INTERVIEW: Marton Csokas and Orla Brady Talk Up INTO THE BADLANDS

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Last month at New York Comic Con we caught up with the cast of AMC ‘s amazing new action packed genre bending 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 Marton Csokas and Orla Brady.

Csokas plays Quinn, one of the seven Barons who rules over the violent dystopian land. Orla portrays one of his wives, Lydia, who is also the mother of his son.

The 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.

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QUESTION:   Can you describe your characters?

MARTON CSOKAS: Ladies first.

ORLA BRADY: Well, obviously they’re very interconnected, although, as Marton said practically the first time we met that their- We could both kind of give entirely different points of view about what our relationship is because that is what is written is two people who are probably not seeing eye to eye as they used to used to. You know, I feel that the journey that Lydia setting out on, if we are talking about people who are at a bit of crossroads and a bit about re-examination of likes. She’s having a classic mid-life crisis, if you’d like. She’s understanding that she’s not seen and held in the same esteem she was, as a young woman. That maybe the entire basis of her life has been quite fragile, and that she needs to rethink her life. She needs to understand how to be, in a new paradigm if you like. Is that a very vague answer or does that answer it?

QUESTION: We see a very rich history and backstory exists for these characters, and we kind of jump into it with the first episode. How much of that will we get to explore of your lives?

MARTON CSOKAS: Well hopefully a lot of the backstory comes to the present as we had hoped as we live our lives. They’ve been around for a long time, relatively. It’s quite a Darwinian world. It’s survival of the fittest. They’re ways to do things, either imposed or agreed upon and as Orla has said, this is at a crossroads, this is a time of transition whereby things are changing and people becoming more outspoken about what they like and what they dislike, and the largest going politic of the world inhabit in the Badlands and also into personal relationships as well. Whether it will be husband and wife, mother and son, wife and other wife. It’s working well but then the jagged edge is beginning to show and people fall on them and use them to insert one another in what is coming. It’s full of intrigue. In a relatively sophisticated fashion.

QUESTION: You get a tremendous opportunity in this show to flex your super-villain acting chops. Is that different because from our site we post a lot of fantasy stuff. You’re a Lord of the Rings star for us. This character couldn’t be more different from that. Can you speak to what it’s like playing a villain?

MARTON CSOKAS: I’m grounded by the people … By the character that I’m playing so I do not see him as a super villain. While your trying to play against that. I haven’t seen what they’ve edited but I think he has his reasons for doing this and that’s possibly the difference. If you’re doing something that people would say is bad and believe is good then that’s evil, of course what’s bad and what’s good is the eternal dilemma. In his old school way he’s trying to maintain order and protect people from the ravages of the Badlands as a whole. There are plenty of people come, as we see in one of the stories, come and ravage and destroy everything that was setup. It’s a ruthless cruel world and this Darwinian message and he’s bringing order to this world. Within the intricacies of how he behaves people are going to have some discrepancies of that but I think fundamentally, he thinks he’s doing the right thing and he has his own personal charm attached to that approach in the intricacies of the behavior.

There are seven Barons so the legend goes. There are seven Barons in order to stop the carnage that was occurring and the anarchy of the future or the present as they know it. They formed a society not unlike a Japanese feudal system and each Barron had a lot of power around oil or gold or opium as Quinn was. Then they get on with it, and they live and I think ultimately in much ways is trying to his best to protect and it is quite a violent it is quite a brutal way and he would argue that the way it needs to be done. That’s his opinion. Not necessarily mine.

QUESTION: How is it for you operating next to such a different character, personality wise. I see that in two episodes that they get to watch your watching his behavior as being not quite working so well anymore. Are you playing the straight man to his character that’s unraveled a bit?

ORLA BRADY: Her fate is very bound up because the power Paradigm is to do very centrally, which is a feudal system. So the Baron, the head of the feudal system is everything. You get your food and water sustenance and you are allowed to be and not to be the behead or whatever by the Baron. Even the wife is beholden to that so she’s very dependent on it. Also, this is somebody who they’ve been together from a very young age so see if you like as people often do in relationships, she sees the boy. She see the vulnerability that many people don’t see, so she knows the kind of the secret fears, the things he has to build up to. She does watch him a lot more than, she watches him a lot, and he does not watch her a lot. Because I think she is more in love with him than he is with her and she is more dependent on him. She has to hold on to him in some form in order to exist. It is a lovely, complex thing, that power paradigm is there in many relationships, in a less extreme form.

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QUESTION: For us as the viewer where we initially view you as the guy who is on top and really someone that Sunny is worthwhile working for and you see you start to come apart.

MARTON CSOKAS: I think, to answer your question, it is more of that and when need be then we fight. He is more a tactician or a strategist than somebody who wants to get in and go all out and he has a lot of different people to do that. But he is not afraid to fight and take on various people specifically. But as already suggested in the panel, there is fighting of the mind. The psychological strategizing that define one’s ultimate end, but everybody is trying to do that and someone like Sunny has the balls to articulate what is going on very, very well. We do not see them all. There’s seven Barons all together, we see some of them as the stories develop, so it is dog eat dog in that regard. Yes they go at each other but that is hopefully a complex relationship, they prey on one another’s emotions, loyalties, dis-loyalties. But wait a minute, what about, shouldn’t we be doing this and everybody is bending one another’s perspective to serve their own purpose. Sometimes with malice and sometimes with the best of intentions. That is certainly the nature of Sunny and Quinn’s relationship.

To some extent with Lydia and Quinn and everybody sees the world differently is all this is, so what somebody might consider to be wrong. From Quinn’s point of view I think they love each other. Polygamy by the way is an excepted thing in this world, but people have a problem with is, but it is an excepted institution, a way of living. But it does not mean that it was an easy thing to do and so these kinds of contentions come in. It is like, ‘Well that’s the law,’ but yes I am not happy about it. But that is they law, so things get warped as they do in real life.

