Based on an original concept by Bruce Lee, Warrior is a smart mix of gritty crime, period drama and martial arts.
Set in San Francisco during the 1870s, the show centers around Ah Sahm as he enters the seedy underbelly that lurks below the bustling city streets. It is a show that masterfully blends its genres while capturing a unique take on crime stories of the period. Warrior is one of the more visceral and excitingly physical shows currently on TV.
Andrew Koji once again steps into the shoes of Ah Sahm, and CGM took the time to sit down with him to talk about this latest season along with his overall acting career. With this role he has made a name for himself, giving viewers a taste of his physical presence and overall acting abilities. From how his career has changed following season one of Warrior, to how he takes on this challenging role, Andrew Koji brings his unique insights and gives a glimpse of what it takes to take center stage for this exciting role.
CGMagazine: How has the experience been with Warrior now that you are now done with season two?
Andrew Koji: This is our second rodeo and we kind of knew what the show was going to be. So, I think it feels more self-assured in a way. Warrior season two has kind of found itself. Season one, I think for most TV shows they are always finding it. So, this just feels how it is supposed to be, and it has run everything up and taken it to the next level as each season should progress.
CGMagazine: Last year we talked about how you weren’t sure if you’ll continue acting and then you got this role. How has your career been and how have you viewed acting since getting this role and since taking on this character?
Andrew Koji: Well, it opened the doors for certain things. It’s got me in the room with places that I previously wouldn’t have even been able. I guess it’s got the conversation going for certain things as well. So, it has drastically changed my career. I still have to deal with rejection since then, as is expected as an actor. But my view on acting in terms of the cross aspect is it just made me think how much more I’ve got to learn and how much more I’m going to get better, and I want to own it and improve upon and build upon. And I think watching these great actors in the cast has been motivating. We’re all from very different backgrounds, have very different approaches and ways of getting into a role and breaking down the script and all that stuff.
So, I learned so much from working with these more experienced great actors around me. I want to learn and pick up on it and develop, and it kind of made it fresh for me, I kind of go, “Oh, I’m still not where I want to get to in terms of my acting.” I just want to keep developing and improving, which I didn’t have before, I was just giving up and saying screw it. So, that’s nice to actually feel better about something I’m passionate about and go on. Yeah, there’s more I can do, there’s more I can learn and navigate in those things. That’s quite exciting to feel.
CGMagazine: Let’s talk about the physicality of this role. This is your second season playing this character. How have you viewed taking on these martial artists and making this character your own? What advice would you give to actors wanting to pursue this path in the future?
Andrew Koji: I think the only way to do this kind of character is to really get it out. I’ve heard of certain projects where if the actor doesn’t get in shape, they can just throw a t-shirt on them, or they put a muscle suit on them. This isn’t that kind of role because it’s the nature of TV and I think the legacy aspect of connection to Bruce Lee. So, I think the physical aspect is tough and this is the only way to do it. I do it like the great actors I aspire to be like, Jake Gyllenhaal, Christian Bale. You just have to really dive in and do your absolute best.
You know, I might not have the same physicality necessarily as Bruce Lee, but I can try my best to do it well. I can train for as much as I can. I can learn about nutrition and fitness, and sculpting your physique, and also use that for martial arts and martial arts screen fighting. But this one you have to just be ready for long periods of time during the shoot.
It’s not like you can do this for a while and then after that we can kind of go back to your normal diet. This kind of role you have to be ready for any time to do fights scenes. So, I think it’s a role you have to really— I just think as an actor as well it’s a blessing because to transform, to do things that you normally wouldn’t do, or I think a lot of us want to do— It’s a tough one, because you’re getting down to a low body fat percentage and being in that kind of shape for a long period of time can play a lot of stress on your body, but then also your mental space. So, it’s definitely a kind of role I have learned so much from. Take it seriously, don’t take any shortcuts, and go all out!
CGMagazine: I do want to quickly touch on the cast of this show. Such strong characters, a lot of strong voices in the Asian actor community. How has it been working with all your costars and were you expecting that walking into this character?
Andrew: No. I mean— because of where I was in my career before, doing guest roles, it’s not very collaborative and it’s kind of just a turn off, we don’t get to know anyone, you do your job and that’s it. So, this one is very much— the cliché would be we’re all family, and we really were. Everyone had their own different approaches— Like, as we saw each episode, the attitude, how they did it and everyone’s performance. For me as an actor I always want to learn and grow. And I think you can learn something from them— as someone who has hardly done it, they’ve just got a mentality about, you know, they might say little things here and there, getting yourself around these great actors you get little bits of wisdom, attitudes, mindset, and how to approach or go down the scene, I am seeing these masters and I learned a lot from them.
I have a lot of respect for my craft which is nice to feel. It is fantastic to learn from them, most of them have more experience than me. Because it’s one thing learning and training at school as an actor, and then there’s another thing about another huge set of skills that you can only learn on the job. I think it was one of my hugest training grounds for acting, which was a blessing.
CGMagazine: The last time we talked you told me you were very optimistic about how representation is going in film and TV. Are you still as optimistic and do you see it improving or getting worse? What have you experienced so far as an actor in both areas?
Andrew: It’s a complex question. I think it’s still getting better, but it’s still very fragile. I think we just have to make sure it’s not a passing trend or something just to get numbers up in the Asian countries. I think the end goal would be to all see and treat each other right regardless of race.
Since then, I’ve done auditions, and it’s like, “you’re not quite Asian enough for this” and “you’re not western enough for this” Yeah, I’ve been in that situation sinceWarrior. So, I still notice some closed-mindedness and some attitudes which aren’t really beneficial to the greater good in a way. And there still is definitely a certain trend, even though Asians are getting more opportunities to be represented, they’re still— a lot of them are leaning towards very Caucasian looking Asians. I think it’s a time for anyone who has got those opportunities, including me, to really just absolutely do your absolute best. It’s not a time to go, “Okay, we’re getting more jobs and whatever.”
I think a lot of the roles that you see for, especially males, in this industry right now they’re all action, they’re all martial arts. My role in Warrior was a Ninja. And I think as long as it’s not a trend and that we prove ourselves as actors, that we are capable and we really put in the work, I think we can make that change to be able to be as good as Joaquin Phoenix and the amazing actors that have inspired us. And I think there are actors, and I’ve known so many good actors around me, who are capable of doing performances as good as those. But as long as we— the ones that are getting those jobs – don’t take it for granted and keep putting the work, I think that’s when we can make the change. So, I think it’s a time when we just have to make sure it’s not a trend.
CGMagazine: Now, I just have one last question. For people that might not have seen the first season of Warrior and want to jump into it on HBO, what advice can you give them? What are they walking into when they jump into Warrior for both seasons?
Andrew: I think they’re not only going to watch a great, fun, gritty, action-packed show but it’s a story that is important to tell and explore, what I believe, is a part of history, a part of legacy, a part of a story that I think surely needs to be told and heard. And it feels for me personally, bigger than just the TV show. And that’s why I hope one day we get to finish it off properly. But yeah, I think they’re going to be witnessing interesting characters, representation, and characters of misrepresentation that aren’t painted with broad strokes, they’re nuanced, they’re just as human as all the other characters.
So I think it’s different, Warrior is different in terms of that. It’s characters are real characters. And the kind of acting I hope that we all want to aspire to do and develop on. I think this is quite an impactful show because of the team, the stage, and all those things of the past.