The untold Bruce Lee story
The daughter of Bruce Lee, Shannon Lee, opens up about the legendary martial artist-turned-actor's dream project
Based on an original concept by Bruce Lee, Warrior is an action series that is set during the Tong wars in the late 1870's in San Francisco, California. The series was released worldwide on April 5 and on July 1, it will be premiering on Star World India. Ahead of its release, Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee, opens up about the project. Excerpts:
How did you first come across the notes your father, Bruce Lee, made when he had this idea for a TV show?
Growing up, I knew the story about my father not being cast in a TV series because he was a Chinese man, and they didn’t think a Chinese man could carry the lead in an American TV show. And that he had written the treatment for this show but the show that went on to be made was called Kung Fu, starring David Carradine as a Chinese man.
It had always been part of Bruce Lee lore that this transpired. But it wasn’t until late 2000, when I took over looking after my father’s legacy, that the archive came into my possession - all of my father’s writings, photos and memorabilia. In the process of going through it, I came across the treatment for this show and a number of notes and drafts.
What does this show mean for you?
I’m extremely grateful to Justin Lin (producer) and (creator) Jonathan (Tropper) for including me in the process. So much of being the guardian of a legacy is people want to take that legacy and do with it what they want, and they don’t want to include me in that process. But everybody involved in this was in it to really collaborate. And I made sure we added those little philosophical points here and there from my father, and Jonathan was so great at throwing in lots of nods to my father too.
This is a unique blend of action and a socially-conscious period drama. What were you trying to create here, and how much does it sync up with what Bruce Lee wanted?
My father was very good at tapping into the Chinese experience, so he wanted this character to be an immigrant, to be arriving in the United States in this specific time period - which was post-Civil War, pre-Chinese Exclusion Act and right at this time when the railroads were finished, the gold rush was ending and Chinese people are now in the US and there’s a lot of tension around that.
My father’s brand of entertainment was not just action for the sake of action - he wanted there to be emotional and character motivation, too. And Justin and Jonathan were all in for that.
Why was reflecting the immigrant experience so important to your father?
My father made it a primary goal that he wanted something of the authentic Chinese experience to be reflected in Hollywood and in the world. So all of his projects have a bit of a flavour of that. He was very pointed about saying “this is my experience and the authentic experience of Asian people” in different ways.