The Asian and Asian American cast of ‘Marco Polo’ will be missed.
By Ed Diokno
The bad news is that the grand, epic Marco Polo teleseries has been cancelled after two seasons. The good news is that a whole host of AAPI actors are now free to sign up for new projects.
Netflix opted to cancel the third season of the historical drama about the intrigue and sex surrounding the 13th century court of Mongol conquerer Kublai Khan.
“We want to thank and are grateful to our partners on Marco Polo from the actors, whose performances were enthralling and top-notch; to the committed producers, including John Fusco, Dan Minahan, Patrick Macmanus, and their crew, who poured their hearts into the series; and of course Harvey (Weinstein), David (Glasser) and our friends at TWC, who were great collaborators from start to finish,” Netflix Vice President of Original Content Cindy Holland said Monday in a statement.
A couple of months ago, showrunner John Fusco said the cast was ready and committed to continue into the third season, which would center around the death of the great Khan.
Executive producer Fusco and TWC’s Harvey Weinstein are working on an idea “in a similar space,” which raised speculation that they might move to another network. Fusco and his team are presumed to be discussing the issue with HBO’s Richard Plepler, AMC’s Josh Sapan, A+E’s Nancy Dubuc and NBC Universal’s Bonnie Hammer.
Weinstein Co. co-chairman Weinstein, who with Fusco hinted they would soon be reteaming for another similarly themed drama in the works, added: “Netflix has been incredible to give us the room to make a series with a cast true to every principle of diversity. It’s a bold network that allows you to do that and support us in the way that Netflix did. As many people know, Asian history and the world of martial arts have fascinated me for all of my career — I’ve made many movies around these topics and this genre, and now this TV show I’m so proud of. John has been a great partner and we’re both fascinated to continue exploring this exciting period in history on future projects together.”
Marco Polo was a unique product and there might not ever be another TV series like it again with its huge Asian and Asian American cast with a storyline where the lone White actor is not the focus of most of the plot lines. The show introduced U.S. audiences to a plethora of AAPI talent, including the wonderful Benedict Wong, who played Kublai Khan, Zhu Zhu, Olivia Cheng, Claudia Kim, Tom Wu, veterans Joan Chen, Rick Yune and Michelle Yeoh and a whole slew of other actors proving (once and for all) that there is no lack of AAPI talent if producers and casting agents bother to look.
Marco Polo had some serious flaws, but the show deserves a place in AAPI entertainment history for showing – all in one show – a wide range of Asians (Mongols, Indians, Chinese, Korean, Muslim, Christian, men, women, schemers, warriors, lovers).
In a rare opportunity, non-Asian audiences were able to see a wide range of Asian characters with complex backgrounds and personalities demonstrating that if U.S. audiences were given the chance to see Asian characters as imperfect individuals, fear and cheer them as individuals – instead of seeing them as one huge amorphous, anonymous “other.”
Set in China, Marco Polo showed American audiences that the history of the world did not center around Europe. While most of Europe was emerging from the Dark Ages, advanced and complex civilizations were thriving in Asia.