Into the Badlands Brings a Different Kind of Action to Television

The stars of AMC's new martial arts series discuss last night's fight scenes and training for movie-worthy action on a TV schedule

by | November 15, 2015 | Comments

If you watched last night’s premiere of Into the Badlands — AMC’s post-apocalyptic martial arts epic starring Daniel Wu and Aramis Knight — chances are, you were impressed by the cinematic-worthy fight scenes. And while the stars can make the act of flipping onto a wet car look effortless, you can be sure that a lot of prep went into getting that one take.

Rotten Tomatoes chatted with Wu and Knight about what it’s like to star in a series that requires such a high level of athleticism and training, including a six-week boot camp for the actors.

“The biggest challenge was getting all the actors who didn’t know how to fight to learn how to fight in order to get ready for the show. It was a huge challenge; six weeks is not a lot of time to turn someone into an expert,” explained executive producer Wu, who plays the head “clipper” Sunny — and who is something of a martial arts expert himself. Starting at ten years old, Wu began kung-fu and wushu, and then later took up boxing, Muay Thai, and tai chi.

“It’s always been a lifestyle thing for me and a hobby and I always kept it up,” said Wu, “but filming martial arts action is totally different because you’re working 12 hours a day, fighting constantly throughout the day — and it’s a ten-week period. It’s not even what a fighter goes through. A fighter goes through six weeks of training and they fight one fight that lasts maybe 40 minutes. We have to keep that up for ten weeks.”

For Knight, jumping into a martial arts series was a big change-up from his existing experience. “I really had no martial arts background, but I’ve always been somewhat of an athlete,” explained the 15-year-old actor who plays M.K., the boy Sunny discovers in a trunk and takes under his wing. “Growing up, I played… mostly basketball. I’m a huge basketball fan. So the strength has always been there for me and the agility and the speed. But the issue was flexibility. And going in, Daniel and Stephen [Fung] and [Huan-Chiu Ku] — our fight director and fight choreographer — they really helped me in that six-week boot-camp.”

The training clearly pays off in the early episodes of Into the Badlands — especially in last night’s main fight scene, in which Sunny is ambushed by a group of the Widow’s [Emily Beecham] henchmen. “That flip [onto the car] took over twenty takes to even land one of them,” Wu told Rotten Tomatoes, laughing. “And that was the one that was good. It was impossible because the car’s completely wet so as soon as your foot hits you could slip.”

Wu admits that the aim for Into the Badlands has been ambitious. “Our main goal was really to try and bring that level of [martial arts movie] action to American television, which has never been done before. Now we know why. Because it’s very, very difficult.” admitted Wu.

One of the restrictions is the truncated production schedule. A film might allow for two or three week for an action scene, but for Into the Badlands, the schedule gives the cast and crew about a week. “A lot of these actions scenes were much more complex than the ones we’ve done in the past, so to cram that into seven days was a big, big challenge.”

Challenges aside, it seemed to Wu and the others involved in making Into the Badlands that the time was right to bring the genre to TV. Producer Stacey Sher had attended the premiere of kung-fu movie The Man With the Iron Fists in 2012 and was inspired to do martial arts on TV. She called Wu and he offered to produce the series on the condition that he could hire a Hong Kong action team to bring it to life.

“There was a goal in mind — to try and bring that kind of exciting action to television — and I think there’s a need for it now,” Wu said. “People want to see it. We’ve seen it in the movies with Matrix and Crouching Tiger, but we haven’t quite seen it on television. I think some shows like Arrow and Daredevil are getting close to that, but it’s still a different kind of action.”

Part of what’s unique to the action of Into the Badlands is the use of long takes. “In sequences in American action films, they do one or two punches and cut, and then you go to another sequence,” Wu explained. “We do 20 to 30 moves in one take so that you can see that it’s the actor doing all that action himself. That way, as the audience, you’re way more invested in the action because you know they’re doing it and there’s a dangerous element in that.”

Another difference is that the action in Into the Badlands doesn’t feel overly-rehearsed — because it’s not. “I’m not sure if a block is really going to work… and I think that’s what’s different than the way it’s been done in the West in the past,” said Wu, to which Knight added, “My favorite was doing fights with Daniel because you know he’s a ninja, so he’s gonna block my shots anyway. So I just go for it.”

