Cinemax 'Warrior': Olivia Cheng takes on another powerful role as she plays a brothel madam in new series

She played the warrior, the prostitute, the victim, and the slave, and now she is set to depict the woman who was the first Chinese brothel madam in San Fransisco.


                            Cinemax 'Warrior': Olivia Cheng takes on another powerful role as she plays a brothel madam in new series

We all remember the beautiful, yet fearless warrior and courtesan, Mei Lin from the 2014 Netflix series 'Marco Polo'. However, it was not an easy feat for the Canadian-Chinese actress, Olivia Cheng, who had to conceal the news from her parents for a very long time. Yet in that heavily sexually loaded role, Cheng pulled out Mei Lin as a woman with depth whose layered past made her one of the most interesting characters on the show. Keeping up with her perfect depiction of women of complex nature with tumultuous backstories, Cheng takes on the role of brothel madam, Ah Toy, in Cinemax's upcoming 10-part series, 'Warrior'. 

Based the writings of Bruce Lee, 'Warrior' is set in Chinatown in the late 1800s, during the Tong Wars, which is a series of violent disputes beginning in the 1880s among rival Chinese tong factions in the Chinatowns of various American cities, particularly San Francisco. The disputes saw rival crime families battle for territory and control. At the center of it all is Ah Sahm(played by Andrew Koji), a newcomer from China whose skill in martial arts makes him a valuable part of one family’s ongoing struggle for power and influence. Amid all the brilliant casting of the series, Cheng will serve as one of the main faces, and her character continues to be just as complex yet similar to her previous one in 'Marco Polo'



 

 

Cheng's upbringing by her Cantonese-speaking immigrant parents in Edmonton, Alberta, might have been conservative but the actress has never let that be an obstacle in her duty of playing characters who are unlike her. However, even before she would step out into the world as the daunting performer, Cheng started off her career at the age of 19 when she booked her first commercial. She soon became a videographer for Global TV Lethbridge, after attending NAIT’s Radio and Television Arts program. Later on, she would spend a considerable amount of time at Edmonton working as a broadcast and print journalist, following which she went on to freelance as a correspondent for ET Canada.

Cheng played the fearlessly beautiful, Mei Lin, in 'Marco Polo'. (IMDb)
Cheng played the fearlessly beautiful, Mei Lin, in 'Marco Polo'. (IMDb)

She kickstarted her acting career when she was picked up as one of the five Chinese actresses for a Walter Hill-helmed mini-series executive produced by Robert Duvall. Her audition tape had impressed Duvall enough, and then onwards there was no looking back for the actress. Joined by Thomas Haden Church, Valerie Tian, Chris Mulkey, Scott Cooper, Jadyn Wong, Gwendoline Yeo and Caroline Chan, Duvall's 'Broken Trail' brought back the lost memory of slavery in the 1897 Canada. Just like the rest of the world, Cheng who played the role of Yee Fung, found the role to have changed her perception quite a bit.

Cheng was one of the five actresses who depicted the unknown history of slavery in Canada on 'Broken Trail'. (IMDb)
Cheng was one of the five actresses who depicted the unknown history of slavery in Canada on 'Broken Trail'. (IMDb)

In an interview with True West Magazine, the actress had explained, "It forced me to research the story. I had not known that even in the early 1800s, young Chinese girls were brought over to America and forced into prostitution in brothels and mining camps across the Midwest. It is an issue that still exists today, and after my research, it blew me away."

As 'Broken Trail' went on to be nominated for 16 Primetime Emmy Awards and would go on to win four, including the Emmy for Outstanding Mini Series, Cheng's career sky-rocketed, after a brief break with 'Arrow' where for some time she played the character Linda Park. However, her true skill as an actress who gives in entirely to her character was displayed when she played Iris Chang in the 2007 movie, 'Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking', based on 1997 book of the same name.

Her skill as a brilliant actress found its ground in Iris Chang's story. (IMDb)
Her skill as a brilliant actress found its ground in Iris Chang's story. (IMDb)

Cheng's powerful depiction of the woman whose passion for justice resonated across the world was not just bold, but genuine. In her own words, Cheng believes, "Iris Chang was a powerful voice who ended a stifling silence on behalf of countless victims whose cries for mercy might otherwise never have been heard. Her passion enlightened the world and inspired an astounding legacy." Considering Cheng's history of portraying women who are otherwise considered unconventional, we can say that we are pretty eager to find out how she adds her own reflection to the woman who was known to be the first Chinese brothel madame in San Fransisco. We will have to wait till April 5, when 'Warrior' will finally premiere on Cinemax. 

Watch the trailer below: