CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM|
"Blood of the Samurai" executive producer Aaron Yamasato gets ready to roll cameras with cast members, from left, Egan Inoue, Alicia Michioka Jones, Bryan Yamasaki, Stephanie Sanchez, Michael Ng and Colleen Fujioka.
continues on TV
A LITTLE MORE than two years after first slashing their way onto the big screen as spiritually possessed samurai warriors, local actors Bryan Yamasaki and Michael Ng reprise their roles as Trent and Rob in "Blood of the Samurai: The Series," premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday on Oceanic Time Warner Cable's channel 16.
Directed by 33-year-old Kauai resident Aaron Yamasato, the television series is a sequel to the campy, low-budget feature film that shares the same name. Following the movie's success on the festival circuit (it won awards at the 2001 Hawaii International Film Festival, 2002's B-Movie Theater Film Festival in New York and the 2002 Telly Awards) and a run at the former Art House at Restaurant Row, Yamasato knew it was only a matter of time before Yamasaki and Ng got back in front of the camera.
"Blood of the Samurai: The Series": Premieres 9 p.m. Sunday on Oceanic Channel 16; episodes will be aired at the same time every Sunday, repeating at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10 p.m. Fridays
"But I never thought about doing it as a television series," he said. "At first I thought we were just going to do a sequel. ... Basically, it's a movie, but we chopped it up into six pieces."
ACCORDING TO Yamasato, his original plan after the buzz surrounding "Blood of the Samurai" began to die down involved Japanese actor Ban Daisuke and a revival of the popular '70s television series "Kikaida." But his inability to obtain the proper clearances from the show's creators kept the project from getting its legs.
Encouraged by support he received from KIKU-TV management and members of the local film community, the director decided to refocus his efforts and began to develop a new script built around characters from his movie. Joining him in the process were friends Anderson Le, HIFF film programmer, and Honolulu lawyer Ian Hirokawa.
"We'd go meet at my house in Moanalua ... with our notes, taking down ideas," said Yamasato. All three are longtime fans of the kung fu genre, but they soon realized there were differences in how over-the-top they wanted to go with the series. It would be important to make references to the movies and directors that influenced them while growing up, but they knew going too far would end up alienating mainstream viewers.
"We wanted people to get it," Yamasato said.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM|
The cast of "Blood of the Samurai," from left, includes Egan Inoue, Alicia Michioka Jones, Bryan Yamasaki, Stephanie Sanchez, Michael Ng and Colleen Fujioka.
AFTER HAMMERING out a plot line, the three then set their sights on assembling their cast. Along with Yamasaki and Ng, Colleen Fujioka and Stephanie Sanchez agreed to return as the girlfriends of the two main characters. Miss Hawaii 2003 Alicia Michioka and ultimate fighter Egan Inoue were cast as Yuki the female ninja and Shinzo the evil gangster, respectively.
And while Yamasato was unable to resurrect "Kikaida" for another run on Hawaii television, he did convince Ban Daisuke to participate as the two main characters' mentor in "Blood of the Samurai: The Series." Producers also enlisted the help of Hawaii Stunt Connection to participate as members of the Syndicate, an elite underground criminal organization that does battle with the main characters throughout the show's first season.
"This time, they have the swords and they have a new mentor," he said of Trent and Rob. "Basically, they're kind of like vigilantes, the whole 'Spider-Man,' 'Batman' thing.
"In the daytime they're like local guys, they have girlfriends and stuff, but at night they go out and fight crime," said Yamasato.
A SNEAK PEEK at the series' first two episodes quickly shows that production values have improved since the original movie was made for just $2,000. Although Yamasato was hesitant to reveal the exact amount spent on producing the six-episode run that filmed in July and August of last year, more elaborate fight scenes and the use of a professional-quality mini-DV video camera are two of the more obvious changes that casual viewers will notice.
"This isn't a step up from the movie; it's like a leap," Yamasato said of the difference between the two productions. If the television show is embraced by audiences, expect to see more of the next-generation samurai on Oceanic Time Warner's small screen, but don't count out a return to movie theaters, either.
"I just love action movies and martial arts stuff," the admitted kung fu "fanboy" said.
"To bring Hollywood to Hawaii -- that's the dream."
Click for online
calendars and events.