Into the Badlands airs on AMC on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Check the schedule for encore presentations of last night’s premiere here.

  • Kevin Duffey

    Big fan of this show! Its like Mad Max meets Kill Bill. Closest and best thing to a live action anime i have ever seen!

  • The_Firm

    Def a show for us guys (and for the ladies that like martial arts type movies). We want good action and hot chicks, so far this show has given us good action with potential for hot chicks. Next is the acting which is decent enough to keep me interested and hopefully the plot is solid as the season progresses. I am looking forward to the next episode so its a win for the show!

  • Jackie Powers

    Guest star SHANE GRAHAM really got my attention by giving a splended preformance in the season premier. I hope to see him in upcoming episodes.

Tag Cloud

Spectrum Originals CNN The CW Comedy Awards Tour Spike golden globes TNT period drama Acorn TV 20th Century Fox travel DC Comics transformers police drama Nominations TLC Disney CMT Lionsgate festivals Bravo teaser singing competition TIFF Best and Worst technology based on movie Holidays cats Sci-Fi Cosplay GLAAD BBC FXX Animation zombies DC streaming service Sundance Now crime thriller Marathons diversity crime Star Trek Shudder BET doctor who Thanksgiving Podcast Mindy Kaling NBC Year in Review cooking Awards Rocky Certified Fresh TV VH1 Logo streaming VICE Oscars Food Network Masterpiece Pixar Countdown Marvel The Witch cults American Society of Cinematographers Extras psycho Spring TV anthology Hulu 2016 Amazon Prime ITV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt RT21 Fall TV Song of Ice and Fire BBC America Mary Tyler Moore TV Land FX Nat Geo Sony Pictures SXSW harry potter facebook GoT Epix Comics on TV See It Skip It Freeform vampires Rock dragons Showtime Teen NYCC TCA Vudu Musical boxoffice CBS sports FOX Winners spy thriller Adult Swim YouTube Premium Pet Sematary ratings Mudbound Black Mirror sequel Crackle Action ESPN Columbia Pictures Fantasy HBO RT History hist Rocketman President zero dark thirty blaxploitation Mystery supernatural First Look Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Valentine's Day TCM talk show TCA 2017 Film Festival TBS television Comic Book SDCC 007 IFC Films Drama CW Seed Reality historical drama theme song 2017 anime El Rey thriller cinemax sitcom space crime drama Music Ghostbusters dc Shondaland Box Office binge aliens Toys zombie Ovation Grammys natural history Kids & Family Amazon mockumentary social media Summer Pirates Watching Series Biopics USA LGBTQ composers what to watch Pop Britbox Western war Infographic Superheroe award winner comiccon Emmys Fox News Superheroes Reality Competition Election Trophy Talk true crime Character Guide San Diego Comic-Con Musicals Christmas National Geographic witnail Creative Arts Emmys DirecTV elevated horror Stephen King IFC dceu Sundance DGA adaptation Schedule Rom-Com Red Carpet casting ABC spider-man Disney Channel Apple nature Esquire GIFs MCU Set visit Tumblr AMC ABC Family Horror Dark Horse Comics Trivia Universal 24 frames MSNBC adventure finale science fiction 45 Lucasfilm dramedy MTV 2019 justice league Women's History Month Paramount Network Writers Guild of America E3 PBS APB serial killer WGN Polls and Games Opinion Syfy Paramount Walt Disney Pictures YA Interview Super Bowl Lifetime PaleyFest unscripted E! Ellie Kemper Sneak Peek 21st Century Fox Heroines Elton John TruTV Captain marvel Winter TV 2015 discovery X-Men crossover green book Country Trailer New York Comic Con Star Wars Cartoon Network comic miniseries Netflix Cannes Starz medical drama A&E Nickelodeon Quiz disaster Mary poppins Tarantino cops Calendar Warner Bros. richard e. Grant 2018 DC Universe History romance strong female leads YouTube Red docudrama USA Network psychological thriller OWN Brie Larson political drama Mary Poppins Returns CBS All Access Comedy Central politics mutant Premiere Dates robots biography jamie lee curtis SundanceTV Tomatazos Anna Paquin Video Games Martial Arts The Arrangement Photos