The action-packed drama series Warrior will return for its ten-episode second season this Friday, and fans couldn’t be happier.
Based on the writings of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, Warrior is a thrilling, intense crime drama set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the late 19th century. One incredible thing about the show is what a powerhouse female cast it has, and just how powerful their characters are. Dianne Doan’s performance as Mai Ling is absolutely no exception. Mai Ling is reflecting on her new position of power as the wife of Long Zii, head of the Long Zii Tong. We sat down for an exclusive interview with Dianne to discuss all things season two. Check it out below!
The Knockturnal: In your own words, how wild you describe Mai Ling’s development going into Season 2?
Dianne Doan: I think that in season two we see a lot of her dealing with her past decisions and actions, there’s a lot of guilt associated with her relationship with Ah Sahm and how that may or may not be mendable, further into season two we see that she’s now in that position of power and we’ll see her make decisions to almost maintain or if not take on more power. And as an audience you start to question, is she going to far? And I even ask that, playing her. It’s that need to feel safe in her eyes, which is power.
The Knockturnal: What influences your performance as Mai Ling?
Dianne Doan: Oh, thats a great question. You know, I did a lot of research about that era, and I have parents who are immigrants so I know what they had to go through to make way for themselves. So coming off of the stories, I watched a lot of documentaries on Chinatown and the Chinese workers and laborers, there was a lot. And also as much as I can prepare for it myself, a big factor going into it is how I can perform with my cast members and on the day, what that looks like between the two of us together.
The Knockturnal: As we see Mai Ling step into a leadership role as the head of the Long Zii Tong, how would you describe her as a leader?
Dianne Doan: She is questioning her power. Being the leader, I personally think is much more than she bargained for. There’s a lot of times this season where her leadership and her power are questioned, by some people in her circle to the people that she’s working with. I think that it’s a lot of trial and error for her and I’ve seen that as it happened, with her decisions.
The Knockturnal: Do you have a favorite scene in season two? What are you most excited for viewers to see?
Dianne Doan: Yeah, being in a show with this large of a cast, a lot of the times I personally don’t get to have scenes with a lot of them. So I feel like in this season, without giving it away, there’s one person in particular that I haven’t met on screen yet, and that dynamic when we first meet, it’s a fun scene to shoot. So I feel like the exploration of Chinatown, now that she’s in power and kind of out of that shadow, we get to see Mai Ling kind of out of her shell and in Chinatown more.
The Knockturnal: How much of Mai Ling’s leadership and personal path stem from her personal experience, or as a response to how the Chinese immigrants are treated in the United States? Do they both build on each other?
Dianne Doan: Yes, I mean, her journey as a woman, getting to San Francisco, that says a lot about her traumas and her experiences, that says a lot about how that makes her power and her actions so important to her. There’s a reason why she can become someone so powerful, and she strategically married the leader of Ah Tong and then became the leader of Ah tong, that had a lot to do with her past experiences. In terms of how people are treating her, I feel like she does fight for, as much as she fights for the power of Ah Tong, there’s scenes in season two there’s scenes where you really get to see her as a human, her as a woman, her caring for others.
The Knockturnal: What are your favorite moments from season two? Do you have any little stand alone moments that are important to you, or that you just loved to film?
Dianne Doan: We get to see Mai Ling interact with other women, which we haven’t seen yet, I think that’s really important. There’s a scene between Mai Ling and Ah Toy when we meet for the first time, and that kind of power struggles to build that relationship. There’s a fun scene between Koji and I at the end of the season where a bomb kind of drops. So yeah, there’s a lot of memorable moments in this season, and we get to meet a lot of different characters and we get to see what they bring into our dynamic, so season two is really fun.
The Knockturnal: What’s your favorite part of playing Mai Ling?
Dianne Doan: Oh, I’ve got to say, I’ve never gotten the opportunity to play a character quite like her. Who is in such a position of power and is the decision-maker over her people. I feel like with that and a lot of turmoil, her emotional vulnerability and what she’s dealing with emotionally, with her family and with herself as a woman, I love playing Mai Ling, she’s a very complex character, there’s a lot of layers there that hopefully can be seen through the scenes, through the show, but yeah, I’ve never gotten the opportunity to play a character with so much to her.
The Knockturnal: The previous season saw Mai Ling basically approve her brother, Ah Sahm’s, death in combat, where do we see the two’s relationship going into season 2?
Dianne Doan: Yes, so in season one with him coming to save her, and then it ending the way it did with me kind of coming off with it being okay that he died, that burned that bridge and that really kind of ruined that relationship, and I think in season two, the fact that he did survive, there is that guilt with Mai Ling that she has ruined that relationship, so I feel like a lot of season two would be her kind of reaching out and making amends and getting my brother back. But for him, that relationship is done.
The Knockturnal: What do you think that viewers can learn from the struggles that Mai Ling faces? What do you want them to take away from her as a character?
Dianne Doan: As much conflict and pain as she goes through, I feel like a redeeming factor and a redeeming quality that she has is that she cares so deeply about her brother the people around her, that she doesn’t quite even know the damage she can cause. This season alone really dives into the Chinese immigrant experience, there’s one storyline in particular that sheds light on, really what’s happening right now in the state. And I think that’s something that’s so harrowing, we look at it in the past and we see how mirroring, how parallel the two worlds are that this is taking place in 1882, and now in 2020 the same things are happening. And how, you know, as humans we don’t realize it at all. It’s just almost like a broken record being played over and over again.
The Knockturnal: The show features a number of female characters trying to hold onto positions of power in traditionally masculine roles, especially for the time period, can you discuss how Mai Ling distinguishes herself from characters like Penelope, Ah Toy, or Vega?
Dianne Doan: Yes, I mean to distinguish again but also very similar to, we are all women. Weather you’re Penelope, Ah Toy, or now Vega, we’re all heads of different industries. You know, mine is crime, and drugs if you will, Ah Toy’s is sex, and I feel like that is the common thread of us women, and of the women characters, is that we’re all leaders. Which, in a lot of shows, especially for Asian actresses to play, we don’t necessarily get to be those figures, you know? A lot of the time we’re supportive roles. I think that’s what’s beautiful about how strong our characters are, and about Warrior.
Season two of “Warrior” will premiere on October 2nd, exclusively on Cinemax!