What does it mean for you to breakthrough as the lead and executive producer of a show on a major broadcast channel, in front of a very worldwide audience in the stage?
: Yes it’s interesting because I didn’t really think much about that until we were done making it. Because the process, it was very organic from me. To start off, I was just the executive producer developing a project for AMC, and that was exciting in itself.
And then when we went through the audition process and it became clear that I was going to be playing the lead role, because it didn’t start off that way. We wanted, originally my idea, I thought we would get somebody in their late 20s or early 30s because physically it’s a very, very demanding role.
But eventually that didn’t work out and all eyes turned me and I ended up playing the role and so then I just focus in on like you know maintaining the stamina just like through the whole season as well as portray the character and all that stuff.
And so I didn’t really think about the impact of you know what the show is and the type of Asian American male playing a lead role in the show in AMC until much, much later.
And so, I think we’re doing a first round of promoting in people, they start to say hey this is kind of groundbreaking. And I say yes right that is true. and I think I mentioned at a comic con in July, that it was a great feeling to be able to do this show, knowing the history of let’s Kung Fu the TV series, that Bruce Lee tried to get going but then was stolen from him because studios were not ready to put a Chinese in the lead. And that felt really great 40s on to be able to right that wrong.
And so the impact of this, you know it starts slowly, starting to seep in, but again at the same time, I don’t think it will be ground-breaking until the show becomes a success.
So I don’t really feel like talking about it too much until the show becomes really successful, then we can say it was groundbreaking. But up until to that point, you know it’s not – gotten there yet.
But I really respect AMC for being adamant that the role was an Asian American role. An Asian American actor to play that role, because if it wasn’t for that support we wouldn’t have had that.
And the role is not designed for an Asian necessarily, it could be a white guy, it could be a black guy, it could be a Latino guy, it could be anybody. But AMC was adamant at making sure that that role was reserve for in Asian male and so that’s pretty ground breaking on their part.
And I don’t know if it was intentional or not but I think the world of TV is changing now. You’re seeing a lot more Asian especially in males up here in TV media nowadays so it’s cool to be part of that way.
I want to reference back to something you just mentioned earlier, you seriously couldn’t find a (Sunny) until you stepped up?
Daniel Wu: Here’s the thing is, there were a lot of requirements. They wanted the role to be Asian, they wanted the guy to have a good acting ability and experience, they wanted the guy to be a good martial artist and they wanted the person to have a name, right?
And so we went to all those people it was either, a balance of strong actor but no martial arts experience or a really great martial artist but not very good acting experience. And so that was kind of what was frustrating the other producers for a long time.
And at the end of the day, they’re like you are that package, you know that right?
Well yes, but I’m 40 and like I don’t know if I can handle this physical side for 5 or 6 years if the show is successful.
Which does it more for you as an actor, the elaborate fight scenes or some emotionally charged scene involving your acting muscles?
Daniel Wu: I think it was equally challenging on both sides. I think there were some – there were very stressful and challenging as an actor the dramatic scenes but the fight scenes were also physically really demanding.
You know, to be able to do, you know these basically two sides per episode. We then (unintelligible) in those 12 fights. So to do 11 fights in 4 months is pretty crazy. Because normally like in some shows we do in Asia, you know their movie there are about 3 or 4 fights and you do over a 6-month period.
So you have time to recover and gain your stamina. But we were literally going back to back to back on all the fights. So there’s no downtime, no time to rest or anything. And I knew that as an executive producer and that’s why I was reserved about actually playing the role because I felt like three’s a possibility that I could get injured and if I get injured then its end of school.
Luckily that didn’t happen. I didn’t get into – I broke a rib on one stunt but I was able to keep filming so luckily nothing else like a thorn hamstring or anything like that happened.
Can you tell us about the location where it was shot?
Daniel Wu: Yes we shot in New Orleans and you know, a lot of productions go to New Orleans because of the huge tax credit there. You go film in Vancouver or New Orleans but a lot of people shoot in New Orleans and try to make it look like somewhere else. Like for example, to me it Genesis, they made it look like San Francisco.
