Common will star in the leading role in Starz's Black Samurai reboot. The upcoming TV series is based on the Marc Olden's eight-book novel series of the same name, first released in 1974 and continued through 1975. They centered on American soldier Robert Sand on leave in Tokyo, who learns martial arts by training under the tutelage of Master Konuma over the course of seven years. In the end, he becomes the first black man to take the oath of the samurai - and that's what kick starts his adventures as Black Samurai.
The first novel, titled Black Samurai, was adapted into a blaxploitation film in 1977, directed by Al Adamson and starring Jim Kelly in the leading role. It followed Sand, then an agent of D.R.A.G.O.N. (Defense Reserve Agency Guardian Of Nations), who was tasked with finding the Chinese Ambassador's kidnapped daughter, Toki. The movie wasn't enormously successful, but Starz believes that it's exactly the type of property that they need to add to their lineup.
THR reports that the premium cable network will be adapting Olden's Black Samurai novel series into a TV series, with Common portraying the lead character, Robert Sand. The series will follow Sand, an Army Ranger, who trains to become a samurai. "After his beloved sensei and samurai brothers are killed by mercenaries, Sand is thrust on a worldwide journey of both revenge and self-discovery." Starz's president of programming Carmi Zlotnick said:
"We cannot wait for the world to meet Robert Sand — part Jason Bourne, part James Bond, and 100 percent the hero we need today. Black Samurai promises to be an action-packed ride and with the Bruckheimer team, Common, RZA and Andre at the helm, we can feel certain this will be exceptional storytelling."
In addition to playing the lead character, Common will also executive produce the series alongside Jerry Bruckheimer and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, who recently directed an episode of Netflix's Iron Fist. Common and RZA expressed their excitement for introducing the character to modern audiences, especially since it's "a unique and special project that offers something rarely seen in art and culture today," according to Common.
The '70s were filled with blaxploitation films, especially in the action/martial arts genres, but they have since faded away in recent years. It's certainly an interesting choice adapting the entire novel series into a TV series on Starz, but considering that there are eight books available, it's possible that, if successful, the series could last for quite some time, perhaps adapting one book per season.
At this time, it's unknown when the Black Samurai TV series will premiere.