We caught up with Into the Badlands creators Al Gough and Miles Millar, as well as EP and star Daniel Wu, at C2E2 to discuss what’s happening in season 3 and beyond.
Into the Badlands got to shine at C2E2 2019 thanks to Gough, Millar, and Wu’s presence. With them, they brought the premiere episode, as well as a clip from episode 10 and a new trailer for the remainder of the season.
I had the chance to sit down with all three of them to discuss attending the convention, keeping up hope for the future of the show, and what we can expect in these final episodes of the series.
How was it, watching the premiere with everybody in the room?
Daniel Wu: That was the first time for me. Also because, as producers, we’re always looking at the footage on a little laptop. So, to be on a big screen, to remember how beautiful it is but then also to get the audience’s reaction… [It’s] why you do it.
Hypable: Is it still weird for you to watch yourself on screen, or are you over that?
Wu: Yes and no. There are still bits where I’m like urrrgh. But overall, because this show is so diverse in terms of its storylines, it’s not just all about me. I’m into what’s happening in the world and I forget. You make it, and you’re in it, but you forget when it’s all done, “Oh, that storyline is really compelling.” So, I get into that, and that’s why I like watching it, watching the other people perform.
What are the chances ‘Into the Badlands’ will possibly find another home?
Al Gough: Those are talks that have been ongoing, but we haven’t had much success. A lot of it has to do with the nature of ownership and who owns what and where, in this case, the show lives in its second window, which is Netflix, versus where it lives overseas, which is Amazon, which is AMC.
Miles Millar: It’s not clear.
Wu: It’s very convoluted.
Gough: It isn’t a lack of people really liking the show and wanting to do it. It’s all the business that can’t seem to figure it out.
Hypable: Which I assume is very frustrating.
Wu: Very. It’s disheartening, but we get it.
Do you think fans will be satisfied by the end of the last half of season 3, or are we still gonna have a ton of questions left over?
Gough: I think fans will be satisfied. I’m sure there will still be questions, but the show has an ending.
Wu: We come to a full stop, for sure.
Millar: There are possibilities for the future, but we answer a lot of questions.
Wu: I don’t think we knew while we were making it that we were going to get cancelled for season 3, but this storyline comes to a full stop. And we were ready to go to a new one.
Do you have ideas for season 4? Do you think if the show doesn’t end up going anywhere else, are you willing to share that sometime in the future and let fans know what’s going on?
Millar: The show can live in graphic novels…
Hypable: That was gonna be one of my other questions!
Millar: It’s not an ending.
Wu: A movie? Movie? Maybe you should write that down.
Hypable: Oh, it’s going in there. I think that would be amazing. The show is so cinematic, so having a movie would be great for everything you guys are doing.
What’s something different you guys wanted to do in season 3, versus the first two seasons, that you feel like you really succeeded at?
Gough: The first season was, frankly, [Sunny] waking up from the world he had been programmed to live in. And season 2 was the quest to find his family. But I think we also kind of wanted to move away from the barons [in season 3]. You know, Quinn was the main villain in the first two seasons, and we wanted to open up the world and introduce a new idea. And the fact that it’s an area that’s been destabilized by war, and so now this sort of religious zealot moves in. It’s like the equivalent of ISIS moving into Syria and Iraq. And what does that mean? But also we didn’t want him to come in guns blazing — well, not guns blazing because there are no guns — but where he was evil or he was bad. We wanted a character you liked and you would understand why people would follow him. He had a message that had a lot of teeth to it. And people would be interested. And these last eight episodes are really where you start to see his turn.
Wu: I think with previous seasons it’s always been about personal battles, and this has become an ideological battle. This is on a much larger scale. [He gradually opens his arms wider and wider] The show in season 1 was like this, season 2 is like this, and season 3 got real big.
Millar: Saving the world. Literally.
What are some big moments that we can expect to see in the back half of season 3 that fans are going to be really excited about?
Wu: I definitely think Sunny trying to rectify this situation he put everybody in is going to be a huge plot point. Obviously a huge point. I think he’s totally regretful of what he’s done, but I don’t think he would’ve done it any other way because he had to save his son. But now he’s just trying to figure out how the fuck does he take these people down now. Basically, he created a nuclear bomb with these people, and it’s like, how do you take apart that bomb?
Gough: And you’ll see people who haven’t met in the show start to meet, and different alliances form of characters that you’d never thought would be on the same side. So that’s something. And we’ll get an ending to this war between Chau and The Widow as well.
Millar: Also, we see that in this last half of the season the action takes a step up as well. It’s incredibly inventive.
Hypable: Is that possible!?
Millar: It is! In the finale, it just takes it to a whole level of epicness we haven’t even begun to imagine.