But we decided to embrace the sort of history and the sort of a potential fabric of the region, to really make that a character in the show, because we felt like it has – there was a vibe there that was kind of dark, that gothic south vibe, you know, with the Spanish mosque and the trees and all that stuff that we felt like could add a lot to the show and then we decided okay, excuse me, but this doesn’t make the story happen here. Make it happen in the south somewhere.
I just wanted to kind of get into your head a little bit and find out about (Sunny). Mentally where is he at, when the series begin?
Daniel Wu: Mentally where he’s at when the series begin, you know in the first team, he still what he has been for life. He’s a ruthless killer, very smart and quick with his wit and efficient and very fiercely loyal to Quinn.
But as the first episode starts, you know and he runs into MK, he finds about (Veil) and his girl being pregnant, things start to change for him because all his life, he’s been kind of conditioned to follow this one sort of cult leader and then once his world starts to change, he’s created a life in killing people, and he sees the purity of MK and his innocence and his reminded of what he once was.
That side of him starts to come back out. And that’s what really attracted me to the character and wanting to play it, is because I could see that this character is going to change over time and that was what was interesting and that he’s not just a stoic cold hearted killer all the way through the series.
For me as an actor I think that would be kind of really boring. And for him to have a real spiritual transformation it was kind something that was cool and I thought I could get into.
With all the training and the different characters that had to go through martial arts training, not everybody has the same level of experience, and how was that…
Daniel Wu: Yes that was a very big challenging part of this thing, is that; you know we’re adamant that the actors were good actors first. And so we could have gone out to martial artist and then got back crappy acting and that would really hurt the show I think.
And so what we really want to is to get the great – the right actor first and if they knew martial arts that was a bonus or if they were a good athlete that was a bonus but we would knew that we would have to train them.
And so we had a 6-week fight camp where we were able to train them and really all of our actors had zero experience. Aramis is really physically talented because he’s very athletic and young. (Emily) has – did embrace her because she’s done some dancing, same thing with (Allie) but we really had to start from zero with them.
And the key to making it all work was really, during the training period, of course we taught them all the basics of martial arts, but you can’t make masters out of them in 6 weeks.
So what we did was, we tried to find what they were naturally good at and exploit those things into the fight choreography. Aramis is great because he’s young and athletic and can do anything and he’s game for anything.
So we just got him to try just a whole bunch of things and if he could do it, we put those into the fight and if he couldn’t do it, we didn’t try to put pressure on him or force him to do it.
With (Emily) as well, again we try to use her grace to our advantage and incorporate that into the scenes. So you see her style very kind of – although very deadly, it’s very smooth and graceful. And it got to our advantage and then also of course you know very smart use of doubles.
We created a stunt team – we recruited a stunt team 5 guys from China and 4 guys from the States who could do this level of fighting and it’s not every stuntman in the US can do it.
I mean this is very difficult to be able to do, what they can 15 moves in a row, even if you are an accomplished stunt man. And so we had to get martial artist stunt man that was experienced in working in this kind of Hong Kong style.
And whenever we had moves that were just too crazy for the actor to perform, they really relied on the stuntman to do it for them and you know shooting an angles in ways that could make it look it was them doing.
So, you know you’re going to get well-rounded performance for acting and also the physical and the martial arts.
Daniel Wu: Yes, the acting is the most important part because I think that you know, if you have great action but if you have crappy stories, I think this becomes B level stuff and we want to take the genre and elevate it beyond that.
And so we really had solid actors to do that.
Is there anybody or either character person that maybe you were inspired by for this role that informed your portrayal or was it all just kind of from the script?
Daniel Wu: I think it was all mostly from the script but I think the script is influenced by a lot of stuff that we like. I think (Allen Miles) are very familiar with the martial arts genre. (Steve) and I are obviously been fans of the genre for many, many years.
So I think by osmosis like of us being fans of the genre and understanding the sort of tropes of this kind of genre, and what we thought was cool to put in to the character and not to put in, influenced our decision making process.
