Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, the co-creators and executive producers of Into the Badlands, discuss why Season 2 is more “epic,” what Nick Frost’s new character brings to the show, and whether Sunny can get back to Veil without shedding more blood.
Q: You shot the second season in Ireland. What did the new location offer you in terms of storytelling?
Miles Millar: We loved shooting in New Orleans during the first season. It gave us a very lush look and it was very American, but we did feel it was limited in terms of the landscapes. The opportunity arose to move the show to Ireland and we jumped at the diversity of locations – you have epic mountains, incredible seascapes, cliffs, an amazing variety of forests, lakes and also urban ruins. It allowed us to get more epic, and that’s really the touchstone word for the season: It’s epic, and we wanted to get out and really see the world and show the audience the world of the Badlands. I think the choice to shoot in Ireland really allowed us to do that on a grand scale.
Alfred Gough: I think [in] Season 1 we heard about a lot of the world outside the Fort and the Sanctuary, but we didn’t really see it. This season, we’re really able to do that. We’ll be outside the Badlands; we’ll be in the Badlands and able to see more of it; we’re going to meet more Barons. The whole thing was able to open up. A lot of the things we talked about or you heard about in Season 1, we’re actually able to visualize in Season 2.
AG: I think for Sunny, it’s been particularly hard. When you meet him, he’s in a chain gang being marched into a massive mine somewhere in the outlying territories. He’s essentially been a slave for six months and he’s finally gotten to this destination where he’s now spending the rest of his life doing hard labor. So, he’s in a very bad place. M.K. has been taken to the Abbot Monastery up in the mountains and is being trained to control his gift – the dark power that we saw in Season 1 – and I think his training in some ways has been a gift because he’s been able to start to figure out how to control it, though he still has a lot of questions. He’s still M.K., and he’s in a very rigid environment where he has to follow orders and as we know, that’s something that M.K.’s never done very well. He’s really yearning for answers, and Sunny’s yearning to escape.
Q: What can you say about their respective drives to get back to the Badlands?
AG: Sunny’s very much trying to get out and get back to Veil and his baby. For M.K., as he starts to try to figure out how to control his power, it’s really about unlocking painful memories from his past and what really happened to his mother. He was searching for his mother in Season 1 and wanted to get back to Azra. So as he goes through his training in the Monastery, it also starts to unlock these painful memories which he’ll have to deal with. Sunny’s more on a spiritual quest and trying to not be the killer he’s been trained to be. Not only does he physically need to get back to Veil and the baby, but he also has to be a different man when he does. He doesn’t want to be the cold Clipper we knew in Season 1. For M.K., he’ll find out that unlocking those secrets brings its own pain, and he’s going to be forced to face himself. His is very much [on] an emotional journey, looking inward, to try to figure out how to control the gift he has.
Q: Did you create the character of Bajie with Nick Frost in mind? How did his casting come about?
MM: We actually wanted some more humor on the show, so we created this character, batted around the idea in the writers’ room and the guy we thought would be amazing would be Nick Frost. We actually wrote the role for Nick Frost and then we sent it to his agent and thought we were never going to get him. Lo and behold, Nick was in London, I was in London and we met for a coffee at a really crappy café in London, and he said he loved the script, loved the idea of the role and wanted to do it! It was unbelievable to write a role for someone, have them say yes and then have it work as well as it did. Nick is a huge element this season, and I think that character adds a whole new dimension to what the series is. The interaction between Bajie and Sunny and Nick and Daniel is great. It’s what you want from a buddy show. We’re really excited about that relationship and the energy, humor and mystery that Bajie brings to the show.
Q: How would you describe Bajie and his relationship with Sunny as the season begins?
AG: When you first meet Bajie in the mines where Sunny is, there’s definitely an element of distrust. Bajie is about Bajie, and he always has an angle. I think what’s interesting about this relationship is it’s going to grow into a friendship, but it starts out as pragmatic. Bajie’s always on Bajie’s side and if that means screwing over Sunny, he’ll do it – certainly initially – and then it grows to a friendship and we realize as we get further into the season that Bajie’s harboring a bigger secret as well. He’s not just there to be the comic relief. He has a bigger part to play in the world and in the series.
Q: While Sunny and M.K. are struggling, The Widow seems to be thriving. What is her journey like this season?
