While Daniel Wu has always been a creative force behind AMC‘s Into the Badlands, he didn’t initially plan on a role in front of the camera.
With the series entering its second season on Sunday, March 19 (at 10 p.m. EDT/PDT), Wu took a break from filming the Tomb Raider reboot in South Africa, to speak with Tatiana Torres and myself for the Agents of GEEK podcast. Wu discussed shooting in Ireland vs. New Orleans, his TV guilty pleasure, Treehouse Masters and that while he was excited to bring Hong Kong-style action to American television, starring in this vehicle wasn’t the way he first envisioned contributing to the show.
We wanted to make a martial arts show with a spirituality to it, and we wanted the characters to go on this journey. At that moment I was not planning on playing Sunny at all; I was just going to be a producer. My suggestion was to get a kid who was 28 or 30, because if the show is successful and it goes on for eight years, like Walking Dead or Breaking Bad (they could play the role a while). I was 40 when we started, so the thought of being 48 and still fighting like that, I wasn’t so sure about.”
However, as the casting process wore on, it became clear to the other producers and eventually, to Wu, himself that there was only one man who truly embodied Sunny.
We sent out a casting call and auditioned hundreds of people. We either got great martial artists who had never acted, or great actors who has never done martial arts. You really need to find someone who has a balance. That narrowed it down to four or five people, and the producers came to me and said, ‘Daniel, you know we wrote this part for you. You have to do this.'”
Wu said he’d stepped away from the kind of serious training required to perform fights on screen some years earlier, but after his body reacted well to the crash training course he created, he took the role and Into the Badlands was officially born.
This new season is filled with changes both in front of and behind the camera. The world, itself will expand with new baronies and regions explored. Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) joins the cast as Bajie. The greatest catalyst for the changes on the show was a shift in production from New Orleans to Ireland, and Wu said that changing the shooting location opened a new realm of storytelling opportunities for Into the Badlands.
Season 2 is going to be the first ‘official season’ of the show. Last season, I feel like we treated as an extended pilot. We showed you a taste but not exactly everything there is in the world. In Season 2, we open that can of worms.
Shooting in Ireland allowed us to expand the show visually. Ireland is an amazing place. Within a half an hour of our production facility, there’s mountains, there’s forests, there’s oceans, there’s amazing scenery all over the place.”
The shift of locations was also welcome in more practical ways, as well, Wu said:
New Orleans was death. It was 100-something degrees and 90 percent humidity, and I’m wearing a leather trench coat. It was a cooler welcome in Ireland to not have to deal with that heat.”
You can listen to the full interview with Into the Badlands‘ Daniel Wu here or on most podcast apps.
(All photos via AMC)
Into the Badlands also stars Emily Beecham, Sarah Bolger, Oliver Stark, Orla Brady, Ally Ioannides and Madeleine Mantock. Season 2 returns to AMC March 19th.