But I wouldn’t say we really took it from anything in particular except for the reference of the Journey to the West, which is a classic Chinese fable about – basically the character is enlightening. The monkey king given the responsibility to take the Buddhist scriptures from India to China and it’s really the fable of how Buddhist came to China.
But really the transformation of this character is the monkey king who starts off as a rebellious, naughty kind of character and becomes an enlightened Buddha at the end because of all the fights and challenges in the way are actually the allegories for life.
And so we took that kind of concept and that sub-text and put it into kind of development of the character.
In 2010 you said that America haven’t progressed very far from the London Dusk era, and that you had wanted to advocate for better roles for Asian actors but then feel like you had the power to act change as an actor.
Daniel Wu: Yes, like you know I didn’t definitely – you know over the years I’ve been you know auditioning for roles in the states but as well as offered to roles in the states and a lot of them did fall into that one stereotype and so I didn’t feel the need to actually do that.
But then you know, things have changed over time. I think you know obviously there’s a huge interest in the China market and Hollywood has a huge interest in the China market nowadays with films like transformers making money – more money over there than here.
And so they’re realizing by injecting Chinese actors into their films now, that kind of give them extra bonuses in that territory. But with that, they would also get to put them in the right role. And still I feel like that that haven’t been done properly yet.
How did that affect your career producing?
Badly, when I first started working on it, I was only playing on it as a producer not as the main actor in it, mainly because I wanted to see where this role is going.
I knew that you know putting an Asian in the martial arts genre show is very stereotype but I wanted to see what the character was like. And if it was type of Asian character that we’ve seen before in Asian films before, and so yes, the martial arts and stuff is very stereotype but what we’re seeing is a strong Asian male lead who you know, has a girl, who resist and not just the part of the team and it’s leading this whole story, it’s something that we haven’t seen before and he’s a nerdy character.
And he’s stoic yes, but then he opens up and you see his emotional side and all that. And it wasn’t intentional, it just happened that way and then that’s how I sort of fall in love with the character and why I decided to do it.
It’s because it didn’t have all the kind of stereotype that you normally see. It started with a stereotype and kind of blossomed in, into something else and that’s what really attracted me to want to do this role.
So I think it was unconsciously trying to do that. we weren’t consciously trying to change the phase of Hollywood by creating more diverse roles for Asian, but it just happened to be that way because the team I work with, are people who less close minded than the executives in Hollywood and so they were pretty adamant at making sure the character was a grab. The character is just not a stereotype one.
How your diet will change while you were enduring such grueling and physical training for the show.
Daniel Wu: That was crazy. I put on 18 pounds for the role, because normally I’m pretty slight built – slim built and I wanted to put on a bit of muscle for the role. I wish I’ve done it in the past, but this require needs to eat about – so I did 6 meals a day prior to filming and then once we started filming because of the heat in New Orleans, it was like 90 degrees and 90% humidity, plus I’m wearing a leather trench coat, fighting outside.
I was just sweating – I mean cardio beyond, you can imagine. And so I had to have liked 7 meals a day basically at that point, and so it was horrible because I didn’t enjoy that process. I mean I love eating but not to that level. I mean every 2 hours, I’m going to bring me a full meal to eat while doing a fight scene and I just packed that down and get back to the fight.
It was grueling; it was tough, very difficult. But it was a protein heavy diet with – definitely heavy carbs because I needed long term energy to be able to keep the stamina up. So it wasn’t a completely fat free diet. There was a meat; there was fat and sort of energy storage for the endurance part of thing.
And I tried to make sure I maintain, instead of having like – like a lot of people that do action film, they try to keep that body down to like 7% so they’re ripped and cut, I was trying to keep like 12 and 13% today.
I had fat to burn, to maintain through the day so I wouldn’t like pass out.
I saw that you posted a photo on instagram about an incident when you needed an extra pad to put into the chest and ended up using some kind of random foam and plastic bag. Care to share any other memorable moments from filming?
