Wu Assassins star explains why Netflix show is not just about martial arts

Jess Lee
Photo credit: Daniel Power/Netflix

From Digital Spy

Wu Assassins is more than just a martial arts show.

The excellent action and choreography are no doubt some of the highlights of the Netflix drama, which launched last week. With a majority Asian American cast, the show also tells stories and emotional arcs rarely seen in this way on TV.

Lawrence Kao plays Tommy Wah, a longtime friend of lead character Kai Jin (Iko Uwais) and a heroin addict.

Photo credit: Vivien Killilea - Getty Images

"Things like this don't come to Asian Americans that often," he said in an interview with Digital Spy. "Being able to be a part of a show like this that revolutionises how people think of Asian Americans is just – I'm speechless.

"People like it a lot. They're very huge fans of the martial arts, and I feel like the people who make it through the season see that the show explores underlying themes throughout that talk about Chinese culture, as well as dive into familial relationships and themes about identity. I think people are enjoying those things besides all the action and martial arts."

Tommy is a complicated character. An addict and a member of the Triad, he regularly disappoints his friends despite often having good intentions.

"It was fun to juxtapose the idea of what people think Asian Americans are, so to even be able to play a heroin addict and to play the different levels of what this kind of character goes through, especially as an Asian American, makes it fascinating for me to explore," he said.

Photo credit: Daniel Power/Netflix

"In the beginning, I feel like people will look at Tommy and go, 'Man, this kid is so annoying. He keeps messing up'. And people keep thinking negatively about him because he just continues to disappoint.

"But as the season goes on, you realise, 'Man, this guy, he's just human'. There are vulnerabilities to him and he's trying. And people who make it through the season realise that and can empathise with him.

"I [hope] this character, especially as an Asian American, will help other people who aren't Asian American empathise and see a person like this in a different light."

Photo credit: Daniel Power/Netflix

Tommy, alongside Kai, is part of a close-knit friendship group which includes his sister Jenny (Li Jun Li) and Lu Xin (Lewis Tan).

It's uncommon to see an Asian American friendship group on screen, and Kao explained that they bonded away from the cameras as well.

"I've never been part of a cast with a friendship group that consists mostly of Asian Americans," he said. "It definitely resonated.

"Even being off set, it was just interesting to hang out with each other, and to have to take off our shoes when we go into each other's homes, and to have hot pot with each other, and to just be able to culturally hang out with one another without questioning any of it.

"I've never really had that opportunity or that kind of experience. So being able to be like that off-set helped us establish a stronger connection when the cameras were rolling.

Photo credit: Netflix

Related: Wu Assassins star Celia Au reacts to season 1 ending and reveals season 2 hopes

Netflix has made a number of high-profile cancellations lately, including Santa Clarita Diet, The OA, Tuca & Bertie, and Designated Survivor. Will we see a second season for Wu Assassins?

"It's really hard to say," Kao said. "It's difficult because it's all about the numbers in the first couple of weeks.

"We're all out here trying to promote the show and tell people to watch it – and especially to watch it all the way through, because that's how they count their numbers.

"I really have no idea. The season does wrap up nicely, but I want to see more. I want to see what these characters go through, and I'm just as invested as other people are when they watch the show. I'm hopeful. Fingers crossed."

All ten episodes of Wu Assassins season 1 are available to watch on Netflix right now.

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