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The CW's 'Kung Fu' Cast On Representation, Reboots, And Why We Need It Now

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The CW's 'Kung Fu' Cast On Representation, Reboots, And Why We Need It Now

In a world full of reboots and revivals, the idea of The CW putting a new spin on a drama from the '70s might not seem all that noteworthy at first glance. But Kung Fu isn't just another reboot of a TV classic meant to wrap us in a blanket of nostalgia. There's no way around the fact that the original series perpetuated racist Asian stereotypes; but instead of proof that the show should be left in the past, it's this legacy that is exactly why actors Tzi Ma and Olivia Liang think 2021 is the perfect time for a Kung Fu reboot.

"I've always seen myself as an activist first and an actor second," Ma tells me over the phone. "Our show is, I believe, part of the long-term solution." Just the fact that Kung Fu, a family drama featuring an all-Asian main cast (save one white actor), will air on network television is a huge step forward. "It would have been timely at any time," he continues. "We don't have enough [representation of Asians in Hollywood.]."

The original Kung Fu aired from 1972-1975 and starred David Carradine — a white man — as the half-Asian hero Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk who used his martial arts skills to fight crime in the American west. And though it provided a rare opportunity for Asian actors to be cast on American television — in supporting roles — it also perpetuated racist Asian stereotypes and yellowface. In the original show, Asians and Asian culture were depicted as foreign, but the reboot aims to change that.

Image: Kailey Schwerman/The CW
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