In times like these, “Kung Fu” is just the show we need right now. After all, who doesn’t want a fierce warrior protecting their hometown from danger?
This kickass new series follows Nicky Shen, a Chinese American woman who returns to San Francisco after training in martial arts at a monastery in China and uses her new skills to keep her hometown safe. “Kung Fu” is also the first Asian-led drama series by a major network like The CW and is a reboot of the 1970s series of the same name.
While reboots are abundant in the entertainment industry, co-showrunner and executive producer, Christine M. Kim, who also produced “Blindspot” and “Hawaii Five-0,” wanted to make big changes to the story. “In the original, the actor was not Asian. It was really important to me that we had an Asian actor playing the lead in my version,” she explained. “And then the second thing I wanted to do was to make her a woman because I think we need more strong, female, kickass heroines on TV.”
Lead actor Olivia Liang, who plays Nicky, commented on the importance of having a new version of the story. “Knowing the history of the original and that it was very near and dear to Bruce Lee’s heart,” she said, “and us getting to reclaim it has actually empowered all of us.”
Tzi Ma, Hollywood’s favorite Asian dad, was even impressed by the diversity in the production. “I have never been on a show with so many women and people of color directing and writing,” Ma revealed enthusiastically. “And they’re very inclusive, very trusting. They want to put a part of your experience in the show.”
Newcomer Tony Chung added how the diversity goes beyond just the cast and crew. “This show portrays diversity within diversity,” he said. “There is a diverse array of characters within this show in terms of each character having their own conflicts, their own personal identity and formed by their own personal paths.”
“I crave for media that features effective characters[…]that allow young people today to be inspired,” “Crazy Rich Asians” alum, Kheng Hua Tan expressed, “to be the best that they can be. And I think ‘Kung Fu’ does that beautifully.”
It was also not lost on the cast or Kim just how historic it was for a show like “Kung Fu” to exist. “I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it has taken decades of effort, of history and of people for us to be at the point where we are for a show like this to happen,” Canadian actor Yvonne Chapman pointed out.
“It’s an amazing moment to be a part of the representation of having an Asian American lead and an Asian American family on network TV,” Kim noted, voice bright. “I think it’s a step in the right direction and I really hope[…]that it does well so that there can be 20 shows like this after it.”
Since this interview was filmed, “Kung Fu” debuted with The CW’s highest viewership number for a Wednesday night premiere in seven years since “The 100” in 2014 and had the network’s largest audience in the 8 p.m. time slot since “Riverdale” premiered in October 2018.
Watch the full interview to see the cast, including Vanessa Kai, Jon Prasida, Shannon Dang, Eddie Liu and Gavin Stenhouse, introduce their characters and learn about the amazing chemistry on and off the set.
“Kung Fu” airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CW.