Executive Producer and Star Daniel Wu spoke with press today via conference call to discuss his new series on AMC, Into The Badlands.
Into the Badlands is a genre-bending martial arts series very loosely based on the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West. In a land controlled by feudal barons, Into the Badlands tells the story of a great warrior and a young boy who embark on a journey across a dangerous land to find enlightenment.
Finding the lead character of Sunny was not as easy as one might think considering the level of martial arts skill needed for the role on top of the physical strength and the important fact of the lead being Asian. Wu told us “I really didn’t think about playing the lead at the beginning. I started out as the executive producer developing a project for AMC. That was exciting on its own. And then when we went through the audition process it became clear that I was going to be playing the lead role because it didn’t start off that way. In my mind I thought we would get someone in their late 20s or early 30s because physically its a very demanding role.”
When asked about whether he found the show to be ground breaking for Asian actors, Wu said that in the past many hollywood studios would not give roles to Asian actors as a lead role. “Someone said to me, this is kind of groundbreaking. It was after about the first round of marketing that I realized that yea this is kind of groundbreaking considering martial arts past with Hollywood and TV. It is slowly starting to seep in but again at the same time i don’t think its groundbreaking until its been successful and renewed.”
We asked Daniel about the balance of introducing some many characters in the first two episodes and balancing the act of world building without confusing the audience, like Game Of Thrones did to non-book readers in the first few seasons. “It is a difficult balance to try and achieve. Our main goal is that we wanted to create this martial arts drama for national TV. This is something that has never been done before. But in order to be successful you can’t just have great martial arts and no story. People would just fast forward through to the fight scenes and then turn off the show. So what we are trying to do with Into The Badlands is create a story that isn’t just about the martial arts but about the people and the drama. Much like how The Walking Dead elevated a series about Zombies to be much more with human drama. The martial arts is a bonus but we want a much broader audience and in order to do that you have to tell a story about the characters. Its a balance you want to make it complex enough that people are intrigued but not too complex that people are confused.”
Daniel went on to discuss the diet required to play the role of Sunny. Eating every 2 hours was not something he was used to but he felt he wanted Sonny to be fit but not too ripped. Unlike a lot of people who would go with maybe 7% fat for a role like that, he went with 12-13% which was a bit more then normal for energy storage so he didn’t pass out on set. He commented that for someone like Aramis Knight (who plays MK) it wasn’t as bad as he was already an athletic kid and young.
After watching the first two episodes of the series they have managed to create that balance that has made other genre shows like The Walking Dead so successful and the second episode builds on the first and is even better than the pilot itself, which is always a good sign. Be sure to tune into Into The Badlands on AMC on Sunday Nov 15th at 10pm right after The Walking Dead. And in case you haven’t already seen all the wonderful looks into the series, check them out below.