ORLA BRADY: There is an element of, there is an acceptance I think that Lydia has of the polygamy that is normal and he is a Baron, he can have whoever he likes. What becomes then interesting is the fact that the new wife is played by a fabulous actress, in Sarah Bolger, who I am sure you know from lots of things and Sarah is strong. What begins to emerge is that she is not a little mouse that I can go, ‘I am the senior wife.’ It is kind of like she has her own plans and that is what begins to be very unsettling. It is partly in the performance.

QUESTION: A show having a background in such a more eastern based culture, was there anything that you had to approach differently when coming to your characters than you would have had to do before?

ORLA BRADY: I do not think it has gone very far eastern where I think there are elements, it is almost like it is that mission of what is left of the world, homogenized world, from the bits and pieces of culture that is left. But it is broadly more western than eastern, isn’t it, I mean it is.

MARTON CSOKAS: Yes.

ORLA BRADY: There are elements of the eastern, so I do not think our approach had to be anything more stylized or anything like that, except probably if you talk to Daniel, he would say in terms of the fights they approach those differently but that’s not for me to say.

MARTON CSOKAS: That is possibly where the show, I do not know, I am speaking out of turn, not because I know or I do not know. I would think that we would venture into that area more, I am guessing. Just by some of the things that have occurred, some of the philosophies particularly, which would be exciting. By starting from a, at least in my terms, a neo-Victorian Japanese perspective as opposed to the Chinese. At least in some of the outlook stylization and costume in particular and the you have the whole Martial Arts things. I think it seems that we are going into the eastern philosophy role, if it continues.

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QUESTION: So it seems like, besides the eastern philosophy, also there is going to be southern influence especially coming from you guys. How familiar were you with that before the project started and was there anything specific about learning about the culture and how the people acted and what was said really informed your characters?

ORLA BRADY: You were reading Tony Morrison and just really settling down into the South, weren’t you? In a way that was quite, it somehow has got to have come through you, I think more so you. I just felt because we were shooting in the South and because I knew you were creating this character, we did not want to place it exactly there. We wanted to have this kind of, people could be from anywhere, because it is vaguely somewhere in America in the future. So I did not want to settle it right down into plantation hands and said, that is not what it is about and it is not supposed to be the cults, they are not supposed to be slaves in a sense that we know historically. It is supposed to be a feud lord, but it is not unlike that, but it is a much more generic thing. I did not, from personal experience it was gorgeous being there but I did not bring it into the role.

MARTON CSOKAS: In a way, we are not really in the South but there is a nod to that. It could be anywhere. The reason that I chose that man of the South, a generic accent really, that choice was because he said so much and there is the fruition of the oratory of the South. It just allows me places to go. I wanted to do something much more, not southern but other choices that were a little more extreme. But the world then changed that because it is quite a Victorian world too, which goes back to the East / West thing. It is very Anglo, much more than I think most of us thought it was going to be.

ORLA BRADY: Yes it was, for us.

MARTON CSOKAS: In some ways that was a restriction but a restriction that became an advantage in some ways. But really the choice, the Southern thing was, yes we were there and it was hard to avoid but also that allowed me some leeway in which to articulate these ideas. There are big long monologues and it was just a way to make them more interesting, as interesting as possible.

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QUESTION: How much input did you have in developing your characters?

MARTON CSOKAS: We were left to our own devices.

ORLA BRADY: Yes, very much, we were very much left to our own devices, which is a good thing actually, it is very great if it is not a prescriptive thing that you are given. That can often be kind of restricting, we had a lot of time, we were all cast very early, much earlier than you are normally cast. We had several months to kind of let it, settle down into the leaves like a hedgehog and decide who this, who these characters are. When we came to first rehearsal it was like we were proposing, we were saying here is who I think she is and they very much went with that. The first director was very open, I think he was very excited about seeing these characters come to life, so if anything I think a lot of it a distinctive role that they are directly based.

MARTON CSOKAS: We were given broad, there were a few costume designers in this production. The first production designer gave a visual board and everybody liked the MZ and Allen, Miles, the director. That was very, very useful. Those visual statements were really strong and there were specific choices from a lot of different cultures and references and that spurred, for me and for all of us, the imagination. And anything goes, David Dobkin was like, ‘It’s out there. It’s this, it’s that.’ It was very, very broad. The closer we got to doing it and arriving on set, there were scriptwriters that came, but we did have a broad base, thankfully. That was tough to deal with, it was that wait a minute, you said we could do anything and the funnel got a little narrower at the end there. But that is all part of the challenge. Yes they were making it up as they went along, that was the impression I got. Which is quite liberating in some ways and a little disconcerting in others.

ORLA BRADY: That is TV, possibly in its best sense, is that an idea is proposed and writers write to it and then we all turn up and do something that they, and I know in a couple of cases and then they went “Oh alright that’s what you want to do with it’ and adjust and go along. I think, if anything, certain characters and certain story lines changes and morphed and strengthened and I think it was quite a good thing.

MARTON CSOKAS: I am not saying it was bad, I am just saying it was the way it was. Yes, in fact I agree with you, it was good to have that broad thing.

ORLA BRADY: Thank you very much, very, very much indeed.

MARTON CSOKAS: Thank you.

Into The Badlands premieres on AMC  tonight 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).

Jim Kiernan
Founder and moderator of Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel. Steering this ship the best I can. Lifelong opinionated geek & pop culture enthusiast. Independent television & film professional. Born & raised New Yorker. My dog Nicholas is awesome.

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