Into the Badlands series regular Sherman Augustus spoke to us about what’s next for Nathaniel Moon. Plus Lewis Tan makes a surprise appearance!
Sherman Augustus made such an impression when he debuted during Into the Badlands season 2 that he was asked back as a series regular for season 3. Now that we’re three episodes in, it’s clear that decision wasn’t made soon enough.
Moon has proven he’s quite the warrior, despite losing a fair fight against Sunny, but now it’s time to prove he’s also a decent man. His moments with Lydia in particular have shown us a side we didn’t think we’d ever see from the character.
I spoke with Sherman about the future of Nathaniel Moon, how his relationship with Lydia will impact him this season, and which character he’d choose to be if he weren’t playing one of the fiercest warriors in the Badlands.
Oh, and he happened to be hanging out with Lewis Tan (aka Gaius, as well as Shatterstar in the upcoming Deadpool 2), so look out for some fun commentary from the peanut gallery.
The following is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for optimum clarity.
What was your reaction when you learned that you’d be returning to ‘Into the Badlands’ as a series regular?
Sherman Augustus: When I read the breakdown when I got here the first year, the character was slated for seven episodes. It was up to me, basically, to cement that. When I stepped on that bridge that morning to do that first scene with Nick Frost and Daniel Wu, it was really magical because everybody was so giving. Andy Cheng was directing that particular scene, and that day went by so quick and so fast with all the action that we had, I knew I had to give a performance. At the end of the day that day, I just knew from everyone’s reaction that Nathaniel Moon was definitely coming back.
Lewis Tan: Tell her about the story you told me when you were on the plane and you got the script and what metaphor you used. Because this is funny.
SA: I didn’t read the script until I got on the plane, so I didn’t have a chance to actually do any homework. What I usually do is let the character evaluate me. What I mean by that is I let the character ask me questions as far as, “What have you been through in your life to get me up off the page?” Because I didn’t write it, so it’s harder for some actors to try to find that character. I know everybody on the plane thought I was crazy because I would get up and start talking to myself. I was standing over by the galley, and I was letting that guy talk to me. It’s easier for an actor to, at least with my training, connect with that particular character [in this way]. So I had to do my own work on that flight coming over.
And, of course, coming back I had to reevaluate that whole thing again, so I spent many nights sitting there having conversations with myself or letting Nathaniel talk to me. It made it a lot easier, but still every time we got scripts, there was new information. I knew he was a deadly clipper, but then they made him a clipper plus a Regent and that gave me more stuff to work with. That helped a lot, but the homework never stops. Every script that comes in, you still have to go back into your backstory and reinvent yourself. I just knew I had my work cut out for me, and you just got to do your homework.
I was excited to know that he was coming back, and one interesting thing is I got my hand cut off in that particular episode [in season 2]. So I’m practicing all summer working with two hands, and I get an email from Daniel [Wu] asking me if I’m ready, and so forth and so on. And yeah, I am. And then at the bottom of that he put, “P.S. I hope you’re working with your left hand.” And I’m like, “Awwww!” So the homework never stopped. It’s quite interesting. And it gives you something to do and something to look forward to. You can’t get complacent. You constantly have to add to your character. Every day and every night I would let him reevaluate me in order to get him off the page. One other fun fact: They did offer that role to one of my favorite actors, who’s a friend also. They offered that to Wesley Snipes. So, thank you, Wesley, for being busy. I appreciate that.
I think you’re doing a fantastic job, and I would say that the fans definitely agree. Everyone was really excited to learn that you were coming back.
One of the things that I think everyone wants to know is what can we expect to see from Nathaniel Moon this season?
SA: Let’s just say “The Return of the Mack” comes to mind. So Moon gets his Mack on. In episode 3, we find out a bit more of his history with Lydia, and there’s a lot of tension in between the two because they have a history. He did give her an option way back in the day to leave with him, so we’re picking up everything from there. And again, I had to go back and reevaluate everything. I had to reevaluate that character to be able to have these real moments with Orla Brady. She’s just a fabulous actor. We worked on a project before, a couple years ago, called American Odyssey. We had no scenes together, but I’ve always been a fan of hers. And she brings it. We just hit it off really well, and we’re knocking the whole thing out of the ballpark. I appreciate her and I appreciate everyone, the cast and crew and our producers, for allowing me to come back and revisit Nathaniel Moon.
LT: I’ve seen the scenes [with Lydia]. It’s very sexy.
