Last month at New York Comic Con we caught up with the cast of AMC ‘s amazing new action packed drama Into The Badlands. After getting a sneak peek at the first two episodes, we got the inside scoop from the stars of the show during round table interviews. Check out our Q&A with Aramis Knight and Emily Beecham.
Aramis Knight plays M.K., a mysterious young man with secret extraordinary powers and may be destined to change the course of the violent dystopian world the show is set in. Emily Beecher (The Widow) plays one of the seven Barons who rule over the explored world hundreds of years in the future.
The epic action packed genre bending martial arts drama premieres tonight on AMC in the prime spot immediately following The Walking Dead. The solid mix of amazing fight sequences and a rich backstory waiting to be explored makes the show a well worth checking out.
QUESTION: Why don’t we start with how did you guys both find this project? It’s pretty specifically different from a lot of stuff that’s out there now. Is there any one element of it that really drew you guys in to Badlands?
EMILY BEECHAM: It’s just completely original and fantastical and has a lot of interesting imagery. I still couldn’t imagine what it was going to look like, even whilst we were filming, didn’t know what it will be like put together. I thought it’s just very original.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I think one thing that drew me in the project so much is that, you know there are seven different Barrons and seven different territories, and in each territory not only are the fighting styles different but also the look and feel of the physical space. I think it’s also interesting that each Barron has their own belief, you know, the widow she’s very much into feminism-
EMILY BEECHAM: She’s a bit of an archaic-
ARAMIS KNIGHT: And for equality. And Quinn is more of a dictator. I think it’s cool that people are going to be able to interpret the Barrons in their on ways, and come up with their own beliefs, which is something that not many TV shows have.
QUESTION: There seems to be a massive hero’s journey for your character. How much can you get into that and how far do you get to do explore that?
ARAMIS KNIGHT: M.K. has one general motive throughout the whole thing: Not only to survive but also to find his home. To find his way back home. You know, he comes in, he definitely mixes things up and it’s found out that Sunny is very much tied into M.K.’s home as well. Without giving much away, we go to great lengths to get what we want for sure.
QUESTION: To put yourself into the mindset of the character, what did you really kind of have to look into as like influences or any kind of research to the way to just understand that sort of that loneliness and that yearning to get back to what you wanted originally?
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I definitely related it to just being on set. You know, having a job at such a young age and being in an industry that is so cutthroat. A lot of times you feel alone and I think that’s a lot of times why young actors go down wrong roads because you’re sort of forced to grow up, in a sense, and M.K. is very much forced to grow up. He doesn’t really have a mom, he’s basically an orphan so meeting Sunny is, sort of like, a father figure and I imagined, you know meeting somebody who I’ve never had in my life before. Fortunately I have a dad, so I couldn’t directly relate that but I definitely used the hardships of this business in general as sort of the lonely feeling that is felt throughout the series with M.K.
QUESTION: For the both of you guys, the roles that you are both faced with are obviously very physical roles. You have a spectacular action scene at the beginning of the second episode, and you’re going to on going fire-burning from within. How is that experience for you to have a background in that type of stuff?
EMILY BEECHAM: Well, we did some very different though but we did a stage combat at my drama school at LAMDA. And then-
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Emily has a background of badass-ness.
EMILY BEECHA: Just general badass-ness, yeah. Well I just done yoga and ballet and things like that, which actually really helped. Especially with the flexibility and the core strength. So I was quite flexible to start with, and I quite enjoy fight but that was- it was another level and I had to train before martial arts training, I actually did a physical training with a personal trainer who basically built my muscles and encouraged me to eat lots of protein and high amounts of food, so I didn’t lose weight because if you lose weight you’ll lose your muscles. So, I learned quite a lot about my body, which I never before and I sort of changed shape for the first time. I had also muscles grow and yeah it was really interesting and peculiar and quite painful as well. All the sit ups and push ups. And I could do a little push ups by the time I was finished. I find it very mentally challenging as well, difficult to carry on and keep doing it everyday when it’s quite painful.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: For me coming in, I guess my biggest weakness was my flexibility unlike Emily. I had-
EMILY BEECHAM: You’re pretty flexible now though. We had the Chinese Martial Arts team stretching us until we are shouting.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Flexibility was definitely my big issue. I played basketball my entire life. I’m a huge basketball fan so, I’m used to high impact jumping, running-
EMILY BEECHA: Yeah, you’re great at jumping, is that why you’re so good?
