Lewis Tan, who plays Gaius on AMC’s Into the Badlands, talks about the dual nature of his character and what’s worth fighting for in the Badlands.
Q: What interested you about joining the world of the Badlands and the character of Gaius in particular?
A: I wanted to create with the best and challenge myself. Working with legends like Master Dee Dee, Andy Cheng, Daniel Wu, and Stephen Fung was something I couldn’t pass up. The show will go down in history. I had to be part of it. Gaius is a character from a tormented past, yet who is full of hope. He follows his heart and refuses to back down — even if it means suffering in prison or fighting for his life. These motivations transcend barriers. As an actor, they are a dream to play.
Q: Can you talk about your training with Caitlin Dechelle, Gal Gadot’s stunt double for Wonder Woman?
A: I have always been obsessed with swords since watching Yojimbo and Seven Samurai as a kid. The moment I saw Caitlin swing a katana, I was like “teach me please.” She started training me a few years before I did Badlands. She turned out not only to be one of the best in the world, but a great teacher too. I learned fast and took it very seriously. It was funny… when Season 2 was airing, Caitlin and I would post training videos on Instagram and people would go nuts tagging #intothebadlands. I like how the universe brings these moments together. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity — a perfect example of that.
Q: Gaius Chau had been imprisoned by his sister for years as punishment for liberating her cog slaves. What does that do to his mentality and drive? How would you describe his heart in comparison to some of the more brutal outlooks we’ve seen in the Badlands?
A: Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything. It is a fascinating mentality in an environment that would contradict any reason to have a moral and righteous position. The whole series has a similar through-line, what drives humanity and how we handle pressure, sacrifice and pain during a time of unhinged devastation. We dig deep into this idea [in] Season 3.
Q: Though he’s a fierce warrior, we see another side to him through his interactions with the Widow and their attraction. What was it like exploring that?
A: What would all this fighting be for without love? Call it destiny or what you will, but Gaius and Minerva were reunited as adults. He never stopped thinking about her, he never gave up on the ideals they share. They are both transformed by suffering abuse and great loss, but something pure from their past still lingers like a small ember in a fire. Slowly, it is exposed and begins to burn brighter. There is nothing more dangerous than a warrior that has something worth fighting for. Suddenly the stakes are raised yet again.
Q: How would you explain their dynamic?
A: Gaius admires her as a visionary. He honors the intentions behind the leader. At the same time, he is deeply in love. Those feelings stand alone and, at times, also blur together. He would die for the cause as he would for her. I think fans enjoy seeing them together in particular because it gives the violence a purpose. To me, they represent hope. You can be in the the worst situation humanly possible, and if you have hope, you have a chance.
Q: What was it like to meet Gaius’s mother in Episode 11? What a family dynamic he’s got going on there!
A: That was one of those episodes you know is coming and you just don’t want to think about. It was heavy [and] burdensome. I already had so much time developing the character without ever meeting his mother. So, when I finally did, it was like a hurricane of emotions inside. She is the catalyst for all his pain. She is also his mother. I was drained just being on set and knowing we were filming those scenes. I remember the first time we saw her. In a scene we never ended up using, Tilda and Gaius are sneaking into the house and his mother steps out and finds us. I took one look at her and just cried. It wasn’t even right for the scene. It just happened. Too much going on. I felt like a helpless kid.
Q: Was it surprising to you at all that he gives Tilda permission to kill his mother – especially because it was because of his mother’s wishes that Juliet didn’t kill him?
A: Part of him believed there was a small chance that she might understand or change. That is just part of who Gaius is — it is a weakness and a strength. When he realizes there is truly no hope left for her, he knows what has to be done, but he won’t do it. It is not that he can’t. I think he could. You have to remember, Tilda and Gaius just went through a traumatic experience together. Whatever doubts she had of trusting him are gone out the window. They nearly died together. She takes the load from him and does what had to be done. Nobody wants that weight on their heart no matter how necessary it is.
Q: Do you have a favorite fight from the show thus far?
A: The fight I had with Dean-Charles Chapman who plays Castor will always be special because it was my first big fight working with the team. Originally, there was only a little bit in the script, but they changed it so we had a pretty lengthy fight. It started by taking out a few guards silhouetted behind an old Japanese panel screen. It reminded me of a similar scene in Kill Bill, which Master DeeDee also worked on. It was a feeling I will never forget and Dean, who is a dancer and not a martial artist, was an incredible partner who performed the whole fight with me. It started a bond that turned into a great friendship. I also love the Widow vs. Dark Widow fight. I think that it is exceptionally beautiful and the choreography is unreal.
Q: As we gear up for these final episodes and the final battle, what did you get out of working on the show? What will you take with you?
A: I got a family and incredible memories. We did 10 months together in the harshest winter in Dublin in decades. That is longer than most marriages in Hollywood last. Sixteen episodes at an hour each, with different directors each [for] two episodes — it’s almost like doing 8 different films. It was a priceless education by some of the most talented artists in cinema today. I also got to explore Europe and grow as an actor and a man. I am forever indebted, grateful and so proud of our work.
Read an interview with Emily Beecham, who plays the Widow.
Into the Badlands airs Mondays at 10/9c.
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