December 22, 2021 Interview – RZA and Alex Tse Talk Wu-Tang: An American Saga
Back in early ’90s New York reclaimed it’s crown as Hip Hop kings with the arrival of Wu-Tang Clan. Culminating not in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, or Manhattan, but on Staten Island, Wu-Tang Clan was a grass roots movement that took over the world.
Nearly three decades since their rise to power Wu-Tang’s story is told in the Hulu original series Wu-Tang: An American Saga. Originally premiering in September of 2019, the second season launched in September of 2021, and now a third season has been given the green light. A dramatic, epic story of perseverance, recently the Abbott of Wu-Tang Clan, RZA, along with series co-creator, Alex Tse, recently sat down to chat about it all.
Cryptic Rock – The story of the Wu-Tang Clan is such a compelling and in-depth one. First off, before it even came to fruition, how long was the development process of Wu-Tang: An American Saga?
RZA – Wow. For me a little longer than Alex because I actually went through a few other writers trying to find the person with the right voice and esthetic to help tell the story. When I met Alex, he was that person. You can take it from there Alex, how long did it take you from the time when we met?
Alex Tse – I think from the time it was figured out, and we actually start pitching it, plus the fact that we were doing other things at the time, it was probably 18 months. That was from when we first met, to working, to pitching.
Cryptic Rock – Sounds like a lot of work went into it. Season 2 premiered in September and the finale aired on October 27th. Overall, the series has been fantastic. Let’s talk about the pace, because there is so much to cover. There are so many characters with stories. What is like creating the pace of this show?
RZA – That’s a great question. We’ve been really conscience of pace. The beautiful thing about film or TV is that you get to play with time. You can accelerate it or slow it down. You can take one day and make it a whole episode, as we did in episode four. Or, you take episode one, where it covers months in reality. Pacing is important and we are very conscience in the writer’s room of how to pace the show. Would you say so Alex?
Alex Tse – Quite frankly, being I was a big part of selling the show, we wanted a good pace. At the time we were coming out there were music biopics in the feature format that had done well. We really had to fight for the pace because we’re not doing a movie, we’re doing television. We want to take our time because there is a story there to do so. Wu stands for Witty Unpredictable, so I think the obvious choice would be, “Alright, let’s just jump into the music.” In some cases that is maybe what some people wanted, but we also wanted to challenge people and tell the scope of the story.
That sometimes comes with risk if you’re not giving people all the obvious things. However, if you’re not risking something, you have to ask yourself what you’re doing. For me, being on the outside, it’s an incredible story. Obviously we went this direction and I think RZA would agree that it would be a disservice to not attempt to try and tell the story in it’s entirety. It makes you appreciate what they accomplished together as a group and what they did musically.
I consider myself a Wu-Tang nerd. When RZA started telling me a little bit about all the other stuff I said, “Oh no, there’s a show here.” I could be the biggest fan of Wu-Tang ever, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is 30-40 hours of television, but once he started telling me a little bit about them I knew there was clearly many, many hours of television here. We have to do it justice. When you talk about pace, we had to fight for that. Thankfully we have great partners which rolled with us on it.