RZA calls 'American Saga' his most 'exhausting experience,' explains why Wu-Tang Clan has stayed together for 30 years

RZA spills on all things Wu-Tang as the third and final season of group's Hulu series premieres.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 22:  RZA of Wu-Tang Clan performs onstage during the
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RZA has quarterbacked Wu-Tang Clan, hip-hop’s most sprawling ensemble, comprising up 10 members, for three decades now. He has produced the majority of the albums released both by the rap supergroup as a whole and its solo members. He has written books about the history and philosophies of Wu. He has also launched a successful career in Hollywood, scoring, writing, directing and acting in films.

But the man born Robert Diggs says making Wu-Tang: An American Saga, the popular bio-series launching its third and final season on Hulu this week, the most “exhausting” endeavor of his career.

“As an executive producer, a writer, and even a director on some of these episodes, it’s been just years of constant creation, and constant problem solving,” RZA tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview.

“I had a big cast of young people to deal with. [I’m] navigating a studio as well as a network. Those things were unfamiliar to me, you know? And I’m a type of guy that takes everything pretty serious. So I’m sitting there reading 100-page budgets, [trying to figure it all out].”

Premiering in 2019 and co-created by Alex Tse, the first two seasons of An American Saga’s portrayed the rise of Wu from the slums of Shaolin — aka Staten Island, N.Y. — to worldwide fame with the release of 1993’s seminal, genre-altering classic Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

Season 3 finds Bobby (Ashton Sanders) and the Wu crew enjoying the spoils of 36 Chambers’ near-immediate success as they cohabitate in the legendary “Wu Mansion” in the suburbs of New Jersey while various members branch out into solo careers. Meth (Dave East) is on tour for Tical (1994), Raekwon (Shameik Moore) is signing a major deal to complete Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), and GZA (Johnell Xavier Young) is prepping Liquid Swords (1995). Ol’ Dirty Bastard (TJ Atoms), meanwhile, struggles with drugs before recording Return to the 36 Chambers (1995).

RZA is most unexcited to unveil what he calls the “allegorical” installments. After Season 2’s sixth episode “Protect Ya Neck” explored RZA’s production process through a fantastical lens incorporating the group’s heavy kung-fu influence, Season 3 will include three similar episodes.

“Whereas last season, we went through Bobby’s mind, this season we are going into the GZA’s mind, we going into ODB’s mind. [A third will go into Raekwon’s mind.] I think the audience is gonna have a great time taking that journey with us.”

Reflecting on wrapping up the series as an official trilogy, RZA admits he never thought they’d make more than one season. Before that, he was often encouraged to tell Wu’s story through a standalone biopic film.

“I knew that two hours wasn’t enough to tell the Wu-Tang story,” he says. There was a bigger hurdle: they weren’t even sure they could get a Wu-themed project greenlit.

“Before Straight Outta Compton, there wasn't enough evidence that audience[s] in the world was accepting hip-hop biopics or [ready to celebrate] hip-hop heroes,” he says of the 2015 Oscar-nominated NWA movie. “And I think Straight Outta Compton showed that the audience is ready for it.”

One season quickly led to two, and a second to the third. “Well, you know, Wu-Tang, one of our slogans is ‘The Saga Continues,’” RZA laughs. “I can say this to you proudly, and you’ve known me long enough [to] know that my ego is not in the front of what I say, but I’d [pitch] Wu-Tang as like a Marvel universe. … And to me, the series was thhe best way into that universe.”

It’s a series that probably could go seven or eight, more, too, given the perseverance of Wu-Tang Clan.

As its members branch out and find success as solo artists in Season 3’s mid-’90s, it’s a striking reminder how Wu-Tang Clan has endured as a unified unit over three decades. In fact, the collective just toured with Nas this past summer, though Method Man was absent due to an acting gig. Their unity and staying power is an unparalleled feat in the rap game, all the more impressive considering Wu has a whopping nine members. (RZA’s cousin Ol’ Dirty Bastard, né Russell Jones, died in 2004.)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 01: (L-R) Raekwon, Cappadonna, Inspectah Deck, RZA, and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan perform during the
Raekwon, Cappadonna, Inspectah Deck, RZA and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan perform at Oakland Arena on Oct. 1, 2022. (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Another one of the group's slogans is “Wu-Tang Forever,” also the name of their sophomore double LP that excited the world in 1997.

“I think there's a common denominator with us, which is the root of where we all come from,” RZA says. “We know where we come from, and we know that no matter how much success or growth we get individually, Wu-Tang is that foundation. We grew up in a generation where your word was your bond, you know? [And we made] a promise that, if the W back goes up, [we come back together].”

RZA says the group’s popular “W” hand signal also represents a phoenix.

“That’s the inspiration for something that will always rise back up from the ashes. Even when the point came where a lot of the members had grown into their own success and got their own managers and wanted releases from the Wu-Tang Productions so they could start their production companies and they could build their lives and their dreams, I gave that to them, right? And it was only one condition, and the condition wasn’t a new condition. It was the same thing we said in the beginning: ‘Yo, when that Wu sign goes up, everybody’s gotta come back to the table, man. ’Cause it’s bigger than us.’ And I think everybody has kept their word with that.”

Wu-Tang: An American Saga’s third and final season is now streaming on Hulu.

Watch the trailer: