EXCLUSIVE: Cinemax has given a 10-episode straight-to-series order to 19th century crime drama Warrior, inspired by an idea from Bruce Lee, created and executive produced by Banshee co-creator Jonathan Tropper and executive producer by Justin Lin and Danielle Woodrow via Perfect Storm Entertainment, and Shannon Lee for Bruce Lee Entertainment.
Warrior, which had been a passion project for both late martial arts icon Bruce Lee and Fast & Furious helmer Justin Lin, was originally set up at Cinemax for development in 2015 and was ordered to pilot last summer.
Last December, Deadline unveiled Cinemax’s programming strategy shift toward the type of fare that launched the network’s push into original primetime series: fun, high-octane, action, pulpy, straight-to-series dramas done in a cost-effective way primarily as international co-productions. At the time, Kary Antholis, president, HBO Miniseries and Cinemax Programming, revealed that the idea was to do as many as four shows a year initially, three of them co-productions or very cost-effective and the fourth a marquee, homegrown show with a Banshee-level of budget. Back then, Warrior was already being eyed for a potential straight-to-series order to fill that marquee spot in the inaugural slate of the revamped Cinemax. Straight-to-series co-productions greenlighted under the model include a Strike Back reboot and Rellik.
“Warrior follows in the spirit of the tradition of adrenalized Cinemax dramas that we established with Strike Back and Banshee,” said Antholis, listing the network’s two most successful original series to date. “We are brimming with excitement for this unique martial arts series combining Bruce Lee’s inspired conception with the immense storytelling talents of Jonathan Tropper and Justin Lin.”
Warrior is described as a gritty, action-packed crime drama set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century. The series follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy who immigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances, and becomes a hatchet man for one of Chinatown’s most powerful tongs (Chinese organized crime family).
“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,” says Tropper.
Bruce Lee had spent many years working on Warrior, but it was never published or produced. Years after the Enter The Dragon actor’s sudden 1973 death at age 32, his daughter found a large collection of handwritten notes that Bruce wrote himself on the concept for the series that became the inspiration for the show.
“I’ve always admired Bruce Lee for his trailblazing efforts opening doors for Asians in entertainment and beyond,” Lin said. “So I was intrigued when Danielle told me about the urban legend of his never-produced idea for a TV show and suggested we bring it to life. Then 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 – Danielle and I knew that Perfect Storm had to make it.
Partnering with Cinemax has led to a wonderful collaboration with Jonathan Tropper, who has created a fantastic series inspired by Lee’s writings. We are all honored to continue what he started.”
Warrior is produced for Cinemax by Perfect Storm Entertainment, Tropper Ink Productions and Bruce Lee Entertainment. Production is set to begin this fall in Cape Town, South Africa.
Warrior marks the third on-air series for Perfect Storm, which also has new CBS drama series S.W.A.T. and returning Scorpion.