CW’s ‘woke’ KUNG FU adds Vanessa Yao, Annie Q and JB Tadena

The CW has new cast members for Season 2 of Kung Fu, their reimagining of the classic series, now adding Vanessa Yao, Annie Q. and JB Tadena in recurring roles.

Deadline reported the casting news as the three actors join Nicky (Olivia Liang), the female lead and her love interest, Henry (Eddie Liu).

Annie Q. (HBO’s The Leftovers, Netflix comedy-drama Alex Strangelove) is Juliette Tan, the clever and conniving daughter of powerful business mogul, Russell Tan.

Deadline notes that Juliette is a “Cultured, precocious, and already well-seasoned in the world of business, Juliette offers Russell her steadfast support, eager to prove she’s ready to succeed him at the helm of the Tan empire. But as her father’s plans get darker and more supernatural, Juliette will have to decide just how far she’s willing to go to seize the brass ring and ascend to her father’s throne.”

Tadena (Westworld, NCIS, SEAL Team) plays Sebastian, Harmony Dumplings’ talented and charming new chef, eager to show the Shens what he’s got, Sebastian will immediately turn the newly single Ryan’s head

Following the events of season 1, Nicky (Olivia Liang) and the Shens face the reemergence of Russell Tan, and the surprise appearance of Nicky’s cousin, Mia (Yao). Nicky and Henry grow in they love, now known by the family. Yao’s Mia, Nicky’s enigmatic cousin, is  the daughter of Nicky’s deceased aunt Mei-Xue. Raised in extreme isolation with her mother, Mia ran away from home and has been living on her own for years. Mia will cross dramatically with Nicky in the season premiere.

Mia is strong, the daughter of a Guardian and a Warrior, and ultimately a key element in Tan’s villainous plan.

Kung Fu also stars Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Jon Prasida, Shannon Dang, Gavin Stenhouse, Vanessa Kai, Tony Chung and Yvonne Chapman.

Christina M. Kim wrote the pilot episode and serves as executive producer/co-showrunner with Robert Berens. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Martin Gero and David Madden also serve as executive producers. Hanelle Culpepper directed and co-executive produced the pilot episode. Kung Fu is produced by Berlanti Productions and Quinn’s House in association with Warner Bros. Television and is inspired by the original series created by Ed Spielman.

NOTE: I didn’t finish season 1 of KUNG FU, never connecting with the show, the characters or even the premise. Opening the pilot with an anthem of “I am a warrior” immediately created a different feel than the original, classic David Carradine show, which presented a philosopher, a martial artist and a mentor.

The CW focuses on the woke tropes of the modern day (sexist, patriarchy, oppressive parents) with little to no efforts in messaging of the original show. Gay characters, strong female stereotypes and representation seem to matter more than interesting storytelling. Olivia Liang and decent fight scenes can’t keep my interest to endure continued viewership. — Brandon Jones, “POPS”


  1. to Brandon Jones:
    Thank you so much, and a thank you to your editor(s) for writing, and allowing to be published, respectively, the last two paragraphs of your KUNG FU season 2 review.
    As the only surviving member of the cast of the original KUNG FU series, your point of view is refreshing, and IMHO spot on!
    Despite the new series exploiting the “woke point of view” in most of their marketing, the fact is that the original series was far superior conceptually AND in it’s impact. Myself and David Carradine were cast in the role of Kwai Chang Caine because the character 1) was half American/half Chinese as written to begin with, and 2) the ABC network executives knew that at the time, casting a full Asian-American in the lead role would have been too risky…Those were the times.

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