Hongkong-born Chinese-American actor Byron Mann had such a great experience working on Hell on Wheels, the acclaimed Western cult series about the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the US, he was game for anything showrunner John Wirth was doing next. And when Wirth rang Mann up about a new project, he “kinda say ‘yes’ before even knowing what the character was or what the show was about”.
That show was Wu Assassins, which follows Kai (played by Indonesian action star Iko Uwais), a kickass chef — and a skilled pugilist to boot — in San Francisco’s Chinatown, who’s chosen to rid the world of five people who have corrupted the powers of the elements of fire, wood, earth, water, and metal. Mann plays Uncle Six, a triad bigshot who . Here’s the thing, though: Uncle Six is also Kai’s adopted father. Yikes.
But there is more to Uncle Six than meets the eye. “I know [John] does really good stuff,” says Mann, whose Chinese name is Chao Wai Luk. ,“But what I didn’t know was how multifaceted my character was going to be — it was a bigger and better role in a bigger and better show than I expected.”
Imagine our surprise too. When Uncle Six first appears onscreen, he looks like a typical Chinese gangster boss. But as the show progresses, we realise that beneath this thuggish exterior is a caring, conflicted man — a character with “layers”, says Mann, who’s also known for his roles in such movies as The Man with the Iron Fists and The Big Shot, as well as countless TV dramas including The Expanse, Altered Carbon, and Arrow.
Speaking to 8 DAYS over the phone from LA, Mann looks back at his time making this bonkers East-meets-West fantasy series which premiered on Netflix last month.
1/41/4Arms struggle: Mann with Iko Uwais settle a problem with their fists in 'Wu Assassins'.
2/42/4Reach for the sky: Mann at the 'Skyscraper' premiere in New York on July 11, 2018.
3/43/4Mann's next project: a limited series based on the best-selling novel 'Little Fires Everywhere'.
4/44/4Target practice: Mann as Yao Fei, Oliver Queen's (Stephen Amell) sifu in 'Arrow'.