By Zibuyile Dladla19 July 2019
Kenneth Fok is South Africa’s own Warrior
Based on an original concept by martial arts legend Bruce Lee, Warrior is set during San Francisco’s Tong Wars in the 1800s. The gritty series follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy from China who becomes mixed up in the world of organised crime. Warrior is currently streaming on Showmax, with new episodes landing on Thursdays at 22:00, the same time that it shows on M-Net.
While it’s set in San Francisco, both seasons of the series were actually filmed at Cape Town Film Studios and featured some great local talents. We caught up with one of the cast members, Kenneth Fok, who plays Jacob, the man-servant of the wife of the mayor of San Francisco.
Kenneth is no stranger to big Hollywood movies, having worked on Safe House (2012) and Eye in the Sky (2016) and Tomb Raider (2018) with Alicia Vikander, as well as series such as Dominion and Homeland. He also starred in local hit Five Fingers for Marseilles. But in Warrior, he comes into his own in this exciting series that Mashable called “a victory in nearly every sense of the word.”
Kenneth’s introduction to Warrior
So how did Kenneth manage to land a role on the most talked-about martial arts series of the moment?
“My agent was in talks with the show’s producers quite far in advance before the show started. She had told me about this show set in San Francisco in the 1800s,” he says. When he heard the storyline, Kenneth was very interested in being involved because of the unique narrative.
“It was quite a lightbulb moment because I think a story like this has never been told, especially the telling of this particular part of Asian history.”
The Asian history Kenneth is referring to is the Chinese Exclusion Act, an 1882 law that prohibited the immigration of Chinese labourers to the US. It was in effect until 1943 and was just part of the xenophobic treatment suffered by Asian people in America in the 1800s and later.
Knowing that the narrative originated in the mind of the late, great Bruce Lee also made reading the script a humbling experience.
“Having that script in my hand, inspired by Bruce Lee’s writing, was a moment I’ll never forget,” he says. “It was quite a surreal moment for me to have some sort of attachment to him. And having his name attached to this series set the tone and set the bar quite high for the show.”
Playing Jacob was a challenge for Kenneth as an actor. “In the first season, my character, Jacob, is quite a low-key individual. He is very much an observer and facilitator. However, in the second season, I realised that the character was becoming a bit more challenging to me both emotionally and physically. But I think viewers will have to wait for the second season to see where this challenge stems from.”
Acting with Andrew Koji
Kenneth speaks fondly of his fellow cast member, Andrew Koji, who plays the main character in the show.
Although Andrew’s character, Ah Sahm, requires him to have a very serious persona, Kenneth reveals that when the cameras stop rolling, Andrew’s comic side comes out and really lifts the mood on set.
“I really enjoyed Andrew’s sense of humour and his relaxed approach to working on set. Andrew would just crack a joke in a tense atmosphere, and that really brought a lighthearted and fun feeling to the work environment. His work ethic is also unmatched and his dedication to martial arts is quite impressive. Andrew went beyond what was required of him and trained in various martial arts from taekwondo to Jeet Kune Do [‘way of the intercepting fist’, the martial art founded by Bruce Lee] just to increase his knowledge of martial arts. I really respect the dedication he has to his craft.”
If you haven’t watched Warrior yet, we suggest you do. In Kenneth’s words, it’s an entertaining, action-filled and dynamic show that will grip your attention from the very first second you watch it. New episodes are currently coming to Showmax weekly.