Daniel Cormier and Gina Rodriguez are in talks with filmmaker Gavin O’Connor to play two of the four main characters in the television adaptation of his acclaimed 2011 movie, Warrior. The casting discussions come after the filmmaker agreed to adapt the feature into a 10-episode ongoing series for Lionsgate Television, which has made a deal with Paramount+ to develop it, Deadline is reporting.
O’Connor, who wrote, directed and produced the Oscar-nominated sports drama film, created the television adaptation with Adair Cole. The duo will also serve as showrunners on all 10 episodes of the upcoming series.
O’Connor will also helm, and Cole will also serve as an executive producer, on all 10 initial episodes of the small screen adaptation. After Paramount+ signed on to stream Warrior‘s first season, O’Connor and Cole began penning the treatment and scripts for its episodes.
Cormier, a retired two-time UFC champion, and Rodriguez, the Golden Globe-winning lead actress of The CW’s romantic comedy-drama series, Jane the Virgin, are in talks to join Warrior‘s television adaptation as two of its four main fighters. So O’Connor is now concentrating on casting the final two fighters, as well as the characters that surround them as they chase their dreams.
The upcoming show will be much different from the film its based on. But the two projects will be connective through MMA, and the heart, desperation and pain that drives the fighters to excel in the cage.
The movie starred Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte. The latter was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Paddy Conlon, who trained his two sons in MMA. Hardy and Edgerton played Paddy sons, Tommy and Brendan, respectively, who developed grudges between them because of their strained relationships with their father. So the two brothers decided to settle their differences in the ring.
O’Connor initially said he was content to leave Warrior as a one-off project after Lionsgate released the film in theaters in September 2011. However, he changed his mind after speaking with Cole, an up-and-coming scribe whose last writing credit was the 2018 thriller movie, Lawless Range.
“Over the years, I’d been approached by Lionsgate to do Warrior as a TV series and I honestly was never interested,: O’Connor told Deadline. “Over the pandemic, I was in a different frame of mind and they said, ‘Someone came in with an interesting take, Adair Cole,’ and I listened to it and liked it. There was some really interesting stuff in there.
“I started sketching out characters, expounding what he had and gene splicing things. I called him after the holidays and said, ‘I’m in. I think I want to do this.’ We started figuring out the characters. The thing I said to Adair and Lionsgate, which wasn’t in the pitch, is that this is about the life fight,” the filmmaker, who’s also known for directing and executive producing the 2016 action thriller, The Accountant, continued.
“I didn’t want to make something on fighting in a cage,” O’Connor added. “That wasn’t the movie I made; it’s about a life fight. We will have two women and two men, we’re going to follow them through 10 episodes and hook the audience into their journeys and they’re eventually going to face each other.
“Like in my movie, I tried to challenge the audience: Where are your loyalties? Where do your sympathies lie? Who are you rooting for? If I hook the audience into the stakes of each character’s life outside of the cage, what I call the life fight, then people are going to be invested in the stakes. That’s the heart and soul of the show,” the filmmaker also mentioned.
O’Connor also revealed that the writing process with Cole is going well so far. But they’re also intending on opening a writers room with a few other scribes that will reflect the sensibility of all the characters.
“It’s really ambitious, part family drama, sports saga, definitely social commentary, in each character’s life fight,” O’Connor also divulged. “We’re dealing with mental health, grief, poverty, drugs and gambling. If we get it right, we’ll be celebrating each character’s journey to redemption against astronomical odds they have to overcome, inside the cage and outside it. It’s a big swing, emotionally and physically, but deeply intimate with the characters.”
The filmmaker added that the character that Cormier’s being considered to play is a recent widower who lost his wife to an agonizing bout with cancer. As a result, the character is not only left as a single father, but also with huge debt from all of the medical treatments his wife underwent in a futile effort to save her.
O’Connor added that the character Rodriguez is being considered to play, who’s named Jessica Flores, is married to a Muay Thai fighter, and her father is a very well known boxing referee. So she’s been training as a fighter, after growing up in combat sports.
O’Connor admitted: “I didn’t have the role for [Rodriguez] written when she said, ‘I’m in. Acting and fighting are my two favorite things.’ [The character’s] journey is about self-worth, [as she’s] a girl who doesn’t think she is worthy of anything good happening. To get her hand raised in the ring represents her feeling worthy.”