On April 7, a contemporary reimagining of the fondly remembered ‘70s martial arts drama Kung Fu entered The CW’s primetime lineup, as reported by TV Line. The original ABC series ran for three seasons. It starred David Carradine (Death Race 2000, Bound for Glory) as the mixed-race Shaolin priest Caine, who goes on a journey of self-discovery as he wanders the American West and goes toe-to-toe with a wide variety of adversaries.
The reboot switches things up significantly by replacing the itinerant Caine with dutiful college dropout Nicky Chen, played by Olivia Liang (Legacies, Dating After College): “After a life-altering journey to an isolated monastery in China, she returns home to find San Francisco rife with corruption and crime. Realizing her new destiny as the town’s protector, she’ll… take on the local triad while reconnecting with her family and searching for the assassin who murdered her Shaolin mentor Pei-Ling (Vanessa Kai, Off the Rails),” via TV Line. The showrunner for the series is Christina M. Kim (Blindspot, Lost).
The Kung Fu reboot is allegedly the first network drama to feature a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast, according to TV Line. Its handling of Caine’s series-long arc wherein he attempts to get back in touch with his roots manifests as Nicky attempting to repair her relationship with her family— her father Jin (Tzi Ma, The Ladykillers), mother Mei-Li (Kheng Hua Tan, Marco Polo), brother Ryan (Jon Prasida, Hiding), older sister Althea (Shannon Dang, So Foreign), and brother-in-law Dennis (Tony Chung, Hours of Operation), according to TV Line. Other members of the cast include Eddie Liu (Never Have I Ever) as martial arts instructor Henry Yan, and Chinese Canadian actress Yvonne Chapman (Street Legal) as the ruthless Zhilan, who is personally responsible for the assassination of Pei-Ling, as reported by Deadline. Watch the entire main cast discuss their characters in the official featurette below:
The CW’s Kung Fu reboot comes at a time when hate crimes perpetrated against Asians have become a hot-button topic in American sociopolitical discourse. In an interview with AP News, Ma discussed his goals for the show with regard to its potential ability to express the richness of Chinese-American culture. “I want the audience to have the opportunity… to see what real representation is like. And when they get educated… they will begin to develop their taste of what’s good, what’s real, and what’s true,” he commented, via AP News. Ma offered his perspective on the daily struggles of Asians in America in an interview with Geek Vibes Nation. “It’s only news to you guys out there. It’s not news to us. We’ve seen this throughout [the years] and I feel that the long-term solution… takes time. People are talking about it, people are coming on board. We have a lot of allies, and that’s really important because this is a big fight. This is a big battle,” declared Ma, via Geek Vibes Nation.
Kung Fu premiered on The CW on April 7 at 8 P.M. EST.