Wu: Yeah, that’s the crazy thing about the show. [Even with] the volume of fights we do, we’re still able to keep it fresh and different every time. There’s so much variety. The Bajie market fight with the octopus, that’s a totally different thing from the rain fight with me and the butterflies and meeting [The Widow] for the first time. All these different kinds of things that we’ve done, that has always been our M.O. We were like, we’ve got to keep it fresh. We can’t repeat ourselves. And it’s hard to do it on a TV show. In a movie, you’ve got about three or four fights in the whole film, right? We’re doing, like, two fights in every episode.
Gough: We did 40 fights in this 16-episode arc. There were 40 fights.
Wu: That has a lot to do with Master DeeDee and being really creative and having [an abundance] of knowledge of all his film work in the past and be able to use that to our advantage in this show.
For each of you, personally, whose journey are you most excited to see play out throughout this season?
Gough: I would say The Widow’s journey because I think she’s a character who was never black and white, even though she wore black. And I think she’s someone who had been called on the carpet a few times for — is what you’re preaching what you’re really about? Tilda did it in season 2 and got a chandelier dropped on her head. When people sort of really pushed her… I think you see in the episode we just saw, 3×09, where the master is calling her out, too. And also the master made mistakes as well. And I think that’s something that’s interesting, too. Because a lot of these back eight episodes, sort of on the ideological front, are really about people stepping away from what they thought their world views were to try to find a different way to save the world.
Wu: It’s an incredible journey of self-reflection for her, that character. The first two seasons, she’s so steadfast about what she wants, and then suddenly, she’s like, oh wait, am I right? And that happens in life with everybody. I think that’s why that character is so relatable. What I’m fighting for, is that true or not? We don’t know. Nowadays, there’s so much misinformation about everything, you never know what the truth is. For me, personally, I’m excited about Sunny’s background and finding out about his past because we’ve teased the shit out of it for two seasons, and now you get the payoff in this season. So, that’s going to be exciting as well.
Millar: I like Lydia’s arc. Lydia is someone who’s very… People began the first season and they thought they knew who she was and sort of the archetype of that person. And over the course of the series, you’ve really seen her become something unexpected. And I think that relationship with Moon is a really interesting progression, and then her ultimate arc is really satisfying and interesting.
Hypable: That was going to be one of my questions, actually. What made you guys bring Lydia in on the action?
Millar: We wanted a character that people didn’t like, basically, but then over the course of the series come to respect and like. So it was a game played in the writer’s room. How do you take someone you think the likeable stakes are stacked against them and through the story make an audience feel for them and empathize and root for? So that’s sort of her journey.
Wu: Also, Orla as a person, as an actor, was into the fight camp. She came to the camp fight. The first two seasons, she didn’t have to fight, but she came anyway. She trained. That enthusiasm showed us that she really wanted to do it. So season 2, that first fight where she kills him with the steak knife, right? That was her test. And she pulled it off brilliantly. It was a totally different kind of fight that we’d never seen in the Badlands where it was all about motion. The aftermath of killing someone. Her acting was so great in that scene, it was just like, I just fucking killed somebody. That expression on her face.
Millar: And it was the idea that it was an older woman who has agency and can kill.
Wu: And that it was innately in her, that character. She discovers that it’s innately in her, and then it kind of just naturally progressed for her as the character and her as the actress.
Gough: I think we also really found this in season 1 and season 2: The beloved story aspect is also something that we wanted. And now that it was obviously done with Sunny and Veil, we wondered who else could have a relationship that you were rooting for? Obviously you have Gaius and The Widow as well, but I think [Lydia] and Moon, [were] two people who were getting a second chance at life. And in a world where not many people get second chances because most people are dead.
What do you guys have coming up, what kind of projects are you looking at? Anything in the works that you can tell us about?
Gough: Miles and I have a couple of new television shows in the works but nothing that we can talk about, unfortunately.
Millar: And we have a book coming out, called Double Exposure, that was actually released this week, which is a cold war thriller.
Gough: [Laughs] Because, you know, we like to jump genres.
Wu: For me, I’m just gonna get back to my life after Badlands because it was five years of my life. Probably going back to my film career. I just did a film in China in October. We finished in December, just before Christmas. So that’s coming out in August. And I have a couple of things in the works. One of the things I mentioned briefly [at the panel] was a documentary idea I want to do which is documenting the influence of Hong Kong New Wave Cinema on contemporary action cinema today, worldwide. That’s something we were trying to do in this show, pay homage to that, and now I really want to delve into that a little bit more and talk about filmmakers now that were influenced by that era of filmmaking. And then I have a project that I’m going to be directing soon, probably, so I’m trying to push that through the works as well.