It’s official: an adaptation of Marc Olden’s 1970’s series of Black Samurai novels is getting the TV series treatment.
Producer Andre Gaines (one of producers on Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus) says the series will star Common as the black samurai of the title and former soldier Robert Sand.
Gaines is quick to compare Sand’s character with that of super spy Jason Bourne, extolling the virtues of Marc Olden’s 1974 novel of the same name to Variety. Gaines went on to hint that the series, like the book itself, will tackle issues of race and diversity in the modern era.
The series has been a long time coming for Common. Though he rose to fame as a rapper, Common has been bouncing around in the background of some of the best films of the last decade. Not to mention, an adaptation of a 1970’s-set book starring Common kind of just writes itself, right?
Just in case the producers need a hand filling in the lines, here are five things we hope to see in the upcoming iteration of Marc Olden’s Black Samurai, which at this point doesn’t have a network / is being shopped around.
5. Forget the Movie Ever Happened
By 1977, Olden’s series of Black Samurai novels had gotten so popular that a film adaptation was made with Enter the Dragon star Jim Kelly in the title role. Okay, yes, that does sound like the coolest fucking movie ever made, but trust IMDb: Its missable. The film’s trailer, however, is a modern masterpiece of camp.
At any rate, Common’s new adaptation would do well to forego the whole suave James Bond thing and lean more towards a realistic, slightly grim approach. Sounds like they are going to do that given the Bourne comparison.
4. Okay, Grim But Not Too Grim
On the level, the original book series isn’t exactly what you’d call high art. Olden could spin a story, to be sure, but his prose is a little on the purple side (only action-y). Just check out this section from the opening of the book:
“Silently, the lean Dobermans glided toward the three houses, moving across the grass like quiet black shadows, their shiny black coats reflecting handfuls of yellow moon-light. With their small heads and open mouths, jagged teeth wet with spit, the dogs looked like four-legged reptiles, vicious giant lizards slithering closer for the kill.”
Also, one of the bad guys is named Leo Tolstoy. The book is a lot of fun, but it’s also super-campy. Here’s hoping that Common’s Black Samurai is able to find that sweet spot between satire, like the first half of Black Dynamite, and full-tilt weirdness, like the last 15 minutes of Black Dynamite.
3. Keep the Origin Story
So, the first book kicks off an epic eight-book series in which Robert Sand basically spends his time saving the world from one Bond-level villain after another. Sand’s initial motivation, though, was more intimate.
While he’s on leave in Tokyo, Sand is beaten up by white soldiers while defending an old Japanese man who turns out to be a samurai (if only Mako were still around). The old man, Master Konuma, trains Sand in the deadly arts for seven years. Then, one night the master and his students are murdered while they sleep, an act that puts Sand on a mission of vengeance — carrying only his sword on his back.
Why would you want to change that?
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Go Big
While those extremely personal motivations are important early on, the novel’s protagonist is still a man who — at his core — is driven by a very defined sense of justice. When he initially meets Konuma, Sand is leaping to his defense, hoping to protect an apparently frail man from seemingly insurmountable odds. The fact that Konuma goes Mr. Miyagi all over his attackers is of little consequence. What’s important is that Sand is the kind of man who will happily put himself to the hazard to do what’s right.
Throughout the book series, this means heading off villains with nefarious intent, unstoppable terrorists, and someone called the King of Pimps. And every one of those dudes has an army of assassins working for them. These are world-class assholes with schemes that operate on an international level, and the series would be wise not to forget that.
1. Make Good Use of Common
Common has learned a lot about acting in the decade since he broke out in Joe Carnahan’s Smokin Aces. He may have come up the ranks doing small turns in action flicks like Wanted and the upcoming Suicide Squad, but as an actor, Common has always jumped at the chance to stretch himself dramatically. For proof of that, just check out his performance in 2014’s incredible MLK biopic Selma.
Common has range. It’d be a mistake to allow him to rest on some sort of stoic tough guy demeanor.