AMC’s Into the Badlands returns March 19 with more martial arts fighting—as promised by star Daniel Wu—and more of the fantastic world built by show creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough.
“Badlands was really a passion project of ours,” Gough said. “We love martial arts and we love genre shows. What we were looking to do was find a show where you can integrate both of these.”
But, Gough told me during the TV Critics Association Winter Tour 2016, he and Millar wanted the story to feel original and not like a “Rush Hour” rip-off, using marital arts just so an Asian guy can kick guns out of criminals hands.
The duo, whose credits include “Smallville” and “The Shannara Chronicles,” wanted to create something new by cherry-picking the things they like from both the martial arts and post-apocalyptic genres.
“It starts to feel like homework when you have to play by the rules of that past culture or history,” Gough said. “The Japanese feudal structure is cool, but we didn’t want to set it in ancient Japan. We sort of did a mash-up of all the things we like.”
So they set “Into the Badlands” in a future America where feudal lords rule their own territory but are constantly battling to gain land.
Each ruler, or baron, has an army of warriors called clippers to enforce their will on their workers and citizens of their fiefdoms. Wu’s character, Sunny, was the most famous of the clippers. But in Season 1, he met a boy named M.K. (Aramis Knight) who is blessed with powers he can’t control. As he tries to unravel the mystery of M.K. and protect his family, Sunny crushes skulls, snaps backs and generally punished anyone in his way.
And there’s nary a gun in sight because guns have been banned.
“We like the steam punk aesthetic,” Millar said. “The idea that there are no guns in this world made the martial arts fighting more universal. We didn’t want it to seem just random that when you go into a room everybody can do martial arts.”
As Season 1 ended, Sunny and his colt, M.K., were separated and on the run from several barons and other forces.
Season 2 finds Sunny and M.K. imprisoned in separate and unlikely places. While M.K. struggles to control his powers, Sunny is determined to fight his way back into the Badlands to find his family.
Mysterious new allies assist clipper and colt on their journey, but these partners’ motivations likely aren’t pure. Meanwhile, The Widow continues to consolidate her power against the other barons, while a dark and mysterious threat prepares to exact revenge on them all.
“Into the Badlands” also stars Emily Beecham as The Widow, Ally Ionnides as Tilda, Oliver Stark as Ryder, Orla Brady as Lydia, Sarah Bolger as Jade, Madeleine Mantock as Veil, and Stephen Lang as Waldo. Nick Frost joins the cast as Bajie, who becomes an unlikely ally for Sunny in his journey back to the Badlands.
Creators/showrunners/writers Gough and Millar executive produce. Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg, David Dobkin, Michael Taylor, director Stephen Fung and Wu also serve as executive producers.
“Into the Badlands” returns at 10/9c March 19 on AMC.
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Millar had this to say about Wu’s “Into the Badlands” fight scenes, which Wu told me previously will increase for Season 2:
We were in a six-day schedule and Daniel was working almost every single day, sometimes seven days a week and fighting physically. And yes, it’s a lot of wirework, but actually it is incredibly physically demanding. … He would literally sweat through his coat.
Watching them, it is like, “Oh my God.” And it’s not just one take, it’s take after take after take. What we thought was a simple stunt in Episode 5 where he has to do a 360-jump and hit a branch, he broke a rib. That’s difficult to watch sometimes.