Lorraine Toussaint, who plays Cressida on AMC’s Into the Badlands, talks about what drew her to this world, what Pilgrim represents to the story and what she learned about suspension.
Q: What drew you to the world of Into the Badlands?
A: The genre. After watching Season 1 and 2, I had a really clear sense that we’ve never seen anything like this on television. The scope of these characters, the combination of Eastern martial arts and the dystopic futuristic elements, the extremely empowered female lead characters, the diversity of this cast, truly colorblind casting… There were so many elements that appealed to me. I’m a total sci-fi/fantasy geek. I’ve been looking for a project to step into and have some fun in this arena.
Q: What stood out the most to you about the character of Cressida?
A: I knew that she was going to be complex and I’m always drawn to complexity. When [Creator/Executive Producer] Al Gough and I had our first conversation about the possibility of me doing this, he promised a really interesting character that defied convention and had a very particular role in this season’s storyline. We were also going to be shooting in Ireland and I’ve always had a particular fondness for Ireland. I came to Ireland, maybe 30 years ago, when I was backpacking and I fell in love. I never forgot my experiences there. It was lovely to come back again.
Q: When you joined the cast, were you able to you ease yourself into the show, or did you hit the ground running?
A: [Laughs] There’s no way to ease into the Badlands! There are so many aspects to it. There are three crews at any given time and as big as this cast is, it’s quite compartmentalized. So, you’re really responsible for your part. I jumped into the sandbox as opposed to tipping in and decided I was going to have fun.
Q: Can you talk some about Cressida’s costume? Did that help ground you even more?
A: Oh my gosh. Our designer is a genius. I cannot say enough about him. [Creator/Executive Producer] Miles Millar also has a very firm hand in what things look like and he has a very clear vision. Giovanni [Lipari] is extraordinarily creative and talented and he’s very collaborative. I never feel like the clothes are wearing me. There’s an enormous amount of detail in my wardrobe. Every piece of it is highly functional, none of it is decorative even though it’s so exotic-looking. There are very few wardrobe changes for Cressida, though. I’ve never played a role where I have to wear the same dress every single day. Coming to the end of the season, we’re all beginning to smell like we really are in the Badlands. [Laughs] If nothing else, it’ll be nice to have a break and have those clothes dry-cleaned.
Q: Were there any challenges in speaking the ancient language of her people?
A: I love that kind of challenge. It further grounds a character in place and time. To own that language as if I speak it every day is a wonderful challenge. In my Juilliard training many years ago, I could read phonetics and create a language and break it down. I think it will be fun for the audience in the moments where Cressida and Pilgrim engage in this exotic-sounding language.
Q: Can you talk about the final scene of Episode 2 that features Cressida hoisted up in midair during her ritual?
A: I think it anchors, early in the series, that these people are very different. One of the ways that Cressida serves Pilgrim is by bringing a particular weapon to the arsenal – her ability to see into the future. She’s a very profound and talented seer. She can anticipate certain events that are coming. This has guided Pilgrim across the plains and brought him to the Badlands. This is just one of the ways in the course of the season that you see her actively placing herself in a state so that she can evoke a vision. In this second episode, she uses suspension, which is a time-honored form. Suspension is more common than you would think and it’s regularly practiced, I came to find out. Who knew? I learned quite a lot about the different modes of suspension and the reasons it’s engaged in. For Cressida, it’s spiritual catharsis.
Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Cressida and Pilgrim?
A: It’s passionate, volatile, domestic, affectionate, loving, violent, maternal, not so maternal, sexy, proactive, unconventional… Those are some of the words I would use for their relationship. They are the last co-dependent couple on the planet. [Laughs] They take codependency to another level.
Q: Pilgrim and Cressida’s mission is to bring about a new era of peace to the Badlands, but how do they find a balance when it comes to using violence?
A: They don’t have to try to make sense. It just makes sense to them. They have traveled long distances to get to the Badlands and they’ve gathered many lost souls to their flock and to their family, but they’ve also slaughtered just as many while crossing the lands. Eternal peace and necessary violence go hand-in-hand. Peace comes at a price and they have been willing to pay the price to get to this point. It really is a “do or die” situation for them both. When you’re dealing with religious zealots, there’s no reasoning. They are on a crusade. It makes them particularly dangerous because it’s not just about political ideology. It’s about religious ideology that they have come to defend.
Read an interview with Daniel Wu, who plays Sunny.
Into the Badlands airs Sundays at 10/9c. Click here to add a reminder to your calendar.
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