Sherman Augustus, who plays Nathaniel Moon on AMC’s Into the Badlands, talks about his character’s quest for happiness and how love changes a warrior.
Q: There are so many surprise collaborations and team-ups this season for the fight against Pilgrim. What was it like switching up some of the dynamics on set and getting to work with so many other actors?
A: Fortunately, for me, my character has a scene with everyone. Even if I didn’t have dialogue, I was in the scene. In the first half [of Season 3], I had a scene where the Widow, Tilda and I show up to do the swap with Castor. That was my first time watching Babou [Ceesay] and Lorraine [Toussaint] do their thing. It was really cool to see and gauge how Moon would react to these things. They came to conquer. One thing about our show is we get scripts three or four days before we start the next block, so it keeps you thinking. You always have to evolve with your character. There are always multiple layers, especially for Moon.
Q: In the beginning of Episode 14, Cressida makes it clear that the Sanctuary now belongs to Pilgrim. What’s it like for someone like Moon hear this – especially given how independent he was before?
A: That was interesting because I didn’t walk on set until we shot that. In rehearsals, I saw the banners and I’m like, “Wait a minute. Whose sh—t is on the wall?” [Laughs] I’m a stickler. I like to know where everything is. When Cressida comes in, I just got pissed! “Wait a minute – this is my house. Oh, no. We can’t have that.” There’s a look that I give Orla [Brady] like, “Do you hear this?” Those banners really pissed me off. That was real. [Laughs] That moment has to be real because the stakes are high. I’m always thinking about what Moon’s next moves would be. I always let the character evaluate me. Moon is always asking me, “What are you going to do to get me off the page today? What have you been through in your life?”
Q: Lewis Tan mentioned, “There is nothing more dangerous than a warrior that has something worth fighting for.” Does this apply to Moon, too?
A: Absolutely. At the beginning of Moon’s journey, his family was murdered. He goes away and the Widow talks him into coming back. My thinking is, “If I do fall in battle, at least I fall honorably. There’s honor in that.” He rekindles his relationship with Lydia and the stakes are raised a little more. He does have something to fight for. Can he integrate himself back into a “normal” society, which is not normal? After his family was murdered, it was all about self. He has to stay alive because he has Lydia in his life. He wants it to work and to ride off in the sunset after this is over.
Q: We met Moon in a very aggressive state. What was it like exploring a more vulnerable side of your character?
A: It was awesome. I didn’t think he would only be searching for Sunny and Bajie to seek revenge. I wanted to show more layers. I do that in the scene where I’m telling Sunny not to go back to the Badlands because he would be endangering his family – and that’s what happens. For me to step into this environment and strip away the toughness was absolutely welcomed. I didn’t want to only be angry Moon screaming, “Where’s my hand?!” These moments are real for me.
Q: Lydia’s dying wish is for Moon to leave the Badlands and find peace. How does that land on him, especially with the war still going on?
A: It goes right back to: I’m going to get revenge. This loop is continuously about him not being able to find peace and happiness. Without a doubt, he’s going to go out and get revenge. And yes, he’s going to leave the Badlands, but it hurts. How does he start over again? One of the biggest things in human nature is to take risks and start from zero. “What do I do now? What is it about me that I can’t keep people in my life that I love?” He blames himself, in a way.
Q: Do you think there’s any hope for peace in the Badlands?
A: Eventually, there could be peace, but he’ll find his own peace of mind somewhere else. To keep falling in love with people is a hurtful thing when it keeps getting torn away. How many times can you go through that without losing yourself and without turning into someone who just walks around and slices people up? He’s feeling like he’s not worthy of having these things because he’s a warrior.
Q: What will you take away from your time on the show?
A: This character is complex and really fun to do, and gave me a chance to explore a lot of deep emotions. It’s about the work. Everyone knew they had something special. From beginning to end, every department worked hard and I’m going to miss that. We were all there for each other. All the time. That starts at the top. Hats off, man!
Read an interview with Chipo Chung, who plays the Master.
Into the Badlands airs Mondays at 10/9c.
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