Oliver Stark, who plays Ryder on AMC’s Into the Badlands, talks about his character’s shift in power, meeting the other Badlands Barons on set, and how Quinn’s survival ultimately plays out for Ryder.
Q: How much did you know about your story arc going into the new season and where your character would be heading?
A: I knew for a few months before production. It took on different forms throughout those months, but it was always coming towards the same end point, so I was very ready for reading Episode 4 when it finally came through. I was definitely prepared.
Q: You’re involved in a lot more of the action this time around. How did you prepare for that? Did you get any tips from your cast mates?
A: It was a shame that I actually wasn’t able to attend the fight camp this year. I missed out on that, but in the lead up, I did my own preparation and my own training as much as I could. I also had people like Daniel [Wu] around, as well as all the stunt guys. Whenever we’re required to take part in the action, there are always experienced people around to guide us and make sure we feel safe.
A: I think Quinn ruled in a way where he was very much the man in control, whereas Ryder – to his credit – has not been so arrogant. He knows that he hasn’t quite got it all together and he looks to Jade for advice and counsel. The two of them absolutely share a partnership because of that.
Q: Though Ryder ultimately betrayed his own father, how does he justify it in his head? What about taking Jacobee’s territory?
A: I think the taking of Jacobee’s territory was opportunistic. He’s always wanted the chance to step up and be in control. With having the two territories available along with the oil fields, he saw his moment and knew he had to grab at it. As for the decision to betray Quinn, I think he felt like he had no other option. He had been pushed too far, and if he was ever going to survive and climb up the ladder, then this was his only option. But he absolutely second-guesses himself and has doubts about himself. He hates the fact that he has these demons in his head and knows that he can’t escape them because he’s lied to everybody. A victory isn’t quite a victory if you get it by default, and he doesn’t have the achievement of getting it in a hardworking and fair way. I think he wrestles with that every day.
Q: Was Quinn’s survival as much of a shocker to you as it is to Ryder?
A: I wasn’t 100 percent sure that it was going to happen, but I expected it to, because I think Marton [Csokas] brings so much to the show and he’s a fantastic actor. I think his character is a necessary one, so I was thrilled when I found out that he was coming back. Marton is a nice guy to have around, and he’s a nice influence on the set. It was great to have him back.
Q: We get to meet all of the Barons during this episode as well as see their fashion, weapons, etc. What was that like for you as an actor?
A: The first day on set with all the Barons there was really exciting. It’s funny because the first time I saw them all there with their costumes, I suddenly realized I wasn’t the one who was most dressed up. My jealousy started coming out, like, “Hold on! Why does this person have this?!” [Laughs] It was really fun to have those characters because we’ve heard so much about them, and we can finally put faces to the names. It opens up the world even more, and it’s a really exciting thing to be a part of. It makes it all more tangible and real for the audience.
Q: In a sense, Quinn blames Ryder for his own death because Ryder hesitated to kill Quinn first. How does that land on Ryder during his final moments?
A: Their relationship is so complex. All Quinn really wants of Ryder is for him to step up, but what that means is essentially killing Quinn. For Ryder, he really wants Quinn’s love, but what that means is killing his father. It’s a real catch-22 situation, and I think this was the only outcome that it ever was going to lead towards. I think Ryder blames himself as well, but I don’t think he felt he honestly had it in him to ever take on Quinn. At the end of the day, he’s just a boy who wants his father’s love, and he never quite was able to get it.
Q: Though he despised him, do you think in some ways Ryder wanted to be like his father?
A: Absolutely. I think he’s grown up resenting Quinn and hating him in some sense, but it’s out of the fact that he knows he can’t quite live up to him. It’s this horrible father-son relationship that is miserable from the start. Ryder, no matter how else he felt about him, has always respected Quinn.
Q: What was it like working with Marton Csokas during that heavy scene at the end?
A: We spent quite a lot of time going over the fighting movements between us, but we’ve gotten to a point where we know each other and understand each other enough that we could trust each other when it comes to the work. So, it was really liberating to shoot because we both knew that where the other one takes it, the other one would follow. It was really fulfilling as an actor and Tao [Fraser], the director of that episode, gave us a lot of license to play with it and find the beat to the rhythm of the scene.
Q: Where do you imagine all of this chaos leaves things?
A: I think it’s going to ignite certain fires within different people and spur them on to destroy their relationships. We’ll see what happens!
Read a Q&A with Emily Beecham, who plays the Widow.
Into the Badlands airs Sundays at 10/9c. To get more exclusive interviews with the cast, sign up for the Badlands Insiders Club.Read More