This article contains spoilers for Warrior season 3 episode 6.
From the first season, there were nods like the tong man named Bolo (Rich Ting), a reference to Bolo Yeung who played the villainous killer with the Herculean physique (also named Bolo) in Enter the Dragon. Similar acknowledgements permeate the series, all the way to season three where one of the locations is an ice factory, just like the setting of The Big Boss. When the lead character Ah Sahm strips down to a white wife-beater T-shirt, it evokes Bruce Lee’s bicep revealing attire in The Way of the Dragon. Keen-eyed fans of fight choreography spot quick references to Lee’s timeless action scenes. Some Warrior fight sequences contain sequences that lift directly from Lee’s films, reimagined to fit in the series. The season two finale of Warrior has a brilliant moment when Ah Sahm finally picks up a pair of Bruce Lee’s signature nunchucks. Fans didn’t realize how long they had waited for that scene, and when it finally arrived, it was a pure kicking butt delight.
“We try to pepper them throughout,” says Andrew Koji, who plays Ah Sahm, about the choreographic nods. “They’re not always in the script though. Those are things that we kind of find ourselves and throw in there with collaboration.”
It’s made for a lively hunting game from the discerning fandom.
“I’ve been really enjoying these fan-made memes cut frame per frame for reference whether it’s Enter the Dragon versus Warrior of Bruce Lee and Andrew,” adds Dianne Doan, who plays Ah Sahm’s sister and rival Mai Ling. “I just think it’s so fun that everyone’s caught on.”
Now Warrior season 3 episode 6 has had the best Easter egg of them all so far. In “A Soft Heart Won’t Do You No Favors,” Ah Sahm, Father Jun (Perry Yung), and Young Jun (Jason Tobin) venture outside of Chinatown to broker a deal. They plan to wash some counterfeit money by trading it for silver with some coked-out Germans who oversee a Chinese labor camp. Within this episode, they encounter Wen, played by none other than Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon.
Wen is one of the Chinese workers and mother to a young boy who falls victim to the Germans’ cruelty. It’s a cleverly conceived cameo. In Wen’s first appearance, her face is obscured by her child, so Lee isn’t immediately recognizable. In her next scene, her face is contorted with grief, so again, it’s tricky to recognize her. But then there’s the final fight of the episode, a classic old Western style shootout. Wen emerges with her pickaxe of fury, joins the fight, and takes revenge. And any fan can instantly recognize her because Lee has been pivotal in overseeing her father’s estate. She spearheaded the development of Warrior from an eight-page treatment by her father to the groundbreaking series and has been the show’s executive producer throughout its run.
“People keep asking Shannon in interviews if her father would have appreciated and liked the show,” says Warrior screenwriter Jonathan Tropper. “I just imagine what it would be like for him to see that not only has his grown daughter held on to this for fifty years after he wrote it and got it made, plus then to see her as a grown woman actually in the fabric of the show.”
It stands out as Tropper’s favorite Warrior Easter egg so far.
“I think there’s just something so perfect and the emotional resonance in that, so we could talk about the nunchuck scenes but to me, it’s having Shannon in the show, for sure.”
Shannon Lee herself concurs: “Not only do I get to be in the show but I get to be in this character and in this story that is sort of the seminal turning point for Ah Sahm as a character.”
For Lee, Ah Sahm makes a critical choice in this episode – whether to continue down the path of being a gangster or to turn around and make a stand for his people.
“That sets off a trigger of events for him, right?” continues Lee. “That carries through the rest of the season and escalates greatly.”
According to Tobin, Warrior had tried to get a cameo appearance from Shannon Lee in season one and two but due to scheduling conflicts, the opportunity didn’t happen until season three. “It was an amazing experience to work with her personally,” says Tobin. “Talking to Shannon, she hadn’t been an actor for so long – twenty years or something.”
Lee did most of her acting from the nineties to the turn of the millennium. Her first appearance was another cameo in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, where she appeared as a singer at a party. That scene was a meta Easter egg, even before Easter eggs were labeled so. While Shannon sang ‘California Dreamin,’ Linda Lee (Lauren Holly) tells Bruce (Jason Scott Lee) that she’s pregnant with Shannon. Shannon Lee is a talented singer who has sung the national anthem at a San Francisco Giants baseball game for Bruce Lee Tribute Night. She has also sung at concerts in the US, Hong Kong, and China.
But back to her acting career, Lee followed that cameo with roles in several other films. Most notable was Enter the Eagles, a Hong Kong production where she was the lead action star. Directed by noted action choreographer Corey Yuen (The Transporter), Lee faced off against kickboxing champion Benny “the Jet” Urquidez (Grosse Pointe Blank) who she went on to train with in real life. She also appeared in the film Blade, and the TV shows Martial Law, and Epoch, and was the host of the first season of the Saturday morning martial arts TV show WMAC Masters.
In more recent years, Lee has been an executive producer for some documentaries about her father, and has appeared as an authority in them too. These include How Bruce Lee Changed the World, I Am Bruce Lee, and Be Water.
Lee has strived to take control of her father’s legacy, which has been no simple task. Bruce Lee is the most ripped-off celebrity of all. While there are plenty of Elvis impersonators, that doesn’t even come close to the number of Bruce Lee impersonators. There’s an entire genre known as Brucesploitation that encompasses countless Bruce Lee emulators, and there are several actors that have based their entire career on mimicking Lee. Shannon Lee is now the CEO of the Bruce Lee Family Companies and Chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Bruce Lee Foundation. She’s even authored a book, Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee.
Warrior is only one of the many projects Shannon Lee has going on to preserve her father’s legacy, so her cameo in the show is not only a great Easter egg, but also a tribute to a daughter who has devoted her career to honor her father. And this wasn’t just some token cameo. Even after such a long break from acting, Lee still has her chops.
“That is a very difficult role,” says Tobin about Wen, “to come in and have to deal with the things that she has to deal with in an honest way and be at the cusp of that kind of emotionality, that is not easy, and she crushed it.”
“It was such a special, special, special moment for me,” gushes Lee about playing Wen, “to be able to return to acting in this show that was my fathers with these people because they’re such generous, wonderful actors. It was just special all the way up and down, and so I hope that I hope that the fans enjoy that.”
Warrior season 3 episode 6 “A Soft Heart Won’t Do You No Favors” is available to stream on Max now.