When Wu-Tang: An American Saga premiered on Hulu in 2019, it broke new ground in hip-hop storytelling.
The 10-episode biopic series, which tells the true storey of the Wu-Tang Clan and their rise to fame in the 1990s, is becoming a TV staple as a new generation of stars emerges to reintroduce the iconic hip-hop group to the masses. In its first season, the show provides more backstory on how the crew members met, all while transporting viewers to the streets of Staten Island as seen through RZA’s lens (played by Ashton Sanders). The show is finally delving into the group’s efforts to successfully break into the music industry with their extraordinary sound for season two.For many of the cast members, including Sanders, Shameik Moore (Raekwon), Siddiq Saunderson (Ghostface Killah), Dave East (Method Man), Julian Elijah Martinez (Divine), Marcus Callender (Power), TJ Atoms (Ol’ Dirty Bastard aka ODB), Johnell Young (GZA), Damani D.
Sease (U-God), Uyoata Udi (Inspect Atoms, who initially auditioned for Moore’s role as Raekwon, was cast as ODB on the Hulu series after going on a slew of auditions as a newcomer to the acting world.
The aspiring actor, who is from North Philadelphia, used music as his springboard to a role on Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and the way he got his big break turned out to be a full-circle moment for him. “I started making music first, and it was my first passion,” he explained to POPSUGAR. “I was making music, [and] I used to rap over Wu-Tang beats, so I definitely manifested the opportunity because I was channelling Wu-Tang energy since I was a teenager.” Atoms, unlike his co-stars, didn’t have the benefit of connecting with his real-life counterpart since ODB died in 2004, so to prepare for his role, he did his research on the late rapper and spoke with his family to get their approval. “I simply did a lot of research,” he explained. “A lot of mental and spiritual preparation is required. I talked to his family and everyone else I could find, asking for their blessing, and then I just watched everything I could find on [him].” While he couldn’t share that in-person connection with ODB, Atoms found his castmates to be excellent resources.
“I learned a lot about character skills from my cast members because they went to college and studied acting their entire lives,” he said. “Because I never had any formal training, I picked up a lot of character-development skills from them.” Atoms is grateful to be a part of a project that is making such a powerful contribution to hip-hop at the age of 26 and in a role as large as ODB. “It’s incredible to be a part of something so significant to the culture,” he said. “The Wu-Tang Clan is very important in the culture, so I’m very grateful to be one of those chosen children. I feel like one in a million kids wished for the opportunity, but I just got so lucky, manifested it, and it came true.” Fans of the Hulu series are adoring the new-age Wu-Tang Clan. The way the show has evolved over the last two seasons has allowed viewers to see these characters truly develop into their personas, and for season two, Atoms made sure he kept everything about his character intact for those who fell in love with his portrayal of ODB. “Fans [are] loving the character, so I didn’t want to change too much,” he said of returning for season two.
“Because it was my first time speaking with grills, I probably enunciated a few more words so you could hear me, but I didn’t want to change my method. Because season one went so well, I didn’t want to change anything about it. My biggest fear was that if I changed something, it would f*ck everything up, so I tried to keep things as consistent as possible.” Wu-Tang: An American Saga’s drama adds an enticing layer to the plot while still allowing the show to sprinkle in a few real-life moments for fans to recognise. “A shout-out to the writers, a shout-out to the producers, and a shout-out to the entire team,” Atoms said. “This requires a large group of people.
This is a watershed moment in hip-hop history and culture as a whole.” And those classic moments are certain to continue in what we hope will be the show’s third season. Though Atoms isn’t certain of everything we can expect to see next season (if and when it’s confirmed), he has high hopes that the series will depict the Wu-Tang Clan’s next phase as they became household names.”For the storey, you’ll see what happens when the different members get signed to different labels,” Atoms said, revealing his predictions for a possible third season. “And we’ll see what happens when they actually start doing the Wu-Tang thing. We’ll most likely go to see tours and shows. RZA was in charge of everything, so there were bound to be a lot of performances and drama.
Everyone disagreed with RZA’s decisions. I’m not sure if everyone was dissatisfied, but I know some people were probably dissatisfied with RZA making decisions on their behalf, so we’ll see a lot of this and a lot of that.”Wu-Tang: An American Saga is now available to watch on Hulu. Season two’s final episode airs on Wednesday, October 27.
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