Stephen Lang, who plays Waldo on AMC’s Into the Badlands, talks about where his character’s loyalties lie, fighting from the waist up and what attracts him to the title of Baron.
Q: What does Waldo – who’s admitted he lost his identity after being retired as a Regent – see in the Widow?
The Widow, in some ways, reflects and rekindles a kind of optimism and idealism that resides in Waldo. I think Waldo has had a lot of time to reflect and think about the state of affairs in the Badlands and about life. I don’t think he’s all together happy with the way that he lived his life and how it all turned out. He has some glimmer in mind of a better and more equitable future for everyone. I think the Widow is very much into bringing some kind of equality, setting the Cogs free and shaking up the order. There’s that idealistic aspect of it, but Waldo is also something of an anarchist by nature and he rolls the dice. He wants to shake up the status quo and the Widow’s certainly doing that… He’s not on anybody’s side completely because nobody is on his side completely. He plays it close to the vest, I think. When he assesses the odds and the various power points and players in the Badlands, the Widow comes out number one for him, so that’s the way to go.
Q: How does Waldo’s relationship with the Widow shift as she abandons some of her morals in moving towards her grand plan for the Badlands?
A: She turns fairly quickly! [Laughs] It’s not like she’s holding to principle heavily. Right away, she begins to sour things a bit. She’s not pliable, which I think to some extent is admirable in a leader, but it doesn’t quite serve Waldo’s purposes. There’s no point in him giving advice if it’s going to be ignored or taken for granted. He’s less enchanted with the Widow as things go on. He’s finding her less malleable than he had hoped.
Q: The Waldo-Tilda relationship is also quite layered. How would you describe it?
A: Despite his gruff facade and somewhat cynical stance, he forms attachments and relationships. He did with Sunny and there was potentially one with M.K. which did not come to fruition because of the circumstances. He sees the same thing in Tilda – that she’s got a nice spark to her. She’s a very good fighter, she’s got a good warrior spirit and this is kind of an undefinable thing. He’s got a spark of affection for her. Waldo is a solitary character, but he’s got a heart and it goes out to certain people. There’s a sweetness and vulnerability to Tilda that he sees, and he’s always looking for that teaching moment, as well, because that’s part of who he is. And she’s sassy, too!
Q: In Episode 9, Sunny says his emotions are what kept him alive. How does that land on Waldo? Are Waldo’s constant warnings just a defense mechanism?
A: I think that particular philosophy and attitude about emotions is one that [Waldo]’s come by honestly and historically, which is to say that there’s an event in his history – possibly several events – but one seminal event in his history where he too got burned because of an attachment and because of emotion. It becomes a defensive stance that he takes. He’s got an emotional and psychological armor, which has kept him alive to some extent. It’s possible that there could come an event at some point where his heart really is pierced by something or someone. Who knows what it would be? But I think when Sunny says that, it lands and it lands big time. Waldo presents himself as this all-knowing guy and the master strategist, and it’s just not true. [Laughs]
Q: How might the ongoing wedge and tension between Tilda and the Widow affect Waldo, given his relationship with the both of them?
A: We’ll have to see at some point just how selfless Waldo is. Would he take a sword for Tilda? Would he take a sword for the Widow? It’s hard to say, but there’s the Waldo-Tilda relationship, the Waldo-Widow relationship and the Tilda-Widow relationship… When it becomes a triangle, it gets geometric and that’s when things get really complicated. It’s going to require some real thought, but I will say that I think he would go a long distance to protect Tilda because the Widow is clearly the more powerful of the two.
Q: Is Waldo content advising others, or do you think he secretly longs to be back in power?
A: The future in the crystal ball is cloudy. I don’t think Waldo has a clear plan or agenda. I think he certainly feels most at home when he’s in a position of control, whether it’s a visible position or behind-the-scenes, and it’s always been in an advisory capacity. He’s never been the number one top dog in the family. Do his ambitions go in that direction? I think those are thoughts he probably doesn’t allow himself to think, but I think at heart, he’s more ambitious than he would ever allow himself to admit, and I don’t think it’s ambition in a negative way. If he really examines himself, I think he feels he can probably administer things better.
Q: How does Waldo being in a wheelchair affect your training and preparation for fight scenes?
A: I just do what they tell me to do! [Laughs] My fight scenes are limited, and I think if I were on my feet, Waldo would be fighting a lot more. That would be great but, on the other hand, it’s really a special and exotic thing when you have a guy fighting from a wheelchair that you have to do it in limited doses or else it becomes too mundane or run of the mill. They’ve measured out his fights really well. They’re highly specialized and thought out by [martial arts legend] Master DeeDee, and we work at it beat by beat. I’ll make suggestions if I think it’s appropriate and somehow we work it out. I really enjoy doing it because it’s a real challenge to conceive of and execute these fights from the waist up.
Q: If you had to survive in the Badlands, what title would you have? Baron, Clipper, Regent, Cog?
A: I’d be tempted to go with Regent, but I have to go with Baron on this. I think I would be beloved by all my Cogs. And they also dress so well.
Read a Q&A with Orla Brady, who plays Lydia.
Watch full episodes of Into the Badlands on amc.com and AMC apps for mobile, Xbox One, Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast.
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