BEVERLY HILLS – There's a reason Hulu's new biopic series about the Wu-Tang Clan is subtitled "An American Saga."
"It’s an American story," executive producer and Wu member RZA told the Television Critics Association Friday. "Everyone is trying to grow out of the mud."
The new series, due Sept. 4 on the streaming service, goes back to the New York City of the early 1990s to track the legendary hip hop group's formation amid a background of drugs and crime. Although the story of Wu – which originally included RZA, GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa – has been told in several books (including one by RZA) and a recent documentary on Showtime, RZA says the new series goes deeper.
"This show touches on things we were maybe shy to say in front of the camera," he says. "We grew up in the 'hood, and we kind of think every camera is a cop. But (now) as mature men we’re ready to tell our story. ... It opens up more about the Wu that you can’t find in the documentary."
That story still has fictionalized elements, but the producers referred to their take on the lives of the men as "a historical fiction."
"There are things in it that actually happened, there are versions of events," co-creator and producer Alex Tse says. "Spiritually, it’s very truthful and accurate."
"You can’t take every moment and expound it," RZA adds. "You condensed the moments. It’s like concentrated grape juice ... you’ll learn more, you’ll be able to balance what’s reality and what ain’t."
The series digs into the childhoods and origins of several members, and takes responsibility seriously for telling those stories (including those who are no longer living, like Ol' Dirty Bastard), producers say. .
"Wu Tang is a saga. I wrote a book ... so you can read about me," RZA says. "But we don’t know a lot about what Method Man was going through at a child; we don’t know much about this lyrical genius .. there’s an episode where we go into that world. You think about Ghostface, you think about Raekwon, (the series looks at) what makes them tick."
RZA hopes the series, which doesn't shy away from the darkest parts of Wu's history, will inspire people in similarly tough circumstances.
"Wu Tang has always entertained, but also inspired," he says. "And this show is inspirational. There’s so many young people going through the same thing right now ... Our show will (show) even in all this disparity, even in all this disconnection, there’s a common denominator."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hulu's 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga': RZA says new series is revealing