How Martial Arts Series ‘Into the Badlands’ Kicked Its Way Onto AMC; Debuts Nov. 15 – TCA

UPDATED, 5:01 PM: AMC finally has nailed down a date for its martial arts drama series Into The Badlandswhich will make its debut on November 15 at 10PM, right after The Walking Dead. The news was announced at TCA today after it was revealed at Comic-Con that the show would be premiering in November.

The six-episode series was created by EPs/writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, based loosely on the Chinese tale Journey To The West. Daniel Wu, who also serves as EP, plays Sunny, a well-trained warrior who together with a young boy, M.K. (Aramis Knight), embarks on a journey across a dangerous land to find enlightenment. Along the way, Sunny will turn M.K. into a martial artist of unrivaled skill.

into the badlandsIn addition to the trailer that was shown at Comic-Con, AMC showed an exclusive kickass fight scene clip of warlord the Widow (Emily Beecham) taking out a western burlesque bar of assassins. The scene ends with her spiking the last guy in the throat with the heel of her knee-high boots. Lots of knives, lots of blood.

“There wasn’t a martial arts show on television, and we wanted to do a show that would make us jealous if it was on TV,” Into the Badlands co-creator Alfred Gough said at TCA today. For many, the last martial arts series on the small screen was Kung Fu starring David Carradine which aired on ABC from 1972-75.

The duo met with Django Unchained producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, who they knew socially, and as luck had it, they had a deal at AMC, which was looking for such fare.

“We pitched the show to AMC and nobody else,” said Millar. “It was a glorious situation.”

Sher brought in Hong Kong martial arts stars Stephen Fung and Wu, who she became acquainted with during production of Contagion. “It was a three-way partnership of all of us getting into a room and sharing our mutual love of martial arts,” said Gough.

Wu at the time was only planning on being an executive producer but threw his hat in the ring to star. “He wanted to show that he had the chops to do the role and did a screen test,” added Gough.

“After we vetted through everyone in auditions, all eyes turned on me,” said Wu.

Wu, a Berkeley native, told the TCA press corps about his ascent as a Hong Kong martial arts star. It was a career that literally tapped him on the shoulder after he graduated from college in 1997 here in the States with a degree in architecture.

During his travels in Asia, he was having a drink in a bar “when someone asked me to do a commercial.” It was a great excuse to stick around Asia, so he did it. That commercial led to a director casting Wu in his first film, which also co-starred Fung, who serves as both the EP and the fight director on Into the Badlands. After some time, “they accepted me into the fold as a Hong Kong actor rather than that  American-born Chinese kid,” Wu said about working in the industry.

Though based on a Chinese tale, in terms of its baron villains, who control various resources, Into The Badlands draws its inspiration from the feudal Shogun warriors.

“Disaster strikes the earth in this Darwinian universe where people are surviving as best they can,” said actor Marton Csokas who plays Quinn, the baron who rules the opium resource. “There’s a foundation treaty formed by the seven barons … there’s a period of kill or be killed.”

Each episode has at least five minutes worth of fight scenes, which was crucial in balancing the drama on the show.

Said Wu on the trick to pulling off a great martial arts project: “If you don’t do it right, it becomes pornography. We wanted the storyline to be as good if not better than the actions scenes.”

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