Cinemax’s critically acclaimed dramatic series Warrior kicks off its 10-episode second season on Friday, October 2, 2020 at 10pm ET/PT. Andrew Koji (2021’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins) returns to lead the cast as Ah Sahm, a fierce fighter with the powerful Hop Wei tong in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The martial arts prodigy suffered a devastating loss during a fight that almost cost him his life at the end of season one. In season two, Ah Sahm will be dealing with that loss and with the fact his sister, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) – the reason he made the journey to America – was fine with the prospect of him dying during that fight.
Warrior’s first season earned a spot on our Best New TV Shows of 2019 list, and having watched advance screeners it’s confirmed season two is equally as riveting. Season one set up the world of the Chinese Tong Wars of the late 19th century and season two jumps straight into the action, following Andrew Koji’s Ah Sahm as he navigates this brutal world.
In support of the new season, Andrew Koji graciously hopped on the phone for an interview to discuss what’s in store for Ah Sahm and Warrior.
Was Ah Sahm easy to slip into for season two?
Andrew Koji: “We knew we were going back so I had already reflected and had things in mind that I wanted to do better for season two. It’s interesting, the process of an actor on a show. It’s like, yes, there’s the performance but then there’s maintaining your own energy levels and being able to have a clear head when you’re approaching a scene. I definitely didn’t drop the ball since season one. I already knew how I wanted to do things better. I already knew what I wanted to improve on.
In between, I kept up the training, the physical aspect. Even to this day, it’s kind of played a huge impact in my life. I never used to work out as much before. (Laughing) Now it’s very hard to not work out. For season two, I spoke with Brett (Chan) about what we wanted to do with his fighting. I went to Korea for a month for a self-imposed training camp to improve my kicks.
And then as an actor, I knew what I wanted to bring forward for Ah Sahm. The whole relationship changed as Jonathan Tropper and his writing team trusted me more as an actor, as a person. They definitely spoke more about where we want to take him, where we want to go, what we want to show. By the time we were ready for season two, everyone just hit the ground running. It feels more certain, in a way. Everyone was ready to go.”
What did you take from season one to help you move forward as Ah Sahm in season two?
Andrew Koji: “I’ve never done such a long span on TV before; I’ve done films and the like. The prep part that you do as an actor, the backstory and the relationship work and stuff, by the time you get into season two, season one is your backstory. You can literally just take it and you know exactly how it went down. You know how you played with the other actors and how you interacted with them as characters. You know what you’ve been through and the things that maybe weren’t obvious to you in the script for season one, when it actually got down to play it – like the impact of having my sister be okay with my death – like that, it changed everything.
If anything, season one just felt like it was the best backstory. (Laughing) It was like the most expensive backstory research for this season. It was easy to tap into knowing where we find him. There were only about eight months in between filming, so it was still kind of fresh.”
Do you think after the events of season one there’s a possibility he could ever forgive his sister?
Andrew Koji: “Well, I never asked what Dianne’s prep was and she would never tell me. I was always as an actor trying to reach the other actor and kind of play to what they’re doing, but Dianne would never let me in. (Laughing) She would never let me in at all!
I remember in the first few scenes together I was hoping that maybe there’s a glimpse of hope for them. And there might have been further down the line but when I was doing it, I was thinking not for the foreseeable future.
Dianne, her prep and how she performed Mai Ling was so certain, I think that just rubs off against Ah Sahm even further. And then to add to the pain of what she did to him in season one, I think forgiveness will be very, very tricky for anyone unless you’re a lot more mature, which Ah Sahm isn’t.
Definitely not for season two. He’s not thinking of forgiveness at all.”
Is he going to spend the second season obsessed with losing that fight at the end of season one?
Andrew Koji: “Yeah, I think that was a huge thing for him. Yeah, I think when you lose like that…Ah Sahm’s predominant identity is that of a fighter. And I think when your identity is challenged in such a way, I was thinking that would be the equivalent of me getting cut from the show. It would such a huge burn. I think even in those glimpses or moments when he forgets about it, he’s carrying that. I think that’s going to be a moment when he thinks, ‘I could have died and I only didn’t die because of some chance firing of a gun.’
