Sep 23, 2020
Cinemax's Warrior was one of my favorite series last year as a fan and as a critic. Based on an original concept by Bruce Lee, the show was created by Jonathan Tropper and Justin Lin and blends drama, the Old West, and martial arts. Set during the Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century. it follows martial arts prodigy Ah Sahm, a Chinese immigrant who arrives in the City of Lights under mysterious circumstances. Once he proves his prowess as a fighter, Sahm becomes a hitman for one of Chinatown's most powerful organized crime families. That said, while Ah Sahm is the central character of Warrior, he is surrounded by powerful female characters that push the story of the series farther and offer up a look at the intersections of race, gender, and class. This is no truer than in Ah Toy, the most powerful businesswoman in Chinatown, who just so happens to be a madam. Portrayed by Olivia Cheng, Ah Toy is a powerful woman who understands how the world sees her, both within her Chinese American community and among the white men she deals with.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Olivia Cheng before the launch of Warrior Season 2. In this interview, we discuss the series' relevancy during the current rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and how the series introduces audiences to Asian American history. Warrior does this in multiple ways, but referencing specifical historical moments to Ah Toy herself, a character based on a real woman of the same name. A self-proclaimed history buff, Cheng explains how she knew the history of San Francisco ahead of shooting the series, but dove even further into by learning more about Ah Toy, of which there isn't much written from her perspective.