Daniel Wu: There are a lot. I mean there was, I think one of the funniest situations is, in episode 6 there’s this truck that – I can’t reveal too much right now but there’s this truck that appears as basically brings characters drive in. and the truck was borrowed from somebody’s – from the set master’s friend and it is an old antique truck from the 70s that doesn’t exist really that much anymore and we’re told to like – not to mess it up.
But a lot of the fight ended up happening on or around the truck. One action piece where I get kicked into the truck, my butt actually made a huge dent in the hood of the truck and then another scene where I get thrown into the windshield, we cracked the windshield. So we did destroy this truck that weren’t supposed to destroy
And that pad thing that you saw was part of that fight scene. I think – what happened that day was we couldn’t find the pad bag that we normally have for pads. So we just needed to get a really quick shot of me getting kicked in the chest.
So it was not a very super hard kick so I knew that piece that we found we definitely good enough and we could just do it so that’s what we did. But yes, there were a lot of situations like that where we kind of had to make do with what we have and just what put out.
But that’s part of the Hong Kong style. Hong Kong style is to get it done any way possible.
Can you talk a little bit more about the idea of the martial arts genre being something more than just the stereotype?
Daniel Wu: You know I build a career in Asia for 18 years where I played role that nothing to do with my race because everybody’s Chinese in the films right?
So when I’m doing a Kung Fu movie in Hong Kong, that’s made by Hong Kong people, is that still a stereotype? You know it’s hard to say. You know for American audiences for Caucasian people, yes, it’s the first thing that they think of when they think of Asian people is maybe Kung Fu or nerd right?
But at the same time, this is a genre that Chinese people have been doing for almost 100 years now. And so to say that it’s a stereotype for American audience, yes maybe. But for me as – in my career, it’s not. I’ve been doing Kung Fu films for many years throughout my career in Asia and I don’t consider that a stereotype, it’s just a genre of film that we make there.
And so what really -what we’re trying to do here is to take the Wusha genre and reboot it for the western audience and make it – this world that we’ve created, it’s very typical Wusha world but we’re putting it in a sort of antebellum sell. The ping pong sell so that American audience can feel that culture, instead of watching something like Hero where they don’t understand what does it mean Kinsha is the main word in Hero which is about everything under earth.
All those cultural ideas that are part of that movie, I think Western audience just goes over their head. So what we’re trying to do is to create that genre – take that genre that we’ve done very well in Asia and put it into a different environment and kind of reboot it and flip it on its head.
And so yes, you can its stereotype but we’re also trying to take that stereotype and jump it into another place.
I think the people who just missed martial arts have nothing more than a stereotype can’t ignore the fact that it’s an art and that’s something…
Daniel Wu: It’s a genre that Asian has been doing for many, many years in Asia. And I think at the specific Asian American group that recoiled – is that recoiled, because they feel like that has nothing to do with me, but honestly, your culture does create karate. Your culture did create kung Fu, so is that a stereotype? No it’s part of your history, its part of your culture. So why not embrace it.
You mentioned kung Fu, earlier, western audience loves when a white guy does it. So it’s nice to see an Asian guy actually can do it.
Daniel Wu: Yes I mean I’m sure that same group of people would shift their pants if it was a white guy playing the role that happened in Dragon ball Z right? It’s the same people that complain about that but then if it was an Asian guy; they’d say its stereotype. So you know, you got to figure out which side of the fence you want to stand on.
There are a lot of characters introduced in the first two episodes and a lot of back stories. Can you tell us a little bit about the balance between bring in all these new characters and telling the stories to keep people interested but not confuse people with too many back stories at the same time?
Daniel Wu: Yes I mean that’s a difficult balance to try to achieve that and I think our main goal is that we wanted to create a martial arts drama for television; it’s never been done before.
But in order to be successful you can’t just have great martial arts and shitty story. You know it becomes like porn, if that if you do that. People fast forward to the story just to get to the fight scene and then watch the fight scene and dump the show.
So we didn’t want to have that. That’s very kind of D level film making. And I think what’s successful about you know our sister show on AMC the Walking Dead is that it took these zombie genre and elevate it to be really – it’s a human drama about what human will do to each other or what is the basic of human nature when you’re thrown into that kind of basic role of (Chris trying to survive and I think that’s why people are into that story because it’s about these people and not about the zombies.
