Dianne Doan, Langley Kirkwood, and Joe Taslim discuss Warrior

Warrior is on Netflix on Friday, Feb. 16. In this exclusive interview, Dianne Doan, Langley Kirkwood, and Joe Taslim talk about their characters and storylines.
Warrior Season 2 -- Photograph by Graham Bartholomew/Cinemax
Warrior Season 2 -- Photograph by Graham Bartholomew/Cinemax /

With Warrior hitting Netflix in an attempt to save the series, I sat down with stars Dianne Doan, Langley Kirkwood, and Joe Taslim to discuss their characters.

This is not a series to miss. Every single character has flaws and also likable traits. That even includes Kirkwood’s Buckley. It just may not seem like it at first.

Doan plays Mai Ling, who becomes the head of one of the tongs in Chinatown. Joe Taslim is Li Young, who loves Mai Ling but it doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be. Then there’s Walter Buckley, the puppeteer behind all the strings, played by Langley Kirkwood.

The survivalist nature of Mai Ling in Warrior

I started off talking to Doan about Mai Ling, who is a survivor. It turns out that’s how Doan felt playing the character.

"“I felt that throughout playing Mai Ling. Throughout all three seasons, it was so comparable personal feeling vs. character. Like in Season 1, it was just about surviving and I felt like coming on I was terrified…and throughout the season, especially in Season 3, I started getting more comfortable with everyone…and with Mai Ling, you feel her settling into her roots.”"

Dianne Doan

There is a selfish streak to Mai Ling, but that comes from her need to survive. Doan discussed more about how that affected the way she thinks and acts in life.

"“It’s really about just not going back to where she came from, which was nothing. With that in mind, there was only one goal, which was take, take, take, take, take.”"

Dianne Doan

The love story of Mai Ling and Li Young

There is the love story between Mai Ling and Li Young in Warrior. It’s not an easy love story, and at times, it looks like they should really call it a day and move on. Taslim talked more about that, sharing where that all started and the foundation of Li Young’s character.

"“We’re always in love. It’s a complex world to love someone with the situation that’s going on around us. I think for Li Young, love is the foundation of his character. Our showrunner Jonathan Tropper told me…I asked him what his foundation is, and he said, ‘you a man of love. You are a warrior…you will fight for love, and you will die for love as well.”"

Joe Taslim

It just wasn’t meant to be for the two of them. Despite being in love, Li Young had to do the right thing for the tong and for other people. Sometimes, Mai Ling got it wrong, and Li Young had to accept that and act on it.

"“I think Mai Ling’s character is trying to save the tong in a very bold way, and he’s, as a husman being, thinks that this is not the way.”"

Joe Taslim

As much as we would love a love like that, Doan said it great for Mei Ling and Li Young.

"“It’s just like a toxic relationship.”"

Dianne Doan

Langley Kirkwood talks about Buckley as a puppet master

Walter Buckley is one of those characters who is difficult to like. However, Jonathan Tropper does believe that all characters are the main characters in their own stories. They have to believe what they're doing is the right thing. So, how should we look at Buckley to see if there's anything to empathize with?

"“Buckley’s very similar to Mai Ling…if you think of them as people they are people who have had to come very far to a new place and completely reinvent themselves. They are both people who are constantly underrated and underestimated by others…If you start from that place, maybe you’ll find a small shred of empathy for the guy.”"

Langley Kirkwood

What was it like to bring Buckley to the screen throughout the three seasons? After all, we saw so much change for him.

"“It’s kudos to our amazing writers to make it easy and such a joy to explore and play with. I think he certainly found he was much more in his comfort zone hiding…because he’s got this huge secret he’s trying to keep hidden…It really does take a big leap of courage, a big lep of faith to step into this leadership role knowing full well he’d going to have to step into the spotlight of public scrutiny.”"

Langley Kirkwood

Something that does make Buckley an interesting character is seeing him realize that what he thought was easy really wasn’t. He put himself in a position that he believed others weak only to realize that they did have to do a lot that he wasn’t comfortable with.

"“I think going from the puppet master to pulling the strings to being out there was a big learning curve for him, and he’s still figuring it out. He had underestimated Blake in a way, and underestimated what it is to be a true leader.” "

Langley Kirkwood

The worst and best traits of their characters in Warrior

One thing you’ll find with Warrior is that each character has good and bad traits. There’s no real villain to the story. The three shared their character’s best and worst traits.

Doan: If you’re chosen family, she will protect you at all costs. But her worst trait is this insecurity she has of losing everything.

Taslim: Best trait is he’s a man with a lot of love. The worst trait is he’s trying to take control in a very sus way. (That feels like such a Gen Z thing to say!)

Kirkwood: Buckley’s resilient and he’s methodical. The guy has deep emotional wounds around his worthiness.

Take a look at the full interview with the trio for Warrior:

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Warrior is available on Netflix on Friday, Feb. 16. All three seasons are already on Max.