In November, AMC will premiere its newest original series, Into The Badlands. The martial arts series, created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, is loosely based on an old Chinese tale called Journey to the West. The show is set as a “genre-bending martial arts series” about a deadly assassin and a young boy journey through a dystopian, American future that has devolved into a feudal system of land barons. We got the chance to chat with some of the cast, as well as executive producer Stephen Fung, at New York Comic Con about what audiences can expect from the series.
The main story follows an assassin named Sunny, played by kung-fu darling Daniel Wu, and his young companion, M.K., played by Aramis Knight, as they seek redemption and enlightenment. Knight spoke a bit on the heroes journey facing M.K. in the coming series. “M.K. has really one major motive that drives him through these episodes–outside of just surviving–and that is to find his way back home. While I can’t give much away, Sunny is tied to M.K.’s home in some way, and we will get pretty far along in exploring that connection.”
While the show will center mainly around these two characters, there is a whole world that will be explored and solidified in the show’s six-episode season. This backwards landscape of barons and baronesses includes Quinn, the most powerful of the barons played by Marton Csokas, and The Widow, a skilled and deadly upstart played by Emily Beecham, who threatens Quinn’s seat of power. Both will play significant roles as their war for supremacy may very well change the face of this new world as everyone knows it.
“I did not want to be entirely decided on Sunny as a character until I read the scripts and knew the extent of his arc,” confessed Wu. “What I like about Sunny is that he is a character whose entire life has centered around killing and trying to be successful under the eyes of Quinn, a man who is like a father to him in many ways. But even the first episode shows Sunny that Quinn’s way might not be right. That opens a new world of thoughts and emotions to a man who has been raised to believe he is a bad guy.”
The martial arts scenes in the show are beautifully intricate, thanks to martial arts coordinator Master Dee Dee. “I envisioned the action of this show by first envisioning the world that it takes place in,” Fung explained. “It’s a mixed bag in terms of cultures and people, so I did not want to have one specific fighting style involved. There is Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu, and Wing Chun. All of these different styles are involved. This helps flesh out a world of clashing ideologies on top of clashing fighting styles.”
Wu elaborated on this point: “We were focused on having each fight affecting the character, and telling the audience something about the character through it, in order to meld the action with character development through the series. That way the audience has learned something about Sunny, or The Widow, or whoever else after each fight they have been in.”
Wu’s co-stars agreed that the fight scenes are far more in depth than they had expected. “It was interesting, when we first started, to find out that the fights were only being choreographed on-set,” Beecham commented. “Almost always on the day of shooting. The fight scenes are quite idiosyncratic, and not really anything someone would be expecting. We thought there was no way we could learn an entire choreographed fight that fast, but as time went on we realized it was a way to keep the fights as raw and realistic as possible. At some point we have to let instinct take over, and that is the core of any real martial art.”
But these complex fight scenes come with a price. “I got trapped in my wire harness once,” Beecham said with a laugh. “My little cape got tangled, and because I’m so boney the harness could really bruise and cut into me, so luckily I had more padding in it.”
Into The Badlands will premiere on AMC at 10p EST on November 15.
Featured Image: AMC Studios