Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

The famous Bruce Lee was declined to star in a ground-breaking TV program. His vision has finally come to pass some 50 years later.

The popular martial arts drama series Warrior will finally have a third season in June 2023 on Max. One of the show’s primary selling points since its 2019 debut has been that it is “based on the writings of Bruce Lee,” but not everyone is aware of the whole context. One of the most recognizable characters in movie and television history, Bruce Lee also missed out on a number of opportunities due to the difficulties he had at the time.

In fact, Lee had once pitched an ambitious idea for an action-packed series — one that would’ve made him the first Asian leading man on American television. The initial idea never came to fruition, and ABC instead went on to create the hit David Carradine series Kung Fu in 1972, which shared many similarities to Lee’s pitch. Thanks to Warrior, however, Lee’s filmography has gained another posthumous entry that has further cemented his legacy. It has also finally brought his original story to television.

Bruce Lee’s Rejected Pitch Led to the Creation of Kung Fu

Bruce Lee was best known as an actor whose martial arts skills added to his charismatic screen presence. He also took on other creative endeavors, contributing to several projects as a director, fight choreographer, and even as a screenwriter. While best known for his work in films like Enter the Dragon, it was through television with his role as Kato on The Green Hornet that he first found success in America. Hoping to further his success in the medium, Lee pitched a series titled “The Warrior”, which he hoped would help propel him from superhero sidekick to lead hero.

Lee’s story for “The Warriror” revolved around a martial artist named Ah Saham in the Old American West. The series was ultimately turned down, and the network decided to greenlight Kung Fu instead. The series shared many similarities to Bruce Lee’s idea, but it’s been confirmed by several sources that it was all just a mere coincidence and not a matter of plagiarism or theft. Despite his rejection, Lee pressed on and heavily campaigned to play the lead character Kwai Chang Caine in the new series. This was also met with rejection, however, when David Carradine was selected over Lee. Neither the network nor its audience felt that they were ready to embrace an Asian actor as a leading man at the time.

The original run of Kung Fu enjoyed a massive success, lasting 62 episodes and winning numerous Emmy Awards over the course of three seasons. The series has also maintained an impressive legacy in the decades since its cancellation. Kung Fu even rebooted for The CW in 2021. Even though Lee missed out in having any level of creative involvement, a series much closer to his initial vision made its way to TV screens nearly 50 years later. This is thanks to his daughter, Shannon Lee, who serves as an Executive Producer.

Warrior Expands Bruce Lee’s Legacy By Bringing His Original Vision To Life

Since the first season of Warrior premiered on Cinemax in 2019 (now moving over to Max for Season 3), the showrunners have updated Lee’s story treatment with certain changes to better suit the current era of TV, free from the censorship and limitations of the 1970s. This has also been done as way for the series to reflect their own creative sensibilities. While Lee planned for it to be set in the Old West, the series now takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Tong Wars. It also has a heavier emphasis on Asian American culture as well as their place in American history.

Despite these creative changes, the series also maintains several elements that viewers would expect from a Bruce Lee-inspired project. Its main character, Ah Sahm, has all the makings of a classic Bruce Lee character, and actor Andrew Koji channels a similar energy in his performance. Aside from a compelling story, it also contains some of the best fight scenes and action sequences on modern television. Warrior is a show that has proven that no dream is ever truly dead, and one that would make Lee proud in how it has helped further shape his never-ending legacy.

Warrior Season 3 will premiere June 29, 2023 on Max.

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