Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

Bruce Lee was almost a TV star before The Green Hornet even happened. Here’s how the actor came close to ending up with his own TV show.

Bruce Lee could have been a TV star before The Green Hornet. The 1960s superhero series is remembered as a major stepping stone in the acting career of the martial arts legend. The actor’s role in The Green Hornet came at a time when he had yet to find a foothold in the entertainment industry.

Airing between 1966 and 1967, ABC’s Green Hornet show is Lee’s first TV credit. The show, which was spawned from the popularity of the network’s Batman series, starred Van Williams as the titular vigilante, Britt Reid. Lee’s character was Kato, the Green Hornet’s superhero sidekick and Reid’s chauffeur. The series ultimately didn’t turn Lee into a household name, but it did serve as American audiences’ introduction to the actor. In The Green Hornet, Lee regularly utilized his experience as a martial artist when performing his various fight scenes in the show.

Bruce Lee Almost Starred In Charlie Chan’s Number One Son

In Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly, it’s stated that Lee was actually in line to star in a different TV show prior to getting the role of Kato in The Green Hornet. William Dozier, who was a producer at ABC at the time, contracted the actor to star in Number One Son in 1965. Envisioned as a spinoff of the Charlie Chan detective stories, the series would have focused on the exploits of Charlie Chan’s son, who would have been given some mysteries of his own to solve. Apparently, the protagonist would have had to solve the murder of Charlie Chan himself.

Number One Son would have been huge for Lee’s career, especially when considering that his first-ever TV show was almost a lead role. Not only that, but it would have been even bigger than the TV parts Bruce Lee accepted later on. In contrast to The Green Hornet where Lee took a backseat to Van Williams, Lee would have had the spotlight to himself had Number One Son moved forward. But, the network decided against Dozier’s plan for the Charlie Chan spinoff. The project, which was never officially greenlit by ABC in the first place, was put on hold and eventually axed altogether.

How Number One Son Led To Bruce Lee’s Kato Role

ABC passing on Number One Son was a loss for Bruce Lee, but without it, it’s hard to say if Lee still would’ve gone on to appear in The Green Hornet and everything that followed. When Dozier couldn’t get Number One Son off the ground, he turned his attention to The Green Hornet and began putting together a cast for the series. Because of his efforts to make Number One Son, Dozier still had Lee under contract, which made Lee an easy choice for the Green Hornet’s sidekick, the role that made Bruce Lee’s later success possible.

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