Whether he is choreographing hand-to-hand combat between two characters or a riot scene featuring a dozen, “Warrior’s” stunt coordinator and second unit director Brett Chan always wants to put emotion first.
“I create the moves and then we just change it for how they feel,” the Emmy nominee says in the latest episode of Variety Artisans presented by HBO. Whether it’s a punch or a PUNCH is determined by whether the character “wants to kill [his opponent] or just wants to knock him out,” he continues.
“Warrior” features a diverse group of characters who have various martial arts backgrounds that also inform their characters’ fight styles. Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), for example, is a martial arts prodigy while Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) has become better known for weapon work. The show, which is now a HBO Max original, follows such characters through the Tong Wars in late 1870s San Francisco.
Additionally, Chan makes sure to work beats into fight sequences to allow new sides of characters to come through. This was especially apparent at the end of the second season when hitmen come for Ah Toy.
“You have a moment where you need to show that [Ah Toy is] vulnerable, because we’ve only ever seen her as the sword-wielding chick who just kills everybody, but she’s still fighting on. It’s not that the guys gave her a break. It’s that she’s created the break for herself. Because that’s her,” Chan says. “That moment when she hits the ground, you see the exasperation. And then they come in and she gathers herself, and she moves. She uses the environment. She uses the chair. She uses the pole to get around to kick.”
Chan often has to work with regular objects being used as weapons in these fight sequences, but they also do a great deal of work with actual weapons, as well. Production has different versions of knives, for example, so that actors and stunt performers alike can move through all of their motions without fear of injury. Some are rubber and others are just hilts of knives, which then leads visual effects to fill in the blade as needed.
Although Chan notes that his team never stops, he says the actors on “Warrior” have also been extremely excited to work on these sequences with him.
“The good thing about the actors on the show [was that] everybody really trained hard. I couldn’t get them out of my training center,” Chan shares. “I’m like, ‘OK, get out! I gotta do other work now!’ And they just don’t wanna leave. They just wanna sit there and train, train, train.”
Watch the full video above.