EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation, Fox has landed Kung Fu, a drama with a female lead based on the 1970s David Carradine-starring TV series. The project, executive produced by Greg Berlanti, was given a put pilot commitment.
Written by Arrow executive producer and longtime Berlanti collaborator Wendy Mericle, Kung Fu is a sequel to the original 1880s-set series, which was created by Ed Spielman and chronicled the adventures of Kwai Chang Caine (Carradine), a Shaolin monk who travels the American Old West armed only with his spiritual training — including a ton of aphorisms — and his skill in martial arts in search of his half-brother.
The new Kung Fu follows the adventures of Lucy Chang, a Buddhist monk and kung fu master who travels through 1950s America armed only with her spiritual training and her martial arts skills as she searches for the man who stole her child years before. When she teams with JT Cullen, a charming Korean War vet with his own secrets, the two form an unlikely alliance that allows Lucy to continue her search while also coming to the aid of people in need. (It is unclear whether Carradine’s character and Lucy Chang are related.)
Mericle and Berlanti Prods’ Berlanti and Sarah Schechter executive produce for Warner Bros TV and studio-based Berlanti Prods.
If the project goes to series, it would mark a rare Big 4 broadcast drama series with an Asian character at the center.
The original 1972 Kung Fu series started with a 90-minute TV movie, which served as a pilot (you can watch the series’ opening sequence below). The drama’s three-season run on ABC was followed by a stand-alone TV movie, Kung Fu: The Movie, which aired on CBS in 1986 with Carradine reprising his role and Brandon Lee playing his son. CBS the following year tried to launch a sequel series, Kung Fu: The Next Generation, centered on Lee’s character, though it did not go beyond the pilot stage. There also was Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, an American-Canadian series, which aired four seasons from 1993-97.
It has been another big development season for Berlanti Prods., which has 10 series on the air. The company’s sales include three other put pilot commitments — for an untitled legal drama written by Martin Gero & Brendan Gall at CBS; the White House political drama Republic, written by Alex Berger, at NBC; and light hourlong procedural God Friended Me at CBS, from Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt and Marcos Siega. Additionally, Berlanti Prods. has three projects set up at the CW including The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, eyed as a Riverdale companion.
Mericle’s first writing job was on Berlanti’s first series as a creator, Everwood. She also worked with him on Jack & Bobby and Eli Stone before joining Arrow after the pilot, rising to executive producer. She is repped by CAA and attorney Nina Shaw. Berlanti is with WME.
Here’s the original Kung Fu sequence: