Episode 63: They Call Us Shannon Lee


Hello the and welcome to another edition of they call us bruce unfiltered conversation about what's happening in asia america. I feel you and i'm jeff yang and we have a guest in the studio various special guest one to whom we actually in some ways. Oh the very name of this podcast phil. I'm going to ask you to introduce our special guests. It's totally my pleasure we. I've actually wanted to have you on for awhile and we have the perfect opportunity now to do so <hes> she is a podcast or herself. She's also executive. Producer on a new cinemax series called warrior also the c._e._o. Of bruce lee family companies and she's done other none other than the daughter of bruce bruce lee himself. We have shannon in the house. I thank you thank you happy to be here. We're we are so excited. <hes> not least again because as phil mentioned. We've been wanting to have you on. We feel like there's so much i mean even before we started recording <hes> <hes> we were sitting here just peppering you with questions and it was like you know we should record this. Let's turn the mic side but yes there there isn't occasion and that occasion is the the premier actually of the very first episode of of warrior season one <hes> and worse special because because it comes it is inspired by and follows from a vision that was laid up by your father treatment that he wrote right. Yes yes yeah yeah. He wrote this treatment for himself. As a starring t television vehicle back in the late sixties early seventies and <hes> he pitched it to warner brothers. There's and they told him that a chinese man could not be the lead of an american tv. Show you say as somebody who's a somebody in this room has family members who are actually on primetime network television onto a._b._c. right now. I say like hell no to that. Yes exactly so so luckily i you know it's that was almost fifty years ago at that. At this point yeah crazy is that so so this is sat in in sort of the hell yeah. No i mean you know once once he sort of got the <hes> the word that this wasn't going to happen <hes> he he was already hit already gone to make the first movie in hong kong <hes> and and so he just kept with his plan which was to <hes> you know <hes> make movies hopefully the way that he wanted them to be made and <hes> and the treatment that for this show just sort of sat for many many many years. Let's get this out of the way so it is it is lower <hes> over the years that this this treatment was what what what what eventually became an inspired the show they actually went to air called kung fu starring david carradine starring an actor. I know that you know your family maintains that that is the case and yeah i've heard other people i've read other things where people are like no way including the producers and it's something that right well so you know i guess no one knows one hundred percent that for sure <hes> warner brothers has always maintained that they had their own idea for a t._v. Show the t._v. Show that became kung-fu. <hes> we also know that my father wrote this treatment that took place in the old west around the same time and so you know when those those two things happen what came first the chicken or the egg that kind of stuff. I guess we don't one hundred percent know except that the two shows take place they were different different in certain ways but the both take place in the same general time period and you know they're star martial artists both star star commercialized supposed to be chinese yes so and and so when they said that a that a chinese man couldn't start at in a show how they cast a white guy. I mean the crazy thing. Is that front purposes. Nobody he presented let himself as if he was asian chinese well he spoke in like an accent season and everything yeah i'm on the show is supposed to be multi. He's quite quite cane in or whatever right and so. I don't understand how it is that you can have a chinese character. Who's not chinese not play by chinese person and have that be successful viable for the screen but to have you know this guy who's very clearly already become iconic and have has this huge cult following following who actually is chinese and can do martial arts yeah well. The crazy thing is a hollywood. All the way even up to the very end was always underestimating estimating my father. I mean yes he. He had done the green hornet so he'd been in one season of the green hornet kato but i guess acidic consider that enough of a i don't even know what's you know <hes> role for him to then make the leap into a starring and he had done one more guest spots and things like that trying to make his way in hollywood <hes> with not a lot of success <hes> but even from what i understand <hes> <hes> when he was doing enter the dragon. There's a lot of inter studio correspondence where they're still saying like <hes> skybridge sleaze gonna. It'll be like a of one off flash in the pan sort of thing you know so. There was just always like yeah. We're making this movie. We're we're giving this guy. You know one shot one one break and even though they had seen like the footage and all that they still just didn't really understand what they had confu is a classic example of storied history of hollywood of of why people trying to be better asians than actual asians the time i mean look in the studio we still refer to the green hornet kato show so what's he doing but i think that there is unquestionably <hes> at the least some anxiety of influence so you can't coincidentally have two shows featuring martial artists in the old west without some kind of a coincidence dance larry suspicious the thing that makes is always so painful when i watch watch comfort aside from the yellow face but like you know there's like this show rent it rain a longtime right and they spend a lot of story in mythos around it but i'm always like this show would be so cool with how much more cooler with this sobe which is why serve the warrior is so exciting and such like it seems like the impossible is now made possible right totally and i have to say you know my my father's others concept for this show was a little edgier than <hes> than what was kung-fu because in conflict he's among john can is this sort of peace. Peaceful loving guy just gets himself into these scrapes right <hes> <hes> as he wanders around the the west <music> but my father's vision for this was always for it to relate more directly to <hes> like the tong wars and the the the politics of the time and and his character was a warrior who got himself who was hired on as a hatchet man and got himself sort of stuck in with the tongs and so it was a much edgier piece which honestly i i don't know if they would have been able to put on t._v. Back in the one thousand nine hundred seventy s had a little issue with like hatchets splitting people skills especially the way cinemax does does it right. Yes exactly i will say it is highly ironic. That's basically it's warner. Brothers effectively a warner media now right which which is resurrecting this fifty euro almost fifty year old treatment that they had rejected as being unacceptable now that the guy who would have made this fucking fucking amazing <hes> has been gone for that period of time and for it's worth i i wanna give all credit to the creators of this including yourself right because because my my sense it was a treatment it outlined a world outlined characters some the characters perhaps <hes> but it probably didn't tell more than in the you know. The first few episode beats right yeah. I mean you know it's an eight page treatment so i mean how much information can you get across an eight pages but we we are really true to the essence of what my father was trying to do and and he and we also had some ancillary notes and drawings and things like that that he had done as well so <hes> while while the trip the treatment itself is eight pages and it was also written for nineteen seventies episodic tv so it was slightly different <hes> <hes> in terms of the storytelling but <hes> you know the the main essence of it and some of the characters and that he's come over and he's hired on as a hatchet man and the bill the police officers part of that story and all of this and that he's i don't want to give any spoilers heavens but you know the the bones bones of it and he very very much talks about the tong wars the chinese exclusion act and all of that sort of stuff and and so <hes> and so we're very true to the essence of what he wanted to tap into <hes> <hes> but you know this is a whole world that we needed to create and multi layers of characters and and and we're really able he now into dozen nineteen to delve into a lot of things that they probably couldn't have in fact. I often sort of think like gosh if they had made this show. Would my dad have been the only chinese person i'd amount of think about that but yeah it would be like cisco so let's talk about so how the show actually guide made because you know. This treatment was dormant probably box-files or something like that right. Totally you know i stepped in at the end of two thousand to start looking after my father's legacy and so <hes> when i did that my my mom sent down all of my father's writings and books and things <hes> which make up our archive <hes> these days and <hes> so we were kind kind of going through it trying to organize things and i came across the treatment and to me it was like oh here's this treatment i've always heard about and read it and was like cool ooh and then i just kind of put it back in the box because at that time it wasn't i mean i had never produced a thing at all and i was trying to figure out what i needed to do. Start with you know in terms of my father's legacy and all that and so it kinda continued to sit there for a long time until i got a call from justin lin called me up out of the blue <hes> i had known him we'd met but <hes> an unknown well and he called me up and he said you know i've always heard this story that your father rather wrote the treatments and and didn't get cast and all this sort of stuff in his in his true and i said it's absolutely true and i have the treatment and he was like whoa yeah exactly so given that. This is an audio medium out of curiosity. What does the treatment look like and you making conjoined and stuff like that like it's eight pages yes or the treatment itself is types except that <hes> there's a little bit of his handwriting getting in places like my my father had a fly half certain flare. Imagine and i and there's like one area where the word colorful is on the page agent. He's handwritten it in three different colors of funding and then there were and this and some chinese hainanese characters at the end and stuff but then there were many pages of notes that are just like you know scratches of notes about character thoughts and there actually usually several drafts of the treatment some of them handwritten some of them typed when he was trying to decide like what it should be called whether it was a half hour or an hour career and he did some sketches of the of characters just on like loose leaf pieces of paper that we also had that's amazing yeah and was a cold warrior warrior from the very beginning there was no <hes> he he was calling it a psalm a lot which is the main characters name that he would have played <hes> but then i oh i think over time <hes> at at one point it was called here comes the warrior and then it was warrior so you mentioned warrior in that sort of you austin passed around pure burton interview rights and this is it right so yeah yeah and he says in that interview that <hes> the reason warriors not going to get made is is because of the prejudice in hollywood is when you watch. I told you this. I've probably told you this when you watch that interview of him and he's laying down like what is like for asians in hollywood. You're like holy shit man like this. You know what i mean like how much if bruce bruce lee is talking about this stuff like bruce himself and then like things have not changed all that much in that all the time you're like what are you know it took three decades did take three decades for a lot of that's tough to start really starting to shift and and it took until today like fifty years before we finally have this breakthrough moment. It seems <hes> in in in hollywood where it's kind of okay to be asian banias but to that end i mean you know he was so he was blunt about it in that interview because he'd experienced personally but even the script that even the treatment self and even the the show itself is pretty candid about race. I mean i. I think myself when i'm watching it. It's like he's not just telling the story of what happened. Then chinese exclusion act you know the the brutal racism that isolated people into <hes> an enclave and and you know kind of picked off the week and privileged <hes> you know even the poorest white person above the the wealthiest first aid chinese person. I imagine kind of like how mash was setting. The korean war was asked about vietnam. There's some sense in which warrior kind of must have played out some of the things that he'd experienced personally in hollywood for sure an email. My father had a real knack for for finding stories that that sort of touched on the chinese experience because if you think about vista fury which is about the chinese japanese tension and then you think about way of the dragon which is the the experience of overseas chinese living in a culture outside their own and <hes> and this to like he picked this time period because see we would be able to tell this these stories of you know the chinese american early chinese-american experience right and because his goal as stated in the appear burton interview is <hes> was to show the western world something of the authentic chinese <hes> man and and culture are and his art that he loved right. It's so incredible because the you know from episode one the world building that happens is so incredible and then you you. I think you've seen this setting in this time. Period in movies and t._v. Shows before but you've you've never seen chinese. You've never seen asians at the forefront if i right they're always background. They're always set dressing. They're always like some you know. It's a random like thing of the week you know upfront etc and then like the heart of the story and like weaving. Just you know all these interesting characters good bad whatever right it's like that is so refreshing and you're like dude but this this era has been our history for a long time. Why has a story never been told you know what i mean. If you think about it you know the chinese. American experience is like like one sentence in in u._s. History books it's like and they help build railroad then we kind of kicked them now that right like even when i was telling people about this show and i'm like oh it takes place late. Eighteen hundreds like right before the chinese exclusion act so how many people are like what's the chinese exclusion act like literally never heard of it so <hes> so you know i mean i you know this is yes is an entertaining entertaining action show but the fact that we get to you know tell the story weaved in with that is is really. I mean it's really a <hes>. I think it's really amazing yeah. Excuse looms over the show. I've seen a couple episodes ahead of jeff but like people are talking about it <hes> and then i think it's real also really interesting because they're showing the chinese american experience at it's infancy right but these are the first chinese americans you know among the first and you see a lot of their issues especially <hes>. There's a character played by jason tobin <hes> named young jun. I think y'all jude and he's he he talks about how he was born in america but he's not seen as american. He's not really chinese like how asian american still true today. It's a great moment. I am young. I mean yeah. I think that <hes> i think that mirroring the fact that this is still not intelligible but meaningful and <hes> <hes> you know part of our experience today is remarkable. It's remarkable book because the storytelling allows that but also because you know there are a lot of things that haven't fully changed changed yet. There is still looming xenophobia. You know we do have some in the white house who likes to heap lots of blame on chinese people in ways that potentially could the lead the dark thing <hes> yeah no. I mean and i'm just touching on what you said before i mean i think it's so amazing that we have this opportunity unity to like. Have this amazing asian cast have them be these like amazing very deep interesting characters that are you know oh all you know they're sexy and they're tough and they're you know week and they're this. They're they're the whole gamut of humanity and like we just never never get to see that you know and so i'm i'm really really proud of of <hes> of our show and our casten they. They do such a great job the cast this is exceptional. I will say the lead guy is a fine. I think he andrew koji andrew. He's he's somebody who very clearly even though he has a very kind of quiet <hes> aspect to himself. It's he's got this screen presence. That's incredible and his martial arts. Is you know quite good. I've already decided that i'm going as for halloween not even kidding pull office facial hair his haircuts. It's all that hard just got to get the suit. I'm like i'm a hot boy june. Then here's the other thing though i mean when when when people talk about like it was tough to get one asian person to play you know chinese person play chinese roll back then now you've got a full cast full screen of chinese people full of asian people not all-chinese andrew koji but here's the thing i think people might have assumed back then and that if you had more than say two chinese people asian people on screen you would not be able to tell them apart there would be sort of like a blurring disc- listening the interviews and clear that's kind of what is represented and i'll tell you there's not a single character every character so distinctively drawn and so different the the world and assigned in the different dynamics there in is so rich <hes> there are a lot of people we know from back when jay that's the best part i think is that there's so the actors that we've known for years who are extremely talented. Never get the chance to disrupt like jason tobin. You know you see him in that role. You're like he was did. Did they just right. We should get jason for this role because he's so good okay good perry young very young like these character actors for you know for the chinatown episode of law and order full-fledged awesome like interesting super cool characters and it's like yes yes. These people should be the stars of their own shows. You know totally the the other thing which i think is. We've talked about this right that. I think that the show does so remarkably well. <hes> is the way that it works around with language and and how how very specifically <hes> it allows us to okay so there's this one moment when this first happened where all of us this wasn't even you know. It's not martial-arts moment. It's not action or anything but it caused everybody just sort of sit up in their seats because of what it represented <hes> this not quite a spoiler but you know people start speaking cantonese like most the characters are are arve course chinese immigrants who are seeking with one another in you know bunker law right you know in in twenty is whatever and there's where where the camera kind of rotates around to flip perspective so it literally is kind of rotating the p._o._v. from the audience the english speaking and listening audience you you know turning it around into the shoes of the people were speaking or speaking chinese speaking cantonese and all of a sudden. They're speaking english right so literally saying saying we're going to flip the script. Turn around the camera and say these this is the p._o._v. usui watching ya right horrible really remarkable and language is <unk> is dealt with really interestingly throughout the the whole show and and in so many different ways but you know we wanted to do that because we wanted people to understand that that they're speaking cantonese with one another but you know our cast for small. They don't all speak cantonese. We wanted them to be able to express themselves in english because they all speak english <hes> and and this is an american story right and so wanted the full dynamism of that but we also want you to understand their speaking in cantonese right and so did this <hes> jonathan proper came up with this great idea for this <hes> this exchange that happens but beyond that even you'll notice that like when they're speaking english with one another they have a very sort of slanging didn't type of dialects that is very purposeful you know but then there are moments when there's an english speaking person who's walked into the into into frame and then they go back to cantonese because that's what that person would be hearing right and then when the when the chinese characters characters are speaking in english to some of the english characters they speak in a little bit more of a broken dialect because that's the way the english speaking characters would hear them speak english so we're playing all the time with language and and how it's being perceived and heard by different people at different times in the south super creatively done because one of those moments is is illustrated in the setup and a punchline to a joke right gives the setup there speaking to other as we understand perfect american english right but then this white character walks up and then he tells the punchline and it's subtitled candy you could win. An academic havoc paper on the way is handled in this series people will will i feel i mean there's another part of it. Were the main character assam he does speak the english very well right and then like but he hasn't been very i seen like savage seats those english but that is but that's also a way that he has has power in in the series throughout the series actually yeah so it's really interesting because languages such a thing that i feel like <hes> defines our communities asian-american means our lack of ability to speak it or or speak english or are being judged because it is english as a second language. You know it's such it's assistant bedded in our sort of asian american experience whether or not you were born here or not like someone will see me and assume three different things about what i'm going to say you know and so it's so interesting how that you know in this. You know like crazy violent. There's also this really interesting element. I ah language and identity yeah yeah definitely definitely a that was incredibly eloquent first of all but it also so does point to the fact that <hes> this very layered story very layered yes on some of this but i think even the story within the story of what's happening within the chinese community like this is not even racial politics and the context of san francisco in its attempt to to grow basically right now the the white power structure trying to exploiting embrace and extend while the same time time sort of this working class white group wants to eject the chinese described always kick out who lower