And so the same thing we’re trying to do with Badland is to create this story about these people and not just about the Martial arts. I mean the martial arts are a bonus. It’s something that like the people that are fan of that genre will totally gravitate to.
But we want a much broader audience to make this show successful. And so to do that, you have to have compelling story and compelling characters. And it’s a balance; you have to make it complex enough that people are intrigued but you can’t make it so confusing that people don’t know what’s going on. And there’s a lot of shows out there that are very successful of where – we won’t be doing that.
I think obviously game of thrones is really successful in doing that. I mean first I remember falling into first two seasons of being very confused at who’s who but by 3rd season, you’re pretty clear on what’s going on.
In some ways, you know we’re also trying to a create a world that is rich in characters that is not just one solo like warrior walking through the desert on its own which Kung Fu is like.
But a show that has many characters that many different audience members can get behind I think like some female audiences for example will love the widow and hate (Sunny) or some Asian American kids will love (Sunny) and not like the other characters so there’s a lot there we’re trying to put in for different audience members to gravitate towards.
You explain that race – gender really don’t matter in this world, and that martial arts is the great equalizer. Why do this? Like why represent this kind of dystopia to an American audience?
Daniel Wu: I’ve always been attracted to this – that kind of world the dystopian future just because I – I’ve been always a fun of sci-fi and I’ve always been a fun of like how those kind of stories actually are more of a reflection on society now versus an idea of the future. And so the opportunity to work on something like this where we can make those kinds of social statements is just kind of interesting.
And so like this world, that Badland exists in, we’re saying there’s no gun that exists in this world. When we’re coming from an era right now where gun violence is like at its craziest peak, its insane what’s happening here right with that?
And so we’re allowed to witness dystopian future and make real comments about society today, whether it’s conscious or subconscious like – that’s for the people to decide.
But the dystopian future allows us to make comments about American society today; I think it’s kind of interesting. I mean even the fact that (Allen) is saying there is no – race doesn’t matter in this world it’s just kind of interesting on where we are having a period in America where race is actually very volatile subject even though we have an African American president in office, it seems like race relations have taken a step backwards.
So to make a show, we’re creating a society that you know, attempts to touch on those little topics here and there but not in a very overt political way, it’s interesting for me, and actually makes really working on it that much more interesting.
Do you think that that’s what sets this show apart from other dystopian shows, like the subtlety of it or kind of what does set it apart? What makes it distinct?
Daniel Wu: I think what sets us apart is that, we’ve most dystopian shows, it’s a world = usually it’s a world of chaos and it’s not as advanced like we’re like a few hundred years in the future where it looks like the past is really the future and the society has reset it up and reestablish itself. Whereas most of the dystopian stuff you see the world is still chaotic and still trying to figure out where they’re going to head to.
This world and that end have already gotten to a place. And sort of recreate and resettle itself a society. And so what you’re seeing is the basics of human nature and the basics of human culture that are still there and then what are the bad things or what the things we don’t like about our society or not there anymore like guns of whatever.
But one thing that’s still there is the desire in human nature for power and for having control. I mean that’s been part of culture as humans for thousands and thousands of years, in the beginning of time. We war and we battle and that’s still there.
And so I think that’s what different is that the society is a mature dystopian society that’s had it time to reset itself and to choose what it wanted in its world and what it didn’t want.
You make it a point to share your story or your professional journey in a meaningful way whenever you can. One thing or one lesson that someone should be able to take away from your story, what do you hope it would be?
Daniel Wu: I think the most important thing is finding what you’re passionate about and run with that because that’s what going to drive you to have success in life. And if you’re one of the lucky few that get to do a job that you’re passionate about, like you’re very, very blessed.
So you should take that opportunity and run with it. That’s what happened to me. I mean I fell into the movie business and it just happen to be – I realized that that was, what I was passionate about and that’s what driven me too hard – to work so hard over the past 20 years it’s because of that one passion.
