INTO THE BADLANDS Season 3: Aramis Knight, Daniel Wu, Orla Brady and Executive Producer Al Gough Talk About Bringing The Series To An End At WonderCon 2019
During a press conference at WonderCon, cast members Aramis Knight, Daniel Wu, Orla Brady and Executive Producer Al Gough reflected on some of the characters’ challenges throughout the show and talked about the show ending on a high-note after three remarkable seasons.
Aramis, have any of the fight scenes been difficult for you?
ARAMIS: I really enjoy my work. It takes a lot of pressure off of you to fully expend your energy. It helps you jump much higher than you’d actually be able to not on wires. I also had some prior experience on them, so I was already fairly familiar by the time I came.
DANIEL: I think because he plays basketball a lot and he likes the physical challenge. He likes learning something new, and every wire thing is different, totally different. You have to learn to twist your body in a different way and go with the flow, and he picks on those challenges. He loves it. He just loves it. There’s times when we have to use doubles, so that they don’t get hurt, and he’s always upset about that. He’s like, “No, I wanna do it myself. I wanna do it myself.” But it’s like, “We don’t want you to get hurt, because if you get hurt, we can’t film you for the next two weeks.”
ARAMIS: It took me multiple seasons to figure that one out.
DANIEL: Yeah, he’d walk off, upset, like, “I can do it, I can do it!” I mean, I know you can do it, but you also might get really badly hurt on this one, so let’s not do that.
Daniel, being that you’re also a producer on the show, I was curious what you learned about producing?
DANIEL: I’ve produced a couple films before, but never for such a long period of time. I have to say, it kinda evolved. In the first season, to help set things up, I wasn’t really active in it. And then what happens, when we move to Ireland, we had to teach the whole new crew about how to make this show. So naturally, because I had experience in Season 1, I was the guy there. I was in pre-prep and all that stuff, that I would explain how we do this show. There’s a fight unit. There’s a drama unit. They totally didn’t understand that, like, “How are you doing that? Why is there two crews?” They wanted to cut that out of thing. I’m like, “No, no, no, no … this is the only way to do the show.” So eventually, it just slowly evolved into that, and then everyone started asking me questions. I’ve been the guy to ask about the fight unit, and eventually, it became the basically, fight unit and second producer. So making sure all the fight team got what they needed, that we had the right stunt man for the right job. You know, all that kinda stuff. Doing all the research, going on YouTube, finding these guys. It was very difficult to find that kind of level stunt man in Europe. We have a lot of people here in Asia, a lot of people here in the States, but in Europe, martial arts actually is not very common. So you’re not finding regular stuntmen, you have to find martial arts stuntmen that understand this level of action. Very difficult process. So we got all those people involved. My job was really to do all of that, and then on set every day, like in between set-ups, instead of going back to your trailer, take a nap, I’m somewhere else in the facility somewhere, trying to figure out what we’re gonna do for tomorrow or making sure this prop is working for tomorrow. This weapon is built right so that we can really fight with it. I’m not yelling at people at all time, just like, “This thing’s gonna tear my hands up.” It was very natural, because part of making the whole flow work better. I almost don’t look at it as producing. I just felt like I was just there to grease up the gear.
I wanted to ask about Lydia (Orla Brady) since she was wounded in the last episode, and now she has been tasked with babysitting Sunny’s son.
ORLA: Yes, I think Myles got a telling-off. When I went, “You’ve getting me babysitting again. I did that last year!”
With the relationship with Nathaniel (Sherman Augustus) progressing, how is it gonna be for the next few episodes. Obviously, with the series ending, what are we gonna see the evolution of Lydia?
ORLA: Don’t know how much I am allowed to say to future. The point is: she has hopes, of course, and that finally she has found somebody who sees her for who she is. She has a true connection with Nathaniel and a connection that is an alliance to do with power, and she hasn’t had that in her life before. It’s quite disarming for the first time. I think the only way she could have got that is because she lost everything. I think sometimes in life, if you lose everything, it’s the very best thing that can happen to you. Because you’re kinda holding on and you won’t let go of what you have, and she had a sort of vicarious power. That’s what she used to have. And now she has something that is true. She has great hopes in this situation. I think the baby coming into the house, of course, sends her to a certain place, as it would. It’s a most graceful thing when you’re a female, and so that’s where she is right now.