than you right. <hes> you know i i story even just within the built chinatown. The idea of chinatown here is so fast. I don't think we ever really see that. You know that there there there isn't just one china many different ones and it's not just about opposing forces. It's about like agendas and it's about values about priorities season insensitive. What's what's appropriate. I mean i don't wanna spoil too much about it. You know obviously but you know there are characters who very clearly clearly are not what they seem and i. I know there are a lot of people who are and should be in some ways critical of of like depiction of gender right but again. I've only seen the first episode and i've you've seen five right very different. My sense is that there there are <hes> very clearly kind of statements being made in here <hes> that extent even beyond again the context of race in the context of class us yeah i mean we wanted to play with with relationship braid and then also <hes> we do a lot of you you know there. There are a lot of <hes> classic tropes that that take place right. There's the movie there's the western. There's you know <hes> this is like organized crime sort of thing. There's all sorts of things right so but but what we wanted to always do is make sure that the characters feel like real characters and not caricatures first of all and then also to subvert your expectation whenever possible like we get to play within that trope but then like we don't want it to go where you have always seen it go a million times right so so we really tried all the time to like just really think about our characters and our world world and all the different layers and levels of dynamic well so wanted to represent the women in the show as powerful within their own right like yes yes. It's the late eighteen hundred so you know there's that they are hampered by their time in place but they're powerful within the structures that they inhabit also there are some bad ass ladies initiative that could easily be also said of the leaf emily <music> within the structure of the beginning. I did want to jump back because <hes> i want to know a little bit more little bit more about it of what went some getting the show may you took it like you said justin lin came to you and you know he's got. He's got the ball rolling but i wanna know how easy or difficult it was to actually get it. Take this treatment now with bruce. Lee's they've like you know this. Many years later bruce lee now meetings so much border. You know what what were the hurdles or what was easy about that well. I i have to just really give like <hes> serious props digestion because when he it came to me and you know we got together and i showed him the treatment he was like wow this is really good and he said we should make this the way your father wanted to be made <hes> and he said not just because we can make it not just to make a show but like we should really do this right and if we can't do it right then we shouldn't do it and to me that was music to my ears because <hes> you know i i there have been a lot of times when i could have made projects sooner but but i just didn't feel like they were in integrity with my father's legacy and so i want i'm always working to try to keep to his vision of of you know or for some close essential approximation of what that is so that <hes> you know. I'm feel like i'm extending his legacy. Not just explaining anything like that. 'cause i don't wanna do that. His legacy is so meaningful to me and it is my privilege to be able to do this and so <hes> you know it took it so it took some time we took our time you know and so we interviewed writers. We talk talk to different networks. We were looking for an hour that would really support our vision and also may be one for whom this show would be meaningful and not just another show on on their channel you know and so <hes> we just so happened to come across so we had been talking to cinemax and would and and jonathan trumper was wrapping up his show banshee at the time and and they were like oh. Maybe i should talk to jonathan trott burn. We were like okay but then it turned out that jonathan is a black rebelled. He's a huge bruce lee fan he and when we got together and just started talking with him he really got it and so we really tried in earnest i and you know it's an imperfect science but we really tried in earnest to get people who really understood what we were trying to do and wanted to do it with us and so took us about four years as we've been working justin for four years on this and i have to say like it also took someone one like justin to be who just an is right like to come up through the business in half that amount of you know cloud clout power in the industry and be able to to say you know we should make this because i'll tell you the bruce lee name is super sexy like everybody loves bruce lii and and they and it's like a bright shiny you know <hes> objects but most people don't really like necessarily respected. I don't know what it stands for what my father stands for and they just wanna like let's just use bruce lee because like that's cool and i'm like mike knowing what that means right and i'm like it is cool and creator yeah well. I mean just that. There are a lot the people who just think like oh like i mean i've read scripts. People have pitched where it's like. They want him to they want to bring back a bruce lee character to be like in a buddy cop movie and they have him like using his awesome kung fu skills to like climb walls like spider man and stuff and i'm just like oh my god you know like i will say this about about justin doing this project particular so so as i'm sure you're very aware right one of justin's films <hes> finishing the game was literally about a director attor trying to complete sort of this legacy of bruce lee and you know pulling together this motley crue cast of characters showing how impossible in some ways it was to extend her duplicate aid <hes> what he did so there's clearly some kind of anxiety of resonance or you know ernie or something i did. He mentioned that at all or is that something that you know that has come up at all that he's actually kind of finishing the game. Well no not exactly but it's funny because has in justin of i and i have had many many talks and i think one of the things that attracted him to doing warrior was that he was not going to have to find somebody to play bruce lee uh-huh and which we didn't want you know we didn't want and when we auditioned a lot of of people for the leading role <hes> <hes> we had a lot of people come in and just <hes> kind of pretend to be asleep and we were like whoa we're looking for. We're really want somebody who yes has. Charisma hang who can move and do the physicality and who can act but that we want them to like really create this role for themselves you know and so we were really happy happy when we found andrew right well. This is a good time for us to take a break but when we return we'll be back with our signature segment the good the bad and the w._p._f. Hi this is in this zara and we are the good muslim bad muslim podcast. It is a show about being to muslim women women in america. We talk about pop culture the pork lobby periods when we talk about islamophobia patriarchy and smashing white supremacy. It's a range download. The good muslim some battles some podcast. Wherever you get your podcast or it could muslim bad muslim dot com and we're back all right so for the second half of the he calls bruce. We're going to do our signature segment the good the bad the w._f. So jeff yang would you please lay down the rules of engagement. I will indeed so the rules of engagement <hes> <hes> for those of you who are frequent and regular listeners of the show are as follows this round table segment where we go around three times and if we have a guest i we pick a topic to discuss that is aligned with the guests. The guest has a point of view on something say about and often we participate as well if we also have an opinion and we often do so <hes> the first time round we'll go and talk about the good of that topic the thing that makes us warm and fuzzy buzzy inside the things makes us smile at night and then the second time we'll go around and talk about the bad the thing that kinda takes off irritates us <hes> makes us angry angry and then not to steal your thunder there mr you but barkman last but not least leased the dotiev. This is the thing that makes us. Go <hes> right the thing that's still puzzles us when we think about it <hes> and for this episode without appropriate to do the good the abadan w._p._f. Of bruce lee's legacy right. We have the keeper of that flame right here. We're also talking on a podcast. That is the its its namesake to bruce himself. Yes they let us call us. They call us but all that said <hes> so we want to talk about the legacy and <hes> that's you know personal. Perhaps professional certainly cultural and we're going to begin with you of course put you in the hot seat to begin with you. Uh this is about the good so with that and i'm sure there are a lot of good things that you can share <hes> and <hes> you know the good thing about the legacy. I mean oh you know this is. This is a man who even half a century later loom so huge in our in our society in so many ways what what what's the good computer. I mean that was really easy. Because the good to me is <hes> you know my father has touched and inspired and helped heal and <hes> <hes> i dunno just he's he really has mm created a lot of really positive impact out in the world and that and that first of all like i've people share those stories with me and it's always so beautiful and heartwarming and that i get to be the like keeper of something so uplifting and awesome <hes> is amazing and i really you know make it my goal. My biggest goal with all of this is is to keep that energy alive you now and to spread and have people know him more as serve wise amazing philosopher that he was like his writings on life and and and dan all of that have helped me in my own life and so the reason i do this at all is really because of that. Yes exactly the only person could actually speak that way but i'll take from. I'll go next because i'm sure phil something that will just drop all mikes <hes> so i'll i'll come from the other perspective on this <hes> bruce's. This is legacy for me. As an asian china's american male right <hes> is so intrinsic and so has been so fundamentally kind kind of intertwined with i mean in some ways the archetypes and stereotypes that follow us you know there is a bad side to that as well you know sir projection of bruce's iconic abilities upon us. We all know kung fu right. We're all we're all capable of of crushing crushing bricks and i just let people believe it all got me out of more than one scrape but on the flip side of that right i mean there is no figure who has represented a very different flavor of asian asian male asian masculinity right not just in terms of his frosty strength but also to your point his wisdom his ability to to use logic logic and reason and passion in ways that i think is a rarely articulated and what i think especially as i continued to read more and see more of what he's done and see some from the expressions as with warrior of what he imagined. It just really brings life to me. The fact that he was a creator he was a world changer on so many levels and again as somebody who's functionally in in the shadow of of how people perceive him <hes> the fact that that shadow is increasingly complicated and nuanced and <hes> that there are new fastest continue to emerge really make me feel oh good about <hes> about how people are evolving even the way that they see me or phil or nick or you know <hes> the people around us. It's there's a sense in which that evolution of understanding of him also of understanding of of us. It's a lot to put on him fifty years yeah but i love the fact that he was somebody who could be strong and uses fists but could be equally strong and uses words and you know there's. There's there's a lot to learn about that. I think <hes> mine will be on the flip side of that. You think you're talking about his sort of transcendent transcended. Quality were like you know he means it can mean so much to so many different people and <hes> of course as asian americans. He means a lot you know he he he makes other people. People see us in a different light right. Mine's the other the other side of that <hes>. Is you know bruce. Lee the man the mortal man actually <hes> who as you know wasn't entertainer. He was an entrepreneur <hes> he was a father trying to like take you know take care of his family and there were lean times like for for myself like i don't know if i've shared this on the on the show before but like <hes> for the wing luke museum in seattle got to write the text panels for their a multi year exhibit they did on bruce lee right and it it put me i had to do a lot of research on a lot of like crazy research and <hes> the thing that struck me was not the stuff that i already knew actually about <unk> out his career about the meeting stuff that he was able to call bush how he was such a incredible showman but the other stuff was like how he was like such a like like it is daily life have so meticulous and just hustle you work so hard you know nobody works that hard you know and <hes> multitasker her and just was like a prolific writer and <hes> was just a guy who's trying to squeeze out the most of every minute second of the day you know it's it's spires me as someone who like you know his work hard at his craft for a very long time now <hes> and then but then also the part about it was like yeah like there were these times were like he was uncertain about like what he was going to do in his life you know like is this kung fu thing going to work out like people take me seriously. Can i leverage a career in hollywood like or or is this racism. Gonna take over it. You know what i mean and then like that spirit that led him like hello. I can read read that letter that you wrote to himself basically might by chief definite a definite japan like if anybody if this was anybody l. This guy is so full of himself right. You're like but you but you but knowing that bruce lee wrote it and then he sort of basic fulfill what he said he was gonna. Do you're like of course there's only one guy who could have proclaimed this like make this proclamation that like and then did it you know and that to me is always super inspiring like that. The the side of that is just on the edge of reaching for success knowing he can do it knowing what he wants but like it's just it's not quite as grass yet. You know i love that part of it. Yeah yeah yeah yeah the one of the things i love about my definite chief aim is that <hes> at the very end like he lays this holding out like i'm going to give the best performances and i'm going to become the highest paid you know like asian actor and at at the end he says so that then i can live in peace and harmony and i'm like yes i like that that was the goal and not at lake and then i'll have a rolls royce and it'll be awesome. You know what i mean like you know that there was always there was always some heart and some like soul all to everything so i will say though that that actually leaves the letter on a bit of a a sad note then because he didn't actually achieve that final goal he didn't he didn't make ten million dollars either exposed inflation. No yeah i mean maybe that's a that's a good segue to <hes> to the bad you know