Tan Kheng Hua and The Farewell’s Tzi Ma will co-star in the pilot reboot of Kung Fu, the 1970s TV series starring David Carradine. The reboot — with Blindspot EP Claudia M Kim as showrunner — will feature a female lead.
At press time, that role hasn’t been cast.
But we have the synopsis (via Deadline): “A quarter-life crisis causes a young Chinese-American woman to drop out of college and go on a life-changing journey to an isolated monastery in China. But when she returns to find her hometown overrun with crime and corruption, she uses her martial arts skills and Shaolin values to protect her community and bring criminals to justice…all while searching for the assassin who killed her Shaolin mentor and is now targeting her.”
Tzi and Tan will play the woman’s restaurateur-parents “whose secrets threaten to destroy their lives just as they deal with the return of their estranged daughter.”
The original Kung Fu, ran from 1972 to 1975, is about the adventures of Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk in the Wild West. It later spawned a 1986 TV movie, and revived in 1993 for a four-season run.
When it premiered, Kung Fu was praised for being the first American TV show to treat Asian philosophy in a positive light, and the first to feature an Asian hero who was physically and morally superior to the non-Asians he met. On the show, Caine is nicknamed “grasshopper” by his shifu.
The bad news is, the producers cast Carradine — a non-Asian — as the monk. Bruce Lee auditioned for the part but was reportedly rejected because the powers that be feared that audiences won’t be able to understand Lee’s accent.
For ages, it was widely alleged that Kung Fu was based on Lee’s treatment, The Warrior, and that the studio, Warner Bros, stole it from him. But some folks say The Warrior idea was different from Kung Fu. Last year Lee’s daughter Shannon and Fast & Furious director Justin Lin turned his passion project into the Cinemax series Warrior.
Tzi, aka “Hollywood’s go-to Asian dad”, recently appeared as Awkwafina’s father in The Farewell and will star alongside Liu Yifei in Disney’s Mulan. (Yes, yes, if you must bring it up again, Tzi also guest-starred in that episode of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.)
Tan is no stranger on American TV; her credits include The Philanthropist (where she played an Aung San Suu Kyi surrogate), Marco Polo, and more recently Medical Police. On the latter, a Naked Gun-ishNetflix comedy, she guest-starred as a gangster, named Baozai, in a Chinese prison.
Photos: TPG News/Click Photos