After establishing himself in Indonesian film, including a feature role in the fan favorite The Raid: Redemption, Joe Taslim has expanded his career worldwide with parts in projects like Star Trek Beyond, Fast & Furious 6, and now in Cinemax’s breakout hit, Warrior.
During the build-up to Season Two of Warrior, which premiers on Friday, Oct. 2, Taslim spoke to MMAWeekly.com about what brought him to the series, the journey of his character, Li Yong, and working with one of the best fight choreography teams for the show.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Joe, what got you interested in Warrior and wanting to work on the series?
Joe Taslim: In 2013, I was shooting Star Trek Beyond and I was in Vancouver and met Justin Lin, the director on that movie. He mentioned Warrior and how he was developing the story and hoping I could be a part of it. In 2017, I was in Korea and got a call from Justin and said the show was on and asked if I would be a part of it. I said no doubt I wanted to be part of it.
I’m a huge fan of Bruce Lee and of Justin’s. This is a show that is important for me, and I know also important for Asian Americans and Asian people, everyone who loves action – I knew we were going to do something special.
MMAWeekly.com: You mention Bruce Lee, whose writings and philosophies are the basis for Warrior. What’s it like working on something like this with an already passionate fan base due to that connection, having already done that before with Fast & Furious and Star Trek.
Joe Taslim: When you’re involved in a project or playing a character that is so famous or working with people that are top-notched people, they risk something by hiring you. The fans of course want you to bring justice to the character. They want you to bring justice to the franchise. It’s a pressure, but also a blessing.
It’s more than a job to me. It’s more than: get the job, get the fame, get the money; when you join a production you join a family. You have to care. You have to stand out as an actor, but you have to stand out more for the project. That’s the most important thing.
MMAWeekly.com: Tell us about the journey of your character in Warrior, Li Yong, and where he is headed in Season Two.
Joe Taslim: For Li Yong, I think Season Two we’re going to see a more personal side of him, a more deeper personal relationship between him and (his love interest) Mai Ling. You’re going to see conflict. You’re going to see challenge. Li Yong’s world is pretty small. The show itself involves a lot of things, but Li Yong’s world is pretty small. He’s not into politics. Most of the core of him is fighting for love.
Wherever Mai Ling goes, he’s going to be, the person who supports her all the way. So in Season Two we’re going to see him supporting the person he loves, but at the same time he needs to make sure that decision is right.
In terms of action, there’s more; in Season Two they elevated the action to a different level. There’s going to be an epic action scene that involves a lot of characters, and it’s going to be something I think the audience is going to remember for a long time.
MMAWeekly.com: Speaking of the action; what is it like working with choreographer Brett Chan and his team on the series? Do they come to you to incorporate your own martial arts background into things or allow you to make suggestions when it comes to choreography?
Joe Taslim: I was so lucky working with Brett Chan, the fight choreographer and his whole team. They’re open with suggestions. Their priority is always comfort. They always me, ask (star Andrew) Koji, everybody involved with a fight if they’re going to be comfortable – that’s the most important thing.
We’re going to deliver the most crazy action people are going to see, but the most important thing we get to see the actors, the performers, they need to love the choreography; they need to understand the purpose of the fight. Brad was so open. I love that guy and I love his team.
That’s why the action, the fights, in the show feel so grounded, but at the same time so elegant and so real. Even though we’re trying to kill each other or whatever, the shooting process was so much fun. This show has really good choreographers and a really good team; they’re why the fights are so awesome, no doubt.
MMAWeekly.com: While the action is a big draw of Warrior, I know many people involved love the fact that the series features real fleshed out characters and not just stereotypes or undeveloped personas.
Joe Taslim: That’s one of the things I really love about this show. Jonathan (Tropper’s) vision, and also the writers, they know they’re not making an action show for the purpose of showing violence, showing flashy movements, how badass the characters, how badass the action scenes are, they want to tell stories.
They want to tell stories through all these characters. The action is the bridge that relates each other; the Tong to each other, the Irish to the Chinese; everyone wants to survive. Everybody wants to eat. Everybody just wants to bring food to their families. Everybody just wants to survive.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful story, and the action is a bonus. It has a message. For me, this is not an action show, it’s a very important message. It’s a show that has a very important message to the world, with what’s going on nowadays, for sure.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Joe. Is there anything you want to add in closing?
Joe Taslim: This show is very important. It’s a great story. We did the best we can. Everybody is passionate about this show. This show is not just a show for us, it’s a family.
This show is really something special for us, and it will be something for our fans as well, people who have seen Season One and people who haven’t seen Season One are probably going to check it out after they know about Season Two. Check it out: Season Two of Warrior; the action is badass, but it’s got a great, beautiful story for sure.
Warrior Season 2 Official Trailer
(Video courtesy of Cinemax)