no legacies are are without without flaws without vulnerabilities without imperfections or without people twisting them and exploiting them and you know usually do we do go around in the opposite direction. I mean i'm gonna i'm gonna flip it to you. Phil back then to <hes> talk about <hes> the yeah. I'm gonna bring this up just because i actually want to hear shannon's. Take on this zion. Ask you know so. We've all seen the teaser trailer for once upon a time in hollywood. I mentioned it before. We're giving you bruce. Lee plays a prominent role in like you know everyone. That's the only it was talking about after that trailer right. You know i read something on social media where you said like nobody talk to you about about him in the movie so i'm gonna take it that like you know. Quentin tarantino just is just going to do is i think there's a lot of you know sort of laura laura around <hes> about that era in hollywood and your father's you know circle of friends there you know i just like for me seeing this guy who's supposed supposed to be bruce. Lee take on brad pitt basically brad pitt and gipper tattoo but like something wrong this this incongruence through i i i was like a lot of people are like. I hope we could see bruce. Lee kick brad pitt's ass. I just just so i can watch that you are oh yeah so but i just wanted to know your take on that shannon yeah no so <hes>. I've only seen what you've seen. I've seen the trailer. That's it <hes> <hes> <hes>. No one talked to us about it <hes> they they. They put this character in their film and <hes> <hes> <hes> you know based on what i've seen in the trailer. I'm like really hope they do him justice. I really have the idea. I don't know quentin tarantino of never met hemmer talk to him or anything like that. I know that they that he spent a lot of time <hes> talking to like the family of j._c. Bring because <hes> he was one of the people who was killed by charles manson and making sure that their portrait telling them that they would make sure that their portrayals respectful and all that sort of stuff. I hope that that extends to the portrayal of my father <hes>. I don't know if it will <hes> <hes>. I i'm just yeah it's kinda lame but you know at the same time i i understand it because you know what they don't want is to to reach out to me and then like you know not that i would do this but you know they don't. They don't kind of want my input. Ah like twenty seconds in the trailer for me. As a picture of like this takes place in like sixty gator sixty nine i think he's wearing the cato uniform in the in the in the in the trailer that was like sixty five sixty six right is also like this would be also. It'll be like his hair was shorter that in the in the beginning like enter the dragon not right like this is just not meshing. Well you know it bodes. Ill say and also the very fact that he's so dominant in the trailer and i win. The movie is clearly not anything about that. It smacks a little bit of like we're just going to cut and paste here. You know and i and i read some article somewhere. Someone told me about an article where for minute they found a pair of glasses news at the crime scene and they thought they belonged to my father and that they thought that my father had killed all these people and i'm like this better f._m. Not be this. This might be for the w. t. F. better not having be a thing in the movie like that is insane. Those people were my father's friends and i. I remember my mom saying when that happened. They were all so shocked and scared you know so. I think the thing you know they've said. I'd like oh that scene in the trailer is is there rehearsing onset so it's supposed to look like you know brad pitt can whatever the stunts but the thing to me was this sort of where they kind of like make fun of him a little bit and i was just like no. It doesn't come off looking very good. Uh although i will say i've met mike mo who plays him and he's a lovely guy and i know he's a big bruce. Lee fan and i wish nothing but the best i will say yeah i mean i think he did a pretty convincing. <hes> you know similac room for the twenty seconds of the thrill of that but i mean that speaks to very clearly i mean in something which is kind of a big part of the bad i suppose which is that you know i mean on the one hand somebody passes <hes> their images frozen rosen and certain kinds of historic forum right. It's like you know you can always imagine things about them and sometimes that iconic aspect of them. If bruce had not left as much writing and it's much actual you know context of who he was right then imagine all the things that could have been even further imagined about who he was. You know it's it's not it's literally like the glasses left at the crime scene and people inventing random but you know all this sort of the clones of bruce lee the people who actually went on to try to pick up pieces of his legacy and run with them in different directions. That's got to be a bad bad. That'll be that'll that'll be my deputy. I frankly but i'll say it's bad because you know for me. It's always been about imagining what he would have been like who he would have been and if he was alive today i think he probably would have even could not have made warrior then he would have made it at some point right. I'd like to think that a lot of things we see in this version would have been a part of that but i do wonder right and <hes> it's it's sad that so much of understanding who he is has to i kind of clear cut what people have painted on top of him yeah totally well. I mean this is it. This is serve all part of one discussion right in in the sense that like for me <hes> one of the bads. Is that <hes> that people don't understand really why we're still talking talking about bruce lee today. They think you know like on a surface level. Everybody's knows the name which i have to say like you know. Where are are we forty six years later. <hes> you know there's really no reason why his name should still be so prevalent in the culture other than the fact that he was actually a phenomenal human being you know and that body of like writing and wisdom and the way he lived his is life so intentionally and so powerfully is is the reason that and he made such a huge impact that people aren't even necessarily aware of like he changed the way martial arts films and action films are shot and done and the big huge explosion of the popularity of martial arts and this country and in all over the world has had to do directly with him and you know when people are all like i'll oversee dragons ends and kung fu in flames and i'm just like oh my god and now you're telling not you're missing the point but <hes> you know like i said like he gets treated like this lake super cool bright shiny object that people don't really understand and like we're talking about how you know people see him as a caricature. I think a lot of times you know which is my fear over the tarantino film on maui he'll be treated and and and all that because there was so much that was just like surface he cool about him. You know and and it was cool. Though i mean not in a surface coal to the bone attention to the finger <hes> yeah i mean okay so the last round is wti f we remind that doesn't necessarily have to bad. You're puzzled by but actually mine is a little bit not bad but what is bad right. I mean i so i think <hes> to that end. When people try to ah go deeper than the surface signs they go so far deep they go into like another dimension of weirdness and superstition i. I don't know if i've mentioned this s. t. before but i was actually i was the last journalist on the set of the crow take interview brennan and it was very l. very very weird interview and a lot of ways he was tired and you know <hes> but a lot