Bobby Diggs, aka RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, used a curious analogy when speaking with TheWrap about Hulu’s upcoming scripted series tracking the rise of the legendary rap group: He said it was like “making sweet potato pie.”
RZA was describing both his and co-creator Alex Tse’s feelings towards seeking involvement from members from the real Wu-Tang Clan. We’ll let him explain it from here.
“We know that we’re making sweet potato pie, and we know that it takes ingredients. And we know that this guy does got some good nutmeg, and this guy got some good butter. But we know where to get nutmeg and butter from too. And we’re making this pie. Some members will be in town and they’ll say ‘Oh we’re going to come by the writers’ room.’ And maybe they don’t come in time. Some members, they’re right there.”
RZA is a co-creator on the series, with fellow Wu-Tang member Method Man also heavily involved. Wu-Tang Clan group members Ghostface Killa, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa and GZA serve as consulting producers, along with the estate of Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
“We included the guys as much as we could,” RZA continued. “Some guys, like Method Man, had a total voice on who was going to play him.” He said that many of the real-life counterparts spent time with the actors that played them. Some of the original members like Ghostface Killa and Raekwon wrote lyrics for their characters. “If you look at this whole ball of it, it’s a lot of Wu infusion.”
RZA said that, for his own character, who is played by “Moonlight” star Ashton Sanders, he knew the exact moment he wanted to cast him.
“Ashton’s eyes got me. I overlooked Ashton,” he explained. “I was on a plane and guess what? ‘Equalizer 2’ was there [Sanders co-starred in the movie]. And I’d seen it before but I didn’t ‘see’ it. And this time I saw it and saw him. That’s the kind of guy, and that’s the kind of eyes, that Bobby has and needs.”
The series is set in early ’90s New York City at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic. The show tracks the Wu-Tang’s formation as Diggs (Sanders) strives to unite a dozen young, black men who are torn between music and crime. They eventually rise to become the unlikeliest of American success stories. Along with Sanders, the series stars Shameik Moore, Dave East, Siddiq Saunderson, Marcus Callender, Julian Elijah Martinez, Zolee Griggs, Erika Alexander, TJ Atoms and Johnell Young.
The series is partially based on the books “Wu-Tang Manual” and its follow-up, “Tao of Wu,” which touches on RZA’s path towards enlightenment and his philosophical leanings. RZA said it was important to get that aspect into the series, including how he was inspired by “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” — which Wu-Tang paid tribute with the title of their debut studio album, “36 Chambers.”
“We were very conscious that philosophy and spirituality is part of the Wu element. And so we actually put it in the way that it was in reality,” RZA said. “Whether he discovers it in the comic book, whether he discovers it from the street, guys talking in the streets. Whether he discovers it in the church, or discovered from watching the Kung-Fu movie.”
Wu-Tang: An American Saga debuts on Sept. 4 on Hulu