I love the creativity that happens on it. And I’ve just thought my whole life; I mean this past 20 years my whole career to maintain – to have that ability to do that.
And so I think my advice for anybody, whether it’s whatever field They’re getting to, if they’re passionate about it, find that passion, stick with it and run with it.
And is there any parallel for martial arts in your experience with Wusha that you can parallel to I guess the life lesson or maybe a method?
Daniel Wu: Yes perseverance. Really disciplined enough to preserve. Like – in my career, in my industry, like I started out with a bunch of your guys and a lot of them are not actors anymore because gave up on it, or disheartened or whatever.
You have to have – but also maybe some of them didn’t work on their craft as much as they should have and they worked on other things like they worked on trying to be more of a bigger celebrity rather than being a bigger actor. And so, like martial arts find me that focus and that discipline and perseverance will be resolved.
Because like I learned very early on that if I didn’t practice I wasn’t going to get good at Kung Fu and so I couldn’t just got to class 2 days a week and then expect to get better.
I have to practice on my own and put in that time on my own in order to get better and that’s why I was able to be relatively successful as a martial artist and then to transfer that over into school and to architecture of what I’m studying and then into film business, it totally it was all one thing.
Including (Sunny) but looking back at all the other characters that you’ve played over the past 20 years, why do you choose the roles that you do?
Daniel Wu: Why do I choose the roles that I do? Most of them there’s some kind of instinctual attraction. I don’t why but I’m not – because I’m not like this in person but I’m very attractive to do sort of the darker side of the human nature.
So like the roles that I really relish are the ones that I get to play in really dark characters. Maybe that’s because you know I don’t normally act that way in real life but I realized that that is a part of human nature and I kind of want to explore that.
And so I really relish in those roles. But usually its some kind of instinctual attraction with the characters and most importantly because I’ve had a very long career now, is that I have to find something in the character that haven’t played before.
And it could be something interesting to work on for my craft.
Do you see any of yourself in your character as (Sunny)?
Daniel Wu: I always say, where I’m at now in my life is where i think (Sunny) is trying to get to. And so that’s what attracted to the role is because I saw that kind of – that similarity that (Sunny) is going for a place that I know about.
I think I’m in the state of my life where I think in the past couple of years, a lot has happened to me. I turned 40; I got married, got a kid and my mother passed away. I experienced life and death within one year.
The enjoyment of creating life and the loss within one year. And then also my career is starting to blossom. And so, it has been for a while but I’m just trying to get a name here in the United States and so, the state of mind of where I am right now is very like a calm, peaceful state which is different than the path before I felt like I was struggling a battle – or fighting a battle uphill or pushing up hill to become better, to do this or to do that.
But kind of know I feel really comfortable with myself in my own skin now and I think that’s where (Sunny) is trying to get to, is you trying to find who he really is. And I think that’s what I really am finally at 40.
I want to ask you about (Steven Fung) I know he came over with you – you worked together in the past, you know for us here in America, can you tell us a little bit about him?
Daniel Wu: Yes, so here’s a funny anecdote is that he was an actor in the first film that I was in, so we’ve known each other that long. And my first – that was a gay film and our first onscreen kiss was with each other. So that’s a little fun fact for everyone.
And then now 20 years later, we’re making like extremely violent bro films like man stuff. So yes we’ve been great friends for a long time. We’ve started out acting pretty much at the same time and then in over time we worked on several projects together, Gen X Cops, things like that where we were acting together and we became great friends that way.
And then on the side, you know (Steven) was always shooting these little short films on the DV camera and I tried to participate in them and I worked on some of them with him.
And at that time, I was like man you’re really good at this stuff. Like he was – we were doing in camera edit. He was starting the stuff in Camera and then shoots the other side of the actor and it would work right?
I’m like wow he’s really technical proficient I think he has the talent to do this. And like obviously that’s the direction he was heading and I really encourage him to do that.
And so when he directed his first film, Enter the Phoenix, I was the lead in his film, I was like totally dude I’m going to support you. And then I was in every film that we’ve done subsequently since.