I think that would burn, especially as a young guy. Ah Sahm’s younger in maturity, I’d say, than me in some ways. (Laughing) I think, yeah, you’re going to carry that around. You’re going to be so angry and be focusing on that. That’s a trauma for him, for certain.”
Do you consider season two to be darker season for him, for that reason, than season one?
Andrew Koji: “Yeah. Season one I felt like in the script the way I interpreted it he could be such a fresh-off-the-boat fish-out-of-water. He doesn’t have any relationships or pre-existing ties. He’s literally just having to become a worker for this gang. He was assessing stuff during season one and then he got an answer about who really cared for him, which was pretty much no one.
In season two there’s definitely a change, a calculating nature to him that’s a bit more reserved in a way and definitely there’s more of a mask that he’s putting on. Because deep down, those people would have let him die. He’s in this situation; he can’t escape it. Perhaps he physically could but it’s not a good option. So, he’s just going to have to play the game and try and get to where he wants to get to.
There’s definitely more of a calculating cynicalness to him this time around. So, yeah, I think that would be darker. A bit like Iago – more planning and calculating.”
Do you consider him to be honorable?
Andrew Koji: “Oh, here we go…here we go. That’s an interesting question. Yeah, towards the end of this season I think there’s a glimpse of that honor of a rightful fight. You know, using his skills for the right purpose and for what he deems to be right.
Honor is interesting. This is very interesting. I’ve been studying all the Japanese cultures and they operate pretty much everything on honor. I think it’s very interesting – that whole thing of what is honorable and how can violence be justified like that? Yeah, I think he’s trying to become honorable.
In season one he wasn’t honorable; he was just fighting. In season two, there’s more of a sense of fighting with a purpose which could be also a kind of thing about honor.”
What is the big picture for him? What does Ah Sahm ultimately want?
Andrew Koji: “My gut is that he does want family. I’ve talked to the other cast about what they’re all going for. TV’s so interesting because it’s such a long format. Sometimes you don’t get all the scripts right away and you have to adjust what they’re going for in life. And sometimes even the writers don’t know themselves. They’ve got this feeling of the character and where he could go, might go.
This show is a lot about, even though there’s a pulpy exterior like Banshee and stuff, it’s all about family and finding family even in the most outsider, different than the normal nuclear family. I think that’s what he’s searching for – a sense of family.
Ideally, he won’t be fighting anymore, but he might be living that life with a wife in the desert somewhere. That’s what I think he’s kind of going in the direction for. But then, obviously, he’s got the whole Chinese Exclusion Act happening and seeing his people… He’d probably only be able to achieve that life if he knows that his people – or people he identifies as his people, his race – are safe and well and being treated right. So, I think it’s more along the lines of a justified reason to live a good life, a happy life, or a safe life.”
Does he consider Young Jun family?
Andrew Koji: “That’s interesting. I think he’s torn. I think with Young Jun there’s definitely feelings of being a brother there. But because of his deep ties to the Hop Wei – essentially he wasn’t going to stop my death and he did allow me to be thrown out. But then I think he was conflicted.
That’s one of those relationships that’s in the grey. He does think of him as a brother in some ways but in other ways maybe not. I think he’s undecided. If they ended up fighting in a future season, I think it would have been very tough. One of the toughest fights he would have.”
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Cinemax’s Warrior is based on the writings of martial arts icon Bruce Lee. Tropper Ink Productions’ Jonathan Tropper (Banshee) created the action drama and executive produces with Perfect Storm Entertainment’s Justin Lin and Bruce Lee Entertainment’s Shannon Lee.
In addition to Andrew Koji, the season two cast includes Jason Tobin, Kieran Bew, Olivia Cheng, Dianne Doan, Dean Jagger, Langley Kirkwood, and Hoon Lee. Christian McKay, Joe Taslim, Joanna Vanderham, Tom Weston-Jones, and Perry Yung also reprise their roles for the second season. New series regulars include Celine Buckens, Dustin Nguyen, Chen Tang, Miranda Raison, and recurring series regular Maria Elena Laas.
New season two episodes air on Fridays at 10pm ET/PT.