Wondercon went Into The Badlands on Saturday morning. The AMC series took the dais with stars Daniel Wu (who was sporting a “Straight Outta The Badlands” T-shirt), Lorraine Toussaint, and Nick Frost along with showrunner Alfred Gough to talk about the upcoming season, but more than that, it talked about the groundbreaking inclusivity of the acclaimed show.
Moderated by journalist Jeff Yang, the panel started off with a new trailer for season three (which debuts on Sunday April 22 10 PM ET/PT). The trailer (watch above) continues to show the visionary world of the series complete with the often underrated and overlooked jaw-dropping action sequences. I mean, one scene has a woman who stops AND effortlessly breaks an arrow with two fingers. But it was inclusion that was a huge focus of the panel.
Into the Badlands has made considerable strides when it comes to inclusivity of the martial arts drama. The show has broken ground with an Asian American lead — something that we have seldom seen on cable television. In fact, we may have never seen it. Gough says that they immediately knew that Sunny was going to be Asian so the inclusivity was built from there. In addition, prominent roles women for women have been folded in and in season three it continues with Toussaint.
Gough says that all of the show’s inclusivity and diversity was a conscious decision and that putting women front and center was part of the evolution of the show. He adds, “The future isn’t gonna be full of white people…says the only white guy on the panel.”
As the audience and panel laughed, but Gough speaks more about inclusion and how martial arts is more than just a storytelling device in the series, but it is a great equalizer. “Women, men, and different body types can do it, ” said Gough. “For us, it was very important to have that in this world.”
Still, Gough points out there is more to studios just saying they’re going to carry out inclusivity when it comes to casting — and Toussaint passionately agrees. “I shoot in Irelands — it has the whitest people in the world,” jokes Gough. From background to featured cast to everything about the production, he says that when you set out to carry out that promise of having a diverse cast it can’t just be lip service.
“You get to decide — people want to do it but it’s a strange institutional mindset” he says in regards to all of the talk from studios wanting to be inclusive.
Toussaint says that when she spoke on the phone with Gough, she was impressed with how Into the Badlands ws literally the most diverse cast on TV. She told Gough that he was “walking the walk” but then asked him “How is he doing it?”
“You just have to do it,” he answered.
“People in the power need to make these conscious decisions,” said Wu. “Otherwise we are being passive.”
Season three finds Sunny (Wu) living off the grid, doing his best to provide for his infant son, Henry, in the wake of Veil’s death. It’s not exactly a happy time for him — but he’s managing. “He’s a single samurai dad,” says Gough.
When Henry contracts a mysterious illness that Sunny must join forces with Bajie (Frost) and journey back into the Badlands, where The Widow (Emily Beecham ) and Baron Chau (Eleanor Matsuura) are entrenched in a drawn-out war that has destabilized the entire region. On top of all that, there’s a new gang in town that is here to shake things up in the Badlands via a fanatical cult leader Pilgrim (Babou Ceesay) and his partner in crime Cressida (Toussaint).
The series also stars Aramis Knight (Enders Game) as M.K., Ella-Rae Smith (Clique) as Nix, Lewis Tan (Iron Fist) as Gaius, Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) as Castor and Sherman Augustus as Nathaniel Moon.
Into the Badlands was created by executive producers, showrunners and writers Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) and is executive produced by Oscar-nominated producers Stacey Sher (Django Unchained) and Michael Shamberg (Contagion), along with David Dobkin (The Judge), Stephen Fung (Tai Chi Zero), Michael Taylor (TURN: Washington’s Spies) and Wu.