‘Kung Fu’ Premieres at Vital Time For Asian Community

Pictured (L-R): Olivia Liang as Nicky Shen and Jon Prasida as Ryan
(Image credit: Kailey Schwerman/The CW)

Drama Kung Fu starts on The CW April 7. The show centers on Nicky Shen, who returns home to San Francisco after years training at a monastery in China. Back in the States, she battles criminal forces who have taken over her neighborhood and killed her mentor. 

Christina Kim and Robert Berens are showrunners. Olivia Liang, Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Eddie Liu, Gavin Stenhouse, Vanessa Kai and Shannon Dang are in the cast. 

Kheng Hua Tan said the show is essentially about social justice. “Episode after episode, you see every single character trying to rise above their own inhibitions or fears to do what is right,” she said at a press event. “And you see characters of all ages and all walks of life trying to work together to do what is best for the community.”

Liang spoke about Kung Fu launching as many in the Asian community have been harassed and assaulted. “Representation and inclusion is not so much that we, as Asians, need to see ourselves represented on the screens, but we need to be invited into people's homes who don't see us in their everyday life, just to humanize us, normalize seeing us, remind them that we are people just like they are and that we have a place in this world,” she said. “Hopefully having our show in their homes will expand that world view for them.” 

Kim said she hopes Kung Fu can be “part of the solution.”

“Having a show like ours on the air makes us part of the narrative,” she said. “And as Olivia said, it brings us into the homes of so many people and brings them cultural awareness and acceptance.”

Kim and Berens are executive producers alongside Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Martin Gero and David Madden. Berlanti Productions produces Kung Fu with Quinn’s House, in association with Warner Bros. Television. 

TNT will air the Kung Fu pilot April 11. 

A Kung Fu series ran for three seasons in the ‘70s. Ed Spielman created the show and David Carradine played Caine, a Shaolin priest. 

“It was an iconic TV show and it was groundbreaking at the time,” said Kim. “It introduced an American audience to Kung Fu, to Buddhism, and there are many beautiful elements that I wanted to keep from there.”

Liang mentioned some common ground with the original Kung Fu. “What's going to be carried on from the original and his character into this is a sense of wanting to fight for the underdog, a sense of duty, not a sense of heroism, not necessarily being a hero and seeking that out,” she said. “We don't have that hero complex, but just seeing bad things happen and not being able to stand for it, and just feeling that sense of social commitment to making sure that people are safe and the right thing is done.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.