AG: The Widow’s interesting because she was sort of on the run last season and obviously wounded at the end. Tilda didn’t give her the poison, so she’s alive and they’ve put their relationship back together. Her agenda of wanting her land to be a sanctuary for the Cogs and giving women and the displaced a voice in this world is growing. It’s a growing movement, but what she’s realizing is that she was a fighter and now has become a bigger symbol and political leader, which is not something she wears easily. That part of the job doesn’t come so easily and in the quest for what she sees as the greater good, what is it going to do to her personally? What are the compromises? How is she going to have to corrupt herself to get what she wants? What does it do to her relationship with Tilda? There’s no black and white in this world. Everybody makes choices for their own interests and for what they think the greater good is, and I think the Widow really symbolizes that.
Q: How have the power dynamics shifted among the Barons in the new season?
MM: This season, we see more Barons, we see the politics, we see the interactions between Barons, we see the maneuverings…the political games that happen on a global stage here happen on a microcosm in the Badlands… Quinn has left a power vacuum, but Ryder and Jade have stepped up, and this season, we see them actually being efficient Barons. Unlike Quinn and Lydia’s relationship, we see equality and a partnership between Jade and Ryder. What we like to do on the show is take characters and relationships that the audience thinks they know and expect and really twist that and change allegiances. This show is about the gray. Almost all of the people are killers and there’s moral ambiguity about heroes and villains. Sunny’s killed more than anybody, yet he’s our “hero.” We’re always dealing with this idea of what is morality in this world — who is right and who is wrong; who is good and who is bad. Everyone is in the Venn diagram of both.
Q: The martial arts is obviously a huge piece of the show. How did the fighting evolve this season? Will we see more characters getting in on the action?
AG: There will definitely be more characters getting in on the action. As the world gets bigger and as we meet more characters, you’ll definitely see more characters fighting. We tried to add new twists to the martial arts and add new styles so that you see different types of fighting. With Sunny and Bajie, you have some stuff that’s more comedic and with M.K. at the Monastery, you’re more in the world of Crouching Tiger, but there are all sorts of fighting styles in between. You’ll get to see more characters that you didn’t see fight in Season 1 fighting in Season 2, and those that you saw fighting in Season 1 have stepped up their game even more.
MM: Each episode has a signature fight, but there’s a lot more people fighting. It’s always about trying to expand the world and never settling. We’ve had some amazing sequences last year, but I think we’ve topped ourselves this year. It’s always about how we do better, how we evolve the martial arts, and how we make it distinct and different and something like the audience hasn’t seen before on television.
Q: Season 2 has almost double the amount of episodes of Season 1. How, if at all, did that create challenges or opportunities with the story you wanted to tell this season?
AG: Ten episodes definitely gave us a chance to expand in a good way and spend time exploring the different characters and their journeys and go to different places. With Season 1, six episodes is a tricky number because by the time you get started, it’s like you’ve got to start wrapping it up. It needed to feel like a satisfying journey but also leave a lot of doors open for where the show can go in Season 2 and beyond.
MM: The first season for us was almost like a super-pilot and this is really the first season that we get to see the world and have time to get under the skin of the characters and see a much bigger slice of what the future is.
Q: Who do think you would be in the Badlands? Baron, Clipper, Cog, Nomad, Abbot, or something else entirely?
AG: I think I’d be dead! [Laughs]
MM: I’d probably be a Cog somewhere. I definitely wouldn’t be a Clipper.
Q: What are you most excited for fans to see in Season 2?
MM: For me, I think the world-building and the chance to see more of the world is really exciting. The introduction of Nick Frost really changes a lot in terms of the tone of the show and I think he brings a lot out of Sunny. At the end of the season, I think where we end with our characters is very emotional and very satisfying. I think the show really hits its stride this season. When you create a show, you never know how it’s going to go or if there are enough stories to tell. For us, at the end of the season, we left wanting to go back into the Badlands and see where these characters go. It was really exciting to write it, create it, visualize it, see those fights and see those characters come to life. It is a nonstop roller coaster in every way. It steps up from Season 1 in a big way.
AG: It really delivers on the promise of Season 1, so I think people coming back who were incredibly loyal and vocal fans of the show will not be disappointed.
Into the Badlands premieres Sunday, March 19 at 10/9c on AMC. For the latest information and exclusives from Season 2 of Into the Badlands, sign up for the Insiders Club.