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, it’s from basketball.
EMILY BEECHAM: He’s like, so much better than us at jumping high. I was like, “How did he do that?”
ARAMIS KNIGHT: It sort of something I’ve always been accustomed to but, that sort of took away from the technique and the graceful part of martial arts, which is a huge thing – you know, the effortless thing.
EMILY BEECHAM: Almost like a dance.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, it is like a dance, and for me it was like trying to dunk. I definitely had to find my grace and flexibility throughout the process.
EMILY BEECHAM: We had to work around our strengths.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, totally.
EMILY BEECHAM: Which we didn’t know at the time they were watching us.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: It was a test. Every day was just a physical quiz.
QUESTION: What’s the most surprising part since the start of production, as for as the fighting sequences, what’s the most enjoyable or not so enjoyable part of it?
EMILY BEECHAM: Well, they kind of choreographed the fights on the set so – which was interesting when first started, I was like, “Oh my goodness.” But they can be so creative and really use all the set and everything, and utilize everything, and costumes- I think that the fight scenes are quite not really what you’re expecting. They’re very creative and I didn’t expect to not to be choreographed before, but that meant that we had to be really quicker remembering the choreography and going for it.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: At first it felt like they were expecting too much from us, because it’s hard to learn something that quickly. But, after doing it I realized that actually that was a way to keep it natural and raw, was to not over rehearse and not know every single move, you know what I mean? At some point you almost had to let instinct take over, and that is the core of any martial arts, is instinct so we definitely developed some sort of mental muscle to learn these fights and to be able to do the dance that is martial arts.
EMILY BEECHAM: And suddenly sometimes the choreographer might have like a different idea, and he’ll be like, “How about this?” Like that ice pick that you saw. Often different weapons, they’ll be like, “What about this weapon?” Showing me how to use all these-
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite weapon?
EMILY BEECHA: There is a really cool weapon, I can’t remember what it’s called, it’s like this big hooks.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Oh, the tartans?
EMILY BEECHAM: They’re called tartans?
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I don’t think they’re called tartans.
EMILY BEECHAM: They’re really long, they look like big meat cleavers, they’re like- yeah.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Oh, yeah.
EMILY BEECHAM: It was so cool.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Oh my gosh, yeah.
EMILY BEECHAM: I like the choreography with that, and the bull and chain things were actually quite fun.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I think the most creative one they thought of for me was a shard of glass.
EMILY BEECHAM: Yeah, that’s pretty vicious.
QUESTION: We saw that in the first episode.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yes. A shard of glass. And I also trained with the bow staff but I was never able to actually use it in the show. So I’m wondering if that, sort of, a devious plan that they have in their heads.
EMILY BEECHAM: I like the daggers, I want to do more daggers.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, the daggers are so badass.
EMILY BEECHAM: I trained with the daggers. So I’d like to do more of that.
QUESTION: Were these parts for the both of you, besides the physical aspect, were these parts different than your previous work that you done in acting? Was this a stretch for you? Or something that you can relate to, I guess?
EMILY BEECHAM: I think I can definitely relate to this character.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, I totally related to M.K.
EMILY BEECHAM: It was very different to my previous roles in a period drama that was set in the thirties. I played a young twenty-two year old aristocrat. It was an aristocratic family, a young woman.
QUESTION: So she didn’t fight with daggers?
EMILY BEECHAM: No, no.
QUESTION: But you are accustomed to elaborate customs?
EMILY BEECHAM: Yes. Corsets yeah.
QUESTION: Would you said that your previous costume work was more grueling?
EMILY BEECHAM: Different, the stilettos were difficult in this. Definitely running and fighting in stilettos. I’m used to corsets though. I don’t mind them.
QUESTION: What interest you guys right now in entertainment and pop culture? What do you guys watch? What’s on your Netflix queue?
EMILY BEECHAM: I’m loving Sense 8.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I’m watching The Walking Dead. I started- I was there last night [the Season Premiere fan screening at Madison Square Garden]. It was a huge spoiler. I didn’t even know Rick’s wife died yet.
QUESTION: Oh you didn’t? Wow. You’re pretty far behind.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I’m far behind. I’m still no season three. I just started, like, two months ago.
QUESTION: You better get to work.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, I better get to work.
QUESTION: So it must be awesome for you to have this tremendous amount of weight behind this. You’re getting the Talking Dead slot. So that must be awesome for you. You can be home watching The Walking Dead and you’re on after.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, definitely.