DANIEL: I think it says a lot to Sunny and Lydia’s relationship, because he tells Bajie (Nick Frost) to bring baby Henry to her. He doesn’t trust anybody that well, but he trusts Lydia with his baby — probably she’s the only one who he knows how to take care of a kid. Everybody else has no idea what we’re doing. Nobody knows, so Sunny’s like, “Get Henry to Lydia.” Because it’s the only person he can trust.
The settings and sets are actually a character in themselves. Do you guys pick out your sets because they happen to have a cool look to them?
DANIEL: There’s a little bit of both. I mean, we sometimes go to location like, “Damn, this would be great for this sort of fight.” And then there’s so much inspiration that happens looking just at a location. Then sometimes it’s like, “Let’s build this. Let’s build a situation like this.” And then we’ll base the fight around that. You’ll see that later in the season with the big fight where Sunny’s chained up. And that thing is designed from the script, originally in the script, into that whole way that thing is chained up and how has to fight through that thing was part of it from the very beginning. But then there’s a lot of places that we were location scouting. The stunt team goes also, and Master Didi would just get inspired by one room or one location, and just go, “Okay, we can do a lot.” Like the tower, for example. That the first Season 3A. That thing? That tower, it’s right across from the production facility. We’ve seen it all season long, right? And then Season 2, and we’re like, “We gotta do something there.” And that eventually became the opening fight for Season 3. And it was very challenging to film in that location, because first of all, that tower is like 80 feet tall. So to put the wires up, you have to have a crane that’s 150 feet tall. And so the top of the mountain, facing the ocean so the wind, the crane … we had to shut down production so many times because wind. It could bring that crane down. It was very challenging, but it paid off because it looks so great. There’s a lot of tricks we have to do to make it work, but that’s the thing. That’s an example of where we saw a location, we’re like, “We gotta integrate that somehow into the story.”
Aramis, in the a recent episode, Nix (Ella Rae-Smith) is helping Sunny and you guys are in the woods, trying to find Sunny, and then you suspect something. What are we gonna see maybe in the next episodes about the relationship between M.K. (Aramis Knight) and Nix?
ARAMIS: I think Nix is just playing both sides. One thing I’ve always really enjoyed about M.K. is that he’s very persistent in what he believes in, and he’s very clear cut about what side he’s on. He’s never playing both sides. He’s a very straight shooter. And I think he’s used to people around him not being that way. Just based off the nature of the show and the land that we live in, I definitely call Nix out on that.
Everybody’s got a new maturity and they’re growing into their characters in different ways. What was the best aspect for you about expanding and building deeper elements into your characters for this season and what comes in it?
ORLA: It’s something to kind of live a life of somebody, and when you live in a character, you can be lying in bed one night and it’s kind of like a piece fills in that past or the future of what someone’s hopes or aspirations could be. And I think, one of the things that is actually a credit to our minds is they would ask us to tell them about what was going on in their mind, and even if some of the ideas were terrible, they would still listen. It’s almost like they want to be inspiration from us, as well as having the over-arching story themselves. They very much listened to what we were telling them about the hopes and dreams of the characters. So it’s a huge lottery actually, I’ve found.
