'Warrior' actor Rich Ting says playing the character named after his childhood hero Bolo Yeung brings him 'full circle'
'Warrior' actor Rich Ting, who played the role of Bolo, spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) about how he was inspired by his character's namesake and what an honor it was to be part of Bruce Lee's vision
Cinemax's series 'Warrior' is based on a script developed by Bruce Lee for television in 1971. The show, which premiered in 2019, received critical acclaim and enjoys a loyal fanbase for the stunning depiction of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco in the 1870s and the portrayal of how Chinatown's reputation came to be during the Tong Wars.
Each character in the show was fleshed out effectively and performed brilliantly. One such character, that of Bolo, played by Rich Ting plays an important role in the first season and in this exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Ting spoke about what inspired him to play the role, why Bolo's character is a reflection of him and how that influenced his performance.
Rich explained that his tryst with martial training in sport forms such as taekwondo was a result of being inspired by watching Bruce Lee on screen at the age of four. His introduction to the real Bolo Yeung, a martial arts film actor also happened through Bruce Lee's film 'Return of the Dragon'.
Ting plays Yeung's namesake in the series and landing the role turned out to be perfect for Ting because of how much he was influenced by this actor. Ting was teased as a young boy and often called Bolo because "I was actually bigger than a lot of kids when I was young."
When Ting was at Yale University, he played football and this time coincided with the release of Yeung's film 'Bloodsport' in which he played the antagonist, Chong Li. "Being the only Asian football player, I think, in the country at the division one level when I was playing between 1998 - 2002 and also the biggest ... naturally, people started calling me Chong Li because I was not only the only Asian football player a lot of my teammates had ever played with but I was the biggest Asian person they had seen, muscle-wise and athletic-wise."
He added, "Fast forward another decade ... and now a full-time actor in Hollywood and then get presented with this opportunity to contribute to the legacy of Bruce Lee through 'Warrior' as the character of Bolo. It's been a full circle. Bruce Lee is a gift that keeps on giving because never would I have thought that in my thirties, I would have the opportunity to not only be a part of Bruce Lee's vision that he created in the 1960s, when he passed, but I would play such a prolific character, a legendary character in honoring Bruce Lee."
One of the most interesting aspects of the first season was how the language of the show switches between English and Cantonese flawlessly during any given scene. Usually, when a scene featuring the Chinese people begins, it is in Cantonese and the switch occurs solely for the purpose of communicating with the audience.
While we hear English dialogues, it is understood that the people are speaking in Cantonese. Speaking of pulling this off, Ting explained, "When I got the script, all of our executive producers stressed that they wanted an American accent. I didn't know why, but I just said, that's fine because you know being a fourth-generation Asian American - I'm Japanese and Chinese - I grew up only speaking English. 90% of the roles I got or I've actually been a part of, all have an Asian accent. Or, I have to learn Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or something. So you get a project like this that emphasized no Asian accent and they wanted a true American accent - that was meant to be for me because that is me."
Speaking about how personal the project was, Ting explained that while he may not have a first-hand experience of how Chinatown was in the 1870s, the general idea of different gangs operating out of Chinatown is something he could connect to because he was familiar with how Chinatown worked.
Ting grew up in San Francisco where Chinatown was down the street and he knew of people who were involved with gangs. "It may not be the 'Tong Wars' but they (gangs) are still active in Chinatown," he explained and said that his proximity to Chinatown and understanding the general vibe of the neighborhood helped him with the foundation for the role he played.