QUESTION: Do you guys tend to watch your own stuff that you act in or do you try and stay away from that?
ARAMIS KNIGHT: We’re sort of forced to.
EMILY BEECHAM: Yeah, sometimes I watch it afterwards cause just like, than watching at the same time as about several million people. The reality of that is a bit, it makes you a bit squeamish but you got to be objective about it.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: There’s no way to get better if you don’t look at the things that you’re struggling with. I mean, through the ADR process, I’ve seen plenty of form of deliveries of lines on my part.
EMILY BEECHAM: You see the uncut stuff. The ADR’s are not probably edited. You kind of see it gets much better after that.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: I don’t really like watching my stuff but I think it’s essential in becoming a better actor.
QUESTION: Do you like working in a serialized medium compared with one long film like shoot?
ARAMIS KNIGHT: We filmed it like a movie. We did three episodes at a time, so we were jumping from the first episode to the third episode in one day. So it was very much filmed like a movie, and we very much wanted it to feel like a movie because the authenticity of the martial arts would have been impossible if we did film it as a TV show. There had to be those beats, there had to be those moments of silence that sort of, a lot of TV shows skip over because you got to get to things, you know? But it very much felt like movie, definitely. I’m more accustomed to doing long-term movies more than long-term series like this was. It definitely felt more on the movie side than series. What do you think?
EMILY BEECHAM: I agree with you. It was a good answer.
QUESTION: Now martial arts genre is something that’s kind of faded in America and Hollywood. Do you think that the fact that this is almost like a genre-bending type of show, do you think that will make the public embrace it quicker? Rather than just being a straight up, “Hey, this is another, this is a martial arts show.”
EMILY BEECHAM: Yeah, I thin, definitely. I don’t think it’s definitely not. It’s a cocktail of all sorts of things.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Although it is genre-bending, it’s not so out there that people won’t be able to relate to it. There’s still very much relatable characters and it’s actually, you know, as I said there is a huge mix of so many different feels and themes. From Western to Steampunk to the Creole vibe of New Orleans where we were filming to also Oriental. It’s not so far-fetched that people won’t be able to relate.
QUESTION: Just when I was watching that I totally felt almost like the same I felt when I was seeing The Matrix, for the first time you know? So many different genres, everyone should be able to love this.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: Yeah, definitely. And also so many different age ranges, it’s insane.
EMILY BEECHAM: I was saying earlier, I think women would love the show as well because there’s such strong female characters, and not just that mean women will just watch shows because other women are in it but, I mean the relationships between all the characters are real.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: The hot guy, M.K. is going to draw all the viewers.
EMILY BEECHAM: M.K. is so fit and so hot. And the choreography is really beautiful, it’s not just violent or anything. It’s like Crouching Tiger. It’s very unusual, I think. It makes you squeal, when I watched the fighting scenes it makes me squeal.
QUESTION: In your fight scenes, because you walked away from that pretty bloody, was there a lot of practical effects on set with either stabbing or chopping limbs off, or covering you in blood, or was it a mixture of CG?
EMILY BEECHAM: Yeah, the blood, the combination of blood and the wiring, there were wires. Got trapped in the wire ones, with my little cape which was difficult. Lots of things had pads on under wires, because it can bruise you. It can actually cut into you especially if you’re bony like me. It can be painful, so you have to have pads and things, so you can just ignore it and go for it and not be concerned about breaking a limb or cutting yourself.
QUESTION: From all of the different cultural backgrounds in the show, what would you say was the most interesting one to explore when getting set for doing the show?
EMILY BEECHAM: I like the way that the world had evolved. That was interesting to think about, cause we were asking ‘How did we get to where we are, and socially and economically and why we are here?’ I enjoyed that and everything put in together.
ARAMIS KNIGHT: A quote by Daniel actually was, “The future is only a reflection of the present.” Looking at the show, you can definitely draw some similarities from today’s society and see some progression there with possibly where we could be and…
EMILY BEECHAM: It’s a reflection of our world today. The Barons they all each own a resource, oil, steel and water, and they control it. That’s where they have all their power.
Into The Badlands premieres on AMC tonught at 10PM and stars Daniel Wu (Sunny), Aramis Knight (M.K.), Emily Beecham (The Widow), Marton Csokas (Quinn), Sarah Bolger (Jade), Orla Brady (Lydia) and Oliver Stark (Ryder).