So we have like not only a great working relationship but a great personal relationship and the working relationship is one of like you know great chemistry where everything is in short hand, you don’t have to explain anything.
We don’t really fight that much over anything. And so when Badlands came along and (Stacy Sharon) invited me to participate, I immediately thought of (Steven) because technically he’s really talented. Ideas wise, we could work really well together and create ideas for the show.
And I knew he would be the perfect person to be a part of the show. And at that time, I brought him on as the executive producer to brain storm not to be the fight director.
But then once we start developing it, it became clear that he should be the fight director because of his great directing skills and that’s how it had happened basically.
I saw the fight where you’re encircled around with those guys, that was just amazing fight and the fact that you put your sword down was even cooler.
Daniel Wu: Yes that was sort of established (Sunny’s) bad ass is that you can take out these guys without a sword you know.
It seems like that MK maybe has some kind of powers or something going on. Does the show have sort of that kind of fantasy element?
Daniel Wu: Yes, no, he definitely has a dark secret that we’ll see evolves throughout the first season and he does have a power. And I’m not sure if it’s a sci-fi related power but it’s more related to this Kung Fu genre and that we’ve seen these in a lot of Kung Fu films before of this kind of power that he has.
And I don’t want to add too much into the spoilers but it’s something that will become a focus of what (Sunny) and MK’s relationship will be about in terms f harnessing that power and learning how to use it correctly.
In this series, you’re also executive producer as well as the character, how are you juggling that?
Daniel Wu: It was very, very challenging. I can say our days are 12 to 16 hours long. And I had a trailer that I got into in the morning to put my clothes and once I was on set, I never left set all day long.
So if I’m not shooting, I’m doing some kind of problem solving producing wise, either something that’s happening right there on set, or something that we’re preparing for the next fight or coordinating something between you know our production people and wanting to get done later.
So it’s very busy, very, very busy. Not much time to rest. If I’m not fighting its like 10 minutes break between lighting changes or whatever, I’m working on some other issue.
So it’s schizophrenic and it’s crazy but I’m glad it happened to me in this point of my life. Like if I was in my 20s or 30s, trying to play two roles like these, as the executive producer and actor that would probably make me crazy. But because of you know, having a lot of experience producing and acting I was able to find that balance.
And it was still mad, but we were able to do it.
As a public figure do you feel a pressure to look a certain way in this industry and if so how do you deal with it?
Daniel Wu: Not really, because I’ve never had any kind of like issues with light body or how I look or whatever likes that. I think because on my own, I love to train, I love to work on martial arts; I love to do any kind of sport activity.
So I’ve been – luckily I’ve been in good shape this whole time from the very beginning and even though I’ve torn an ACL, I’ve broken my legs, all that kind stuff, I’ve still keep at doing that stuff.
So when I’m either filming a martial arts show or not, I’m still exercising because it’s part of my life.
I’ mean I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 11. It’s been a lifestyle thing for me now and I can’t not train, it makes me feel weird if don’t – I feel super low energy if I don’t – if I like go for a week without training or two weeks without training.
So it’s not a pressure that I feel from the industry, it’s just something that’s my nature. But I don’t not eat stuff because I’m afraid of these or that. It’s mostly – if I view like any of those additions for personal health more than what people see in the – or require of me.
What kind of work out routines did you have to either start or add on to your own. How Did you prepare for such a challenging role?
Daniel Wu: So it’s interesting because I started training 6 months out for the role, because I hadn’t done a martial done a martial arts film in probably like 6 or 7 years and that’s because I’ve been injured pretty badly in the past, a torn ACL, I broke an ankle, all these stuff and I realized like you know the length of a career of an action star could be very, very short just like a professional athlete.
And so you need to branch out and concentrating on other acting opportunities and so I stopped doing martial arts stuff. And so for these I knew first of all it was going to be very intense, and probably the most intents kind of movie fighting in my life.
You know Jackie Chan and Jet Lee don’t even do this amount of fighting in shorter time, or even in shorter amount of time that we did. So it’s a special kind of training to get ready for these, to have the stamina to last the whole 4 months and fighting 12 hours a day for 6 days a week. A professional fighter who fights for let’s say the US, they train all the time but they concentrate on an 8-week training camp and they fight one day for maybe 30 to 40 minutes and They’re done.