of the things he said when i was reading the transfer and everything really felt you know in that setting kind of ominous and bizarre you know he said this one line about <hes> you know it's really hard to meet your maker right but he was talking about about the creator of the james ibarra the creator of the comic and so forth so i can understand why people impute the things but then when you actually look at the ways of people <unk> have assigned supernatural forces and how this mythology has sprung up around you know around bruce around on brandon to see where it it's okay. Are we talking about the curse curse of the dragon so i mean it's that's a big w t f and it's something that obviously you know you. You have had to contend with no for sure. I was doing some press for warrior in new york and we're doing like a press junket day where you go from like interview interview to interview to interview. Sometimes there's like five live reporters in the room at once and you're talking to them yeah right so so <hes> and that's still one of the questions that comes up. Do you believe in the curse. I that's on your family. Are you afraid and i'm just like really i mean but i get it because people so sometimes weird stuff happens in life right and and we are always trying to make meaning out of our lives and out of what goes on in the world and so like i understand the desire to draw meaning like this and like i absolutely absolutely. I don't believe i mean like if i believed i was cursed. I mean what i wouldn't leave my home. I would be like i prayed to drive my car. You know what i amy and like since immersing yourself artifacts of your father on a daily you know and so it's it's really a horrible tragic. Nick coincidence that these two things have happened in my family and i'm sure there are many other families who have horrible tragic incidences that are similar color you know and so <hes> yeah that's a w._t._i. Cher and also like then just all of the like crazy conspiracy conspiracy theories around my father staff yeah now and like i mean i've literally this was many years ago but i've literally been in a movie theater waiting for the movie to start and the people behind me. We're talking about like i already was killed by ninja. They put a hit out on him. I'm and i'm just like with my friends and we're all just like thank god you know and pardon me is like you guys are missing the point. You're missing. The point like i get it like every gossip is fun but you know it's also yeah. Someone's family okay so by w t f is something. I've always wanted to ask you about as well. I wanted to ask you can always ask me anything so i have is feature. Film called dragon the bruce lee story aw which you had you which you appear in no so you really singing. It is also okay so my <hes> so that movie i think for a lot of people and for me as especially is what really got me in to look into the life of the real bruce lee right <hes> because up to then he was kind of this superhero movie figure but that that movie really for the most part like a lot of ways humanized him and made me go like i want to know more about this things. This movie is talking about. At least you know over the time especially in all the research that i've done that. Movie is like eighty percents fiction factually chilly displayed flat out wrong then it changed for. I don't even understand why you know there's a lot of things they didn't have to change that you know now there's a lot that's just like rog but for many people of a certain generation yeah that is the artifact in which they know bruce lee like that is that has has told the story of bruce lee to them you know at least the next biopic comes along but that what is like sort of the definitive bruce lee biography for them. Yeah you know <hes> because a lot of people i talked to were always we'll always say the stuff that that's why people know about the kung fu thing about about you know about warrior and khufu. That's that's why people know about about the fight with a with a long yeah we want you. I know it's not not as crazy as that other movie. I've always wanted to ask you about that because you know that movie was made in cooperation with your mom your family and stuff like that so i think it does that movie actually is quite entertaining if not just totally factually incorrect yes so so yes well. Thank you for asking about that actually because so that movie was made my my mom wrote a book called bruce lee the man only i knew back in the seventies and universal option to that book to make this movie <hes> when the it back in the eighties i mean the movie didn't come out until nineteen ninety-three but but they optioned the book back in the eighties and then it took many years to make the film <hes> so whenever anybody he asked me about that movie i always 'cause i do know that a lot of people hold a special plate in their place in their heart for that movie so like i never wanna be like the one harsh on on it but but the truth of the matter is they option my mom's book but she did not have any approval rights so it's not uncommon which is not uncommon especially back then we'll which is why it has taken me so long to make projects as i'm like sorry i need house. It's because i don't want to be in that position and so even though they would like give her the script to read and stuff and she would say like i don't. I don't like this like that. Whole sequence is with the spirit chasing him in his dreams and all of that game curse. She was like that didn't happen like that. You know and they were like yeah but it's we needed to leave it. In dramatic and you know like i was kind of stuff but i agree with you. His life was phenomenal just as it was like the why they had to chain and also they're trying to cram thirty two years into two hours and so they're like oh. Wouldn't it be cool. If like in the longman doc men fight like he gets kicked in the back and that's how he hurts his back and you know and i'm just like all of us were like but the one thing i will say about that film is i think it has a really beautiful and uplifting spirit. Yes which and i think jason jason scott lee did a great job and so oh yes factually. It's a nightmare thirty names changing their mind. Why didn't you just like it's just it's weird and the best is like when people will be talking to me and you know and they know that i'm you know like in context they know i'm briskly solder and they're like on god and and that was so amazing how like we've got kids in the back in real life and then he was an. I'm just like sitting there going. Yes doesn't happen like that. Ah but the problem is people believe they believe what they see. Yeah i mean i think in some ways that is the sort of deepest level right and you know it's it's part of this superstition and then a theology the lore and the fiction like the actual popular culture ultra grown up around iran your father and in some ways for there isn't anybody who has as much of an iconic presence who it doesn't occupy that same space people fantastic everything right. I mean you know like it's it's. It's entertaining as hell but it's also a sign in some ways of just how important he was and is to people and <hes> to that point. I mean i agree with phil. I mean it was the movie it wasn't i with that that kind of brought me into being fascinated by bruce but it was certainly the one that that more than anything else i was impressed impressed by because other people were in the theater because it actually was full of it was the first time i really kind of encountered like lots and lots and lots of people who are not like martial arts fans who were like all of a sudden saying holy shit. That's bruce lee guy. That's fascinating to me. It was like it was a different pop. Culture is asian one of him like a main not mainstreaming because but you know what i mean it's like the got into the malls. It was like the multiplex it was like a very different you know world for him to occupy a new touch point absolutely yeah yeah yeah yeah and so you know i'm grateful to that movie for that and <hes> <hes> you know i'm i'm. I'm always about like let's do another one. That's a little bit more accurate and i always kind of feel like even though dragon is a is a fun movie. It's sort of like the popcorn action version of a bio pic. It's like not really like a dramatic. Take someone's life. They score us. Yeah sure right well. I think we're onto the last leg of at the last round <hes>. Is there a w._f. You wanna share and it can be personal one. It doesn't have to be yeah yeah <hes> <hes> okay. They got a bag santa claus back. Gosh i mean there there. There are a lot of different things that are challenging and bizarre in the world of precisely you know i mean definitely one of them is sort of like all of that curson and death conspiracy nonsense the exploitation stuff i would say for the most part <hes> one of like my most difficult and and this is personal to me so this is not really necessarily for anybody not in my shoes but <hes> one of the biggest wti fs for me is like when i was acting when i was trying to act in my twenties which i just did for a little brief while <hes> and i really was into because i i really am interested in in performance and and the creative process and all that but when you're bruce lee solder i mean you get given roles to do martial arts and all that kind of stuff. There were a couple of times hanna director onset said to me. Just do it like your father would do it and i was like let the spirit rise within you. You could call it. I've come on it was just like okay and you know like you're in your twenties and you're so insecure and so you try to do your best job and then i would like go into the trailer cry and also had another time when <hes> when <hes> i had just started acting acting and somebody to get a full page out against me in in either it was other the hollywood reporter the daily variety <hes> saying i was a fraud and that i shouldn't be allowed to to to do <hes> any kind of action movies and all this kind of stuff and i was just like i mean why that's an expensive to fight in the nineties but was it somebody not who was trying to say you know to defend your father's legacy or somebody who was the whole point of doing it. I mean i think you know i had i had not what's studied martial arts as a kid so i came into studying martial arts <hes> in my early twenties and i really got into it as a way of trying to connect with with my father because i studied his art of secunda with one of his students because i really wanted to you know mars was his passion it was his his reason for being and he'd always said like everything you've ever learned and he'd created his own art for for crying out loud and so for me to really connect connect with him. I wanted to know what that was and so i had started training and only been training for a few years and then i decided to to try to act and of course that was i had been talking to my brother about wanting to get into the business and he was like yeah. You know. It's really tough but you know i'll help you any way i can and so i had made a plan to come. I wasn't living in l. at the time to move to l._a. And start an acting career right before he was killed and so i think people just felt like not that it's any of their business by the way but felt like that i was trying to trying to <hes> capitalize or something thing on the on the void that had been laughed and that i wasn't really a martial artist and all that kind of stuff and it was just so hurtful to me i was already in so much grief and like barely getting through each day and just trying my best to like do what i could to establish published career for myself and by way quit acting after a while <hes> just because it was so challenging for me to to continue continue to try to show up for that in the in the wash of the grief of losing my brother and all of that but <hes> but <hes> there is always a part of me. That's like maybe one of these days when i'm like sixty like little part in a movie or something just to like have like close the universe universe on my acting career in a nice way and just be then. They won't expect me to do any martial arts. I can just come in and be like the sassy grandma or something. I i think you'd be a pretty good sassy. Not even grandma just sassy but nevertheless i mean i it just magnifies to a certain extent the weight of that legacy right you know the exhortation sat and i will say <hes> you know both in what you've done <hes> just just in preserving the memories the the works <hes> the philosophy really of your father it's remarkable <hes> and now with warrior you know this hidden treasure and we've just been talking about this <hes> before we started recording but <hes> <hes> just again this is not the only treatment fisher father had written and preserved in his life right. I'm i'm just so y'all know my father was as you know it quite a quite a high level output as a human being and so we had many creative ideas that he <hes> had written <hes> in various <hes> stages of <hes> shape but a a number of treatments even one full script that we that we have that we <hes> are trying to figure out what to do cool. I say warrior is a really seminal project for for me in a lot of ways and a because it it starts to establish the ability to to make these projects you know so so hopefully this'll be the beginning of many awesome things to come. It's a good thing that it kind of kicks ass. That's how bad ass show shoulder so bad ass on t._v. That said warrior beers on cinemax x on april fifth. People probably listen to this and you know you must subscribe to sit around and watch. Implore you uh-huh sharon. This has been so delightful. Oh my gosh it's been lovely. Thank you so much for having me on <hes> shannon. Where can people find you online well. We'll <hes> so we have a bruce lee dot com. All our social handles are at bruce. Lee i myself as like a person out in the public. I mostly operate under the bruce lee radar but <hes> <hes> i dunno maybe at some point i'll i'll step out into my my own shoes. I am do it's personal but <hes> but i actually have just written a book. Oh <music> also which is gonna come out <hes> the beginning of twenty twenty about my father's philosophy <hes> <hes> and how to use it in your daily life life and meaning how meaningful it was to him in his life as well as to me in my life and and <hes> as you know we have also a podcast bursley podcast where we talk best is philosophy so it's sort of an outgrowth of that and i'm really excited to share it with people excellent can we when it comes out. Can we get you back on here. All right all right we're going to be we'll find you online. I original spin pretty much everywhere <hes> twitter especially <hes> and and and you fill. Where can they find you. You can find me at angry. Asian man and on angry asian man dot com. Let does it for this episode of they call a spruce. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you to all our subscribers. Please find on apple podcasts and give us a rating or review. It really helps people find the show shannon. Thanks so much. Oh my gosh. It's my pleasure. Thank you all right. Thank you everybody you've been listening to. They call bruce with jeff yang and phil you our theme music is he's by carroll one. Our producer is nick song. They call us. Bruce is a member of the potluck podcast collective featuring unique voices stories from the asian american community find out more podcast potluck dot com and thanks for listening <music>.

Coming up next