The first one-on-one fight of season 3 is between Moon and The Widow on that tower. Can you talk a little bit about what it took to shoot a scene like that?
SA: It usually takes anywhere from five to eight days to shoot a fight scene because of the multiple camera angles, and of course they’re using two cameras and a crane and sometimes a drone shot. Weather had dramatically changed by the time we got to that. We shot that first.
When we shot that scene, when we did the wire stuff — hats off to Cali [Nelle] and Ching Mae — it was very windy and very dangerous. Emily and I didn’t have to go that far up, but those guys, the courage that it took to do that…and they’re so professional, and they wanted to nail it, but weather permitting, it didn’t happen. Andy said it took nine days, but I think it took 11 days total because we had to shoot around the weather.
But that first fight scene was awesome. We had started working movement the third week of fight camp and I looked at Emily, and I said, “Well, listen, when Master DeeDee gets here, you know all this is out the window.” And basically we learn fight scenes on the day and we don’t have much time. We have maybe eight, 10 minutes to learn it while they’re setting up the camera. And we just go and do it. And we just keeping doing it, and everybody’s such consummate professionals that you don’t want to let no one down, and so we learn it, do it, and shoot it.
And the widow gives Moon a fancy new hand as well, which was pretty cool. What are some of the challenges of having to work that into your performance and the fight choreography?
SA: It was weird because I am right handed, and so the thing with using the katana or any sword, is if you’re using the one hand, the other hand is always busy. You want your opponent to watch that other hand as well as what you’re doing. So it was a little awkward, but you work through it, and you do it, and again, hats off to them.
Also, they’re getting submitted for an Emmy for best fight choreography, and it’s about time. And again, we’re just instruments, and it’s like playtime. But it’s really good to be recognized for your hard work and for doing what you’re doing, and I’ve never worked with a harder crew in my life, so you want to be there for everybody else.
Definitely. And in episode 3, we saw that the hand also has a built-in sword, which was so cool. I was really shocked by that. Is it hiding any other surprises we might see later on down the road?
SA: Yes. You’ll see that the hand, of course, has darts, and it has a dagger and a short sword, so I do get to work two swords at once, and that’s really fun. It evened me out a little bit, so I was like, “Okay, two swords. That’s cool.” And I wasn’t so off balance.
Moon decided to become The Widow’s regent in order to get revenge on Sunny and Bajie, but do you think there’s any possibility for genuine loyalty to her and her cause?
SA: He does show his loyalty. His whole thing is, and you’ll see in a couple more episodes down the road, where he says, “There is no future without my honor.” And he’s very honorable. One thing I didn’t want to do coming back, with my preparation, was have this vengeance in my heart for Sunny and Bajie. I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, Nathaniel might want to reintegrate himself back into society, what society is at that time.
And sure, if he bumps up against Sunny and Bajie, yeah, there’s that whole factor, but for the most part, I think he was like, “Okay, if I do die, I might die on the battlefield, and that will restore my honor.” Because the whole thing of it is that he’s a disgraced Ronan. Going back to season 2, episode 3, he was telling Sunny, “Don’t go back. The best thing you can do is don’t go back to your family because this is what happened to me.” And sure enough these things happened to Sunny, but [Moon] was still convincing himself, he was still talking about himself. I use that also. I didn’t want to just have this vengeance because that can throw your game off as a warrior, as a samurai, as a fighter. You don’t go into anything pissed off. You want to be prepared and have a stream of consciousness that is just, basically, focus. You want to be focused on what you’re doing.
So I thought about that every night in L.A. until I got back on the plane and got back to Dublin, and that was my main focus. I had a meeting with our producers, Miles [Millar] and Al [Gough], that I didn’t want him to be huffing and puffing, “Where’s sunny at?” Because it would’ve been one note and I didn’t want to play him one note. Moon is very multi-dimensional.
Like you were saying, he’s kind of reintegrating himself back into society. He’s back in the Badlands. Which characters have you been most excited to see Moon interact with this season?
SA: Ah, everyone! Especially Mr. Tan, here.
LT: He’s just saying that because I’m here.
SA: No, no! And also, if you’re gonna ask me how I got into martial arts, well, let’s revisit that. I did this little film called Space Marines in 1996 and our fight and stunt coordinator was none other than Mr. Lewis Tan’s dad, Danny Tan. I had this big fight scene, and he walked up to me at the end of the day, very earnestly, and said, “You need to get into martial arts. You’d be very good in it.” And I started studying martial arts.