And that’s diminished that, but it’s a different kind of training when you’re doing something for everyday for 12 hours a day for 4 months straight. So first of all, because I’ve been away from that kind of level action fighting in film, I just slowly get my body back into it. So I did some pretty extreme yoga stuff to get my flexibility back and to make sure that muscles and all the stuff works the weight training as well, to make sure that the muscle is strong and able to support all my join because I know I have a weak joint because of the previous injuries. And then also to do running and sort of cardio training to get the stamina up to last all day long.
And then about 3 months out, I started specially working on martial arts stuff, specific moves that I thought would be cool for the show, difficulty moves, aerial kicks, things like that I worked on.
And in the 6week fight camp that we had for the other actors, I started to work on detailed stuff like (Sunny) use double swords and I’m not really familiar with double swords before I dabbled in it in my martial arts training but I wouldn’t say I was an expert on it.
So I really focused on the little detailed stuff like that. and getting my left hand coordinated better and learning to use some swords and finding in a way to move the swords cool – in a very cool way because it’s limiting. A single sword is much freer than the double swords and so I had to get used to that.
And then sort of eventually getting to move and fight with the costume because that long leathered trench coat can be very restrictive to movement so I learned how to do that as well.
So it was a long specific process that I went through to get to where I need Ed to play (Sunny).
Were you able to remain injury free for these episodes.
Daniel Wu: Relatively. There was one incident where I got hang up in the wire and I cracked a rib but that was minor, I didn’t even know it was broken 3 days later. I was like it still hurts. Maybe I should see the doctor and when I got erased yes you got a cracked rib.
And what can I do about that? He’s like not much you can do. So, I got fighting, I go with my fired for a lot two weeks while my ribs healed. I’m going through it.
But luckily I didn’t get any – what I was mostly worried about was muscle strain, torn ligament and things like that. Because those are really hard to come back from my experience in the past but that didn’t happen so. Luckily I was lucky.
When watching the first couple of episodes, you set a pretty distinct tone. I really couldn’t figure out what genre it was and you’ve continually been praised for genre bending and kind of incorporating different western elements like you said, gothic elements, southern things like that.
How would you classify the show in your own words?
Daniel Wu: I would say it’s a mash up of everything that we think is cool. And really trying to create. Because the goal was really to try to create a world that we haven’t seen before.
It was different references to the stuff that we like, but it’s still within the same tone. So a western and Wusha film is really the same thing. It’s just how ay that things are executed are different, it’s you now one is a western culture and one is the Asian culture.
But the theme and the tone is still the same, so yes the lines may sound very like western cowboy lines especially in the beginning theme where (Sunny) comes across those guys in the forest. It’s very kind of a showdown cowboy thing and so what we do is we took what we like from the genre, I think discard what we didn’t like.
What’s very prevalent in the Wusha genre is melodrama like overacting because you killed my father, I need to extract revenge on you, blah, blah like we got rid of that kind of stuff and made it more like what we’re used to in the west, that kind of serious dramatic acting so it doesn’t become (unintelligible) but in terms of visual well building and all that stuff, as manufacturers of stuff that like, plus embracing the southern Louisiana, New Orleans world there. and then also you know, graphing novels, animation, Kung Fu movies, samurai movies, cowboy moves all that kind of stuff and putting all together and I know it’s very confusing at first but what we’re really trying to do is create a unique world on its on where eventually you just don’t think about what it’s referencing.
And my question you know really is why it has to be like something you’ve been before. And if you can accept that world then you’re into it and then that’s it.
INTO THE BADLANDS premieres on Sunday, November 15th at 10:00 p.m. on AMC.
Monica covers events such as San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, movie premieres, upfronts, and film festivals, as well as covering everything she possibly can in New York City. Monica has a special place for entertainment in her heart and has been writing since she was a child. If it was up to her she would discuss television and celebrities all day long.