hollywood has diversity. Bruce Lee is still affecting the culture of Hollywood to this day.
“Warrior” premiers on April 5th at 10pm EST on Cinemax.