When I got my black belt in Taekwondo and Kong Soo, I had ran into him at a commercial house. There were several different commercials being cast that day, and I think he was gonna be doing a fight scene for some kind of commercial or some stunts, so they were there casting for that particular commercial. So when I saw him, I just ran up to him [and yelled], “I got my black belt! I got my black belt! Ahhh, I got my black belt!” So it was really cool. And I spoke to him a couple of months ago. We were all hanging out and he called Lewis, and it was so good to see him and talk to him via Skype. It was really cool. I mean, the synergy around this whole thing is just magical. It’s just a great show to do and great people.
I think that really shines through and is one of the major reasons why I’ve been sucked in since episode 1. You can just tell how much passion there is behind it and it’s so different from everything else.
SA: Yes. Yes, it is. And not only do we get the chance to do these incredible fight scenes, but we get a chance to have real moments when we do dialogue. It’s very rare. For me, personally, I turned down a lot of stuff knowing that I was coming back to this show because6 everything is just so mundane. And there’s nothing more that I hate than doing procedural shows. Can’t stand it. So before coming back here, I did do a nice role on Westworld and Colony, and I just went in until I came back.
And we know now that Lydia and Moon do have some history, and that there’s some unfulfilled potential there. I’m just wondering, could Lydia’s presence complicate Moon’s mission to get revenge on Sunny? How much influence is she going to potentially have on him this season?
SA: We have this scene where I’m talking about rekindling our relationship and she says to me, “That’s a dangerous thing, just ask Sunny.” And I say, “Maybe I will before I kill him.” She has a lot of influence over that. We do have a couple of moments and dialogue where we talk about that, and they’re trying to hide their whole [relationship] in the second half of the season. They’re trying to hide the fact that they have this thing going on, and it becomes knowledge to almost everyone. And it’s really cool to see how this plays out.
Will we get to see any flashbacks between them or is it mostly just told through dialogue what they’ve had in the past?
SA: It is told through dialogue and then the audience will see that they really, really, really, really love each other. They really do. And it’s easy to play those kinds of things when you’re working with an actress that’s always present and always there with you.
And obviously Moon used to be a pretty big deal in the Badlands. Can we expect anyone else from his past to come in and complicate his journey?
SA: There’s two new groups that come into play that he’s never had contact with. Those are the only factors. Other than that…I can’t give too much away. He’s a little hesitant when he meets Gaius, but…I can’t give that away either! It’s gonna be very enjoyable to watch.
And we were just sitting here talking about that: the total game of the Badlands has been stepped up. When they brought Nick [Frost] in, it went up a notch. And then when they brought in all these other actors, it just completed the circle. Even the guest stars that are coming through just nail it all the time. There’s this one kid, I forgot his name, but he had a death scene, and he totally yanked that scene from me. He was just awesome, and it’s just so refreshing to see even folks coming in, where this is their first job, and they come in and they just nail it and you just go, “Wow, this is something special.” And it just makes your day go faster. It makes you feel that you accomplished something in your life as an actor and you’re on the right track.
Final question: If there was one other character you’d love to be instead of Moon, who would you choose? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be Gaius just because Lewis is here.
SA: Awwww! I would say Pilgrim. I would say Babou Ceesay is killing it. He’s killing it. And the thing about our show is, if you’re off, we have a gym in the production office, so we all sneak in and watch everybody else’s performance. This is like being in a master class where there’s nothing but A-list actors. And you watch those actors work and you can’t wait to go up because, “I want to show my stuff.” And that is the way the show is now. You just can’t wait because you see these other people doing their stuff, and you go, “Man, okay, I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do that.” It just keeps you on your toes.
I definitely agree. I’ve been enjoying season 3 a lot so far. I think they’re really stepping everything up this season, which has me a little worried about some of my favorites, but we’ll see what happens.
SA: Oh yeah. It’s going to be a tearjerker once we get to the second [half of the season].
Don’t tell me that! Now I’m really worried.
SA: You know, but it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. You have to do these kinds of things in order to [make an impact]. Again, this is not a normal show. We don’t wrap everything up in one episode. It’s over a lineage of multiple episodes, and everybody’s story line starts off in one direction. I can say this: They all have to come to a crossroads in order to achieve cohesiveness. Because the threat is imminent. It’s a big threat.
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it.
SA: Thank you!