DANIEL: I would say that this is my first time doing television, so I’ve always only done movies, and I was reluctant to do television because I thought, “What if I get bored playing the same character over several years?” And Sunny now is like five years of that. But I never got bored because of the writing. Essentially what we have in INTO THE BADLANDS is like “The Odyssey,” or I guess we could say “Journey to the West” or whatever. It’s a sprawling journey of all these people, and it’s about spiritual transformation. Every character is doing that. So what’s interesting for me about Sunny is that Season 1 is his very personal journey. He’s getting woke. He’s realizing his religion is not what he thought it was, and is trying to get out of it. Second season is incredibly personal about him trying to get back to the one he loves and find his kid. Third season, Season 3A, he’s trying to save his son. It’s very personal, but then now, it’s become a global-level problem that he caused by giving Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay) the dark Chi and realizing basically, you’ve created a nuclear bomb. He invented the nuclear bomb. He just gave it to him. And so now it’s like, “Well, I just fucked up, so how am I gonna rectify this situation and save the world?” His arc has changed so much over these four seasons. So it’s been an incredible ride and so much fun to work on because of that change. It’s not like a network serial where the characters are exactly the same, every single episode, no matter who dies or whatever. That, I could not do. I could never play a character like that just because I need to be involved with the character and I need to see change and I need to be interested in his path. And I think, they’ve done an incredible job of allowing all of us to evolve these characters over these four seasons. It’s so hard to do with so many characters with so many storylines. It’s so amazing how they’re able to put all that together and do that for us.
There’s a lot of really dark, gritty character content, but then on the other side of that, you have Nick Frost on the show. Was he always intended to be on for this long? And what is the importance of having a character like that in the midst of all of this?
AL: The evolution of the show is the first season is very self-serious and very honest. And we stepped back and we also looked at reviews and thought, in terms of, we’re the guys who did “Shanghai Noon” and “Shanghai Knights” and a bunch of buddy shows. I mean, what we’ve always found is that if you fuse humor into drama, it raises both. So we realized actually that something was missing from the show. We sat in the writers’ room and thought of a character like a Nick Frost type, who would be great. So the whole team met Nick Frost and he loved the idea, so that’s how Sir Bajie was born. I expected what was remarkable was the chemistry between Daniel and Nick, and that really changed the show. I think, in Season 2 is like a buddy cop show. Nick, he’s an incredible actor and can do so many things. He’s not only privy to comic timing, but also incredible thematic actor and really adds a layer of unexpected emotion to the series.
DANIEL: He does a lot of shape-shifting also.
In the same vein of talking about Bajie, it was maybe the last episode, when he was fighting with one of the acolytes and he hit him, and then the black guys disappeared. Are we gonna see more of how that could actually happen?
DANIEL: He has always had that ability. Remember in Athens? He shut down the atom and split them in half. He learned that ability. He’s a real fighter. Bajie always had that ability to shut people down. When he tells Pilgrim, he’s like, “You’re not the only one who can do this.”
He waited so long after he had his ass beat. And then he did it. Like, why didn’t you do that sooner?
DANIEL: Well, I mean, you have to get the timing right. You have to hit the right point, so it’s like you have to wait for the opportunity. And that’s in true martial arts too, that there’s points that you can lock somebody down or whatever, but you have to get that moment, you know.
For M. K., at the start of the series, obviously he had this dark power that he wasn’t able to really tell to anybody. And I think he feared at any time anybody would figure that out about him and they would either want to kill him or use him or, one way or another, to their advantage.
ARAMIS: He was ashamed of it as well.
DANIEL: Yeah, absolutely. It’s what separated him from his mom. It’s what ultimately put M. K. in the sort of orphan-on-his-own position that he really was in throughout the entire series. And I think when M. K. and Sunny cross paths, I think Sunny sees a lot of himself in M. K. and for that reason, I think they were able to bond a lot and I think it’s the first time he actually felt accepted by someone. So then their relationship to come to where it went, I think that took a lot out of M. K. And I think that’s a big reason he’s sort of making the decisions he’s making now. I think he’s lost a bit of faith in himself.
ARAMIS: I think his whole journey is about finding himself. Like from Season 1 to now, that he tried to find himself in a different situation and people he trusts end up fucking him in the end. And then now, he’s in a situation with Pilgrim where you thought, “This is the right situation.” And now he’s questioning it again. Like, “Am I with the right people?” And that’s what teenagers go through. Am I in the right place or not? You know, am I with the right group of people? So that’s incredible.
