Ted Duran is most known for his lead role in the 50 episode TV series “The Legend of Bruce Lee” in which he plays “Blair”, an enemy and later friend of martial arts icon Bruce Lee. The series became the most popular Chinese TV series to date with over 400 million viewers in China alone and followed with similar success internationally. Ted appears in 27 episodes of the series and is also a prominent character in the Feature Film of the same name.
More recently, Ted has just finished shooting future Feature Film The Longest Shot in Shanghai and Melbourne, Australia. He plays the role of “Paul”, a cockney 30’s gangster and bodyguard to a local Shanghai Mafia boss. In 2017 Ted took the role of Gunther Rall, a Nazi Luftwaffe pilot in an upcoming historical drama series By National Geographic slated for a late 2017 release.
Ted, this year, in 2017 we got the chance to finally see “The Legend of Bruce Lee” on Netflix as well. Did you watch any episode already?
To be honest no! I have seen the Chinese version many times and it’s virtually identical. It’s funny because for me the show was really popular back in 2008, during the Olympics in Beijing. The first episode was premiered around the opening ceremony and naturally being about Bruce Lee, there was a lot of hype around the series. Also, Kung fu was a hot topic at the time and Chinese “Wu Shu Bi Sai”, i.e. demonstrative martial arts tournaments, were not accepted into the Olympic sports categories. So to coincide with the Olympics there were thousands of Kung Fu competitions all around the country to coincide with Olympic events. These were less publicised and almost like a modern-day iteration of the Boxers rebellion!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your role as “Blair” in “The Legend of Bruce Lee”?
Sure. Blair is a peer of Bruce Lee’s at their local “International School” in Hong Kong. He is a from rich British colonial family and is an accomplished athlete. He is quite spoilt and a bit of a bully to Bruce and his friends, but on the whole, he has a good moral viewpoint. He is a crucial character in the story as it is he who first motivates Bruce to want to learn to fight. They get into various fights at school, over girls and race issues, and they compete and train together in the local boxing club. By Episode 6 we see a better side of Blair when he finally makes up with Bruce and they become friends, and he teaches Bruce Lee some of his boxing knowledge in preparation for an upcoming tournament. Later in the series, Blair and Bruce are reunited in America.
I just saw Danny Chan’s performance as Bruce Lee in the new film Yip Man 3, Do you think that film has made this Bruce Lee Series more popular?
Absolutely, I guess a huge amount of action movie fans will have now seen how great his impressions of Bruce are in Yip man and will have thought, “Hm, better check out that 50 episode biopic series with Danny playing Bruce”, who wouldn’t! But of course, this question is really only relevant to English speaking countries as elsewhere like in Asian, African and South American nations the series is already very popular and was released 9 years ago! This Netflix series is the first full release of the full series in the US, in English.
What was Danny Like to work with?
He’s a really down to earth, friendly chap. Very easy going, and it was amazing to see how relaxed he can be when under severe stress. Most days of shooting for him were 15 to 18 hour days packed full of scenes with complex fights and long philosophical dialogue. He dealt with it very well, and you could certainly see him evolve into the role as shooting went on. We still keep in touch now and then, last time I saw him was in Hong Kong for some poker, seeing as I’ll be back in Hong Kong very soon perhaps Blair and Bruce will reunite once again!
Did you meet any other famous actors while shooting TV series “The Legend of Bruce Lee”?
Yes, there were a lot of great artists coming and going to be in the series. Mark Dacascos (Double Dragon) and Michael Jai White (Arrow) were around to play cameo roles. Ray Park, who plays Darth Maul in Star Wars was a great help on one day of shooting in which I had to fight Willie Jay, played by Tim Storms who did the brilliant stunts for the then current Spiderman. So, in my scene, I get hospitalized by a sequence of his Jiujitsu takedown and grappling moves. Ray gave me a quick crash course on some Jiujitsu techniques to help me react and stay safe during the choreography, which really helped because this was to be one of the most intense fight scenes I had been involved in yet, and without help perhaps I would have broken a few bones instead of having purple bruises.
We hear you are fluent in Chinese. When did you learn this language, is it difficult?
I learned Chinese during my ten years living in Beijing from 2002 to 2012. I started to learn by just being there, training in a temple in northern China and traveling and working there. But later on, I took on a diploma in Chinese at Tsinghua University. That is when I really gained a grounding in written Chinese and became more interested in the language. There is a saying relevant to learning Gong Fu that also works for the Chinese language: One lifetime is not enough to finish learning! (Direct translation from Mandarin).
You are heading to China again. Why this time?
Firstly for family reasons, I would like my two daughters to learn some Chinese early on, and at their young age now they are so receptive so will pick it up quickly. Secondly, because I miss working in Chinese films and want to continue with things there for a while before my Chinese gets rusty! Also, Hong Kong will be new for me, I have been there a lot but never for longer than two weeks so am looking forward to being based there for a longer period, its such a cool place and a hub for travel in greater Asia. Of course, I will still travel a lot anyway, back to UK, US and elsewhere.