What has been one lesson each one of you learned in the latest season?
DANIEL: Wow, there’s so many. The one that came to me is like is: you have to persevere to be a good parent. That’s what Sunny’s going through right now. I have a five-year-old daughter. It’s challenging. Probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. He’s a good parent and trying to raise his kid right. It’s so hard. And then for two seasons, he’s been trying to be the right dad. I really felt that in that character. And that’s probably why I feel so strong about Sunny and his path, because I can totally feel that in my real life too. And I get, there’s so many problems, because my daughter was one year old when the show started, when I started doing the show. She’s grown with me, as the show’s grown. So there’s a real close parallel to the feelings of Henry and how I treat him, and how I treat my own daughter, who’s a really, really close relationship. That’s probably the strongest thing, you’ve gotta fight to be a good parent. You really fight hard.
ORLA: For Lydia, I’d say she’s learned: don’t give up on the possibility of love.
ARAMIS: I think being on BADLANDS has taught me a lot about discipline. I think living life as a young actor, being a child actor, there’s not a lot of discipline around you. Your schedules are not very set, you don’t maybe go to school as much as the kids around you. I think for me, being within the martial arts aspect of this show as well as being actually a big part of the show, forced me to be a lot more disciplined than I ever had to be. And also just kinda taught me to love what’s mine. Being off the show now, and the show ending, it’s kind of made me really appreciate the last few years that I’ve had and, I think, overall, I’ve sort of come back to the adult world. Where, I entered that world as a child, so coming back out now is kind of daunting and scary and makes me appreciative to have the sort of jump start I have with this show.
DANIEL: Yeah, I’m gonna miss that a lot, because he came in as a — I hope I don’t cry, please don’t cry —but he was a little kid, a little boy, and now he’s a man. I saw that evolution happen and it just makes me feel so great being a part of that. Being a mentor for him is incredible and, of course, I’ll always be there. But to be there every day to see him — it’s great to see that.
What do you hope that the show’s legacy will be?
ORLA: Do you know what? I would say this the first show I’ve seen, you may be able to quote others, but what I’ve seen that reflects America and certainly what the world looks like. It’s a mix of people, mix of ages and martial arts genre, that wasn’t seen before. It’s not in the normal and tradition of American film.
ARAMIS: I think our show tries a lot harder than a lot of other shows. I think it was a new idea, different than really any other show on air. I think a lot of other shows don’t reimagine themselves as much as they should, as you have to.
DANIEL: I think we at least had a very simple goal, at the very beginning, to bring this level of action to American TV. We did that, but there’s so many other layers to this show.. I mean, this show is crazy. The whole idea that it wasn’t a graphic novel, it wasn’t something someone created before. We created this out of scratch. Fred and Miles created this out of scratch. And it works. It really works. It has an audience that loves it and all the stuff about it. You can be in it because you like the strong female characters, you can be in it because you like an Asian-American lead, you can be in it because of the martial arts. There’s so many things to like about this show that, obviously, it’s gonna be bittersweet that it’s ending. But we achieved so much in this short amount of time, it is incredible. There’s so many different aspects that you can like about the show, and not just one thing. So I think that’s the legacy, because not many shows can do that. How many shows have that? I think this show’s gonna live on in a cult world in the streaming world, because of that. And not just because it was one idea, but because it’s a whole bunch of different things really working well together. We found that formula and it worked. I think people will figure that out later on. I think the great thing about streaming is that the show will live on. We’re incredibly proud of the episodes. It’s a complete story. You can see all the seasons together as a complete story.
INTO THE BADLANDS airs Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. on AMC.
INTO THE BADLANDS Recap:
INTO THE BADLANDS: Sunny v. The Widow
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SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER | Tiffany covers events such as San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon and press junkets, as well as covering events at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. She has a great love for television and believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored. Tiffany is one of the newest members to the prestigious Television Critics Association and is happy to be able to share her passion for television shows with an even wider audience of fans and her fellow critics..