Into The Badlands: Orla Brady on Swanky Martial Arts, Challenging Stunts

Lydia is going to come back fighting on Into The Badlands season 2.

It was a relief for the cast of Into The Badlands to move production away from New Orleans, where actors wearing elaborate costumes and performing near constant fight choreography were at odds with a relentless humidity, to the more mild climate of Dublin, Ireland for season two. The martial arts show was initially headed to New Zealand, but an 11th hour deal brought the AMC drama to Dublin, which will establish a new look and feel for Badlands.

The move was a welcome surprise for actress Orla Brady, who is a native of Dublin and began her career on the theatre stages of the Irish capital. Upon returning home, Brady will get to take her character Lydia in a new direction after being exiled from The Fort in the season one finale.

With Brady in costume preparing for a badass key art photo shoot, she took time to sit down with Den of Geek and a group of journalists (literally, we all sat on the floor in a circle) on set in Dublin to discuss her role in the upcoming second season of Into The Badlands.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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So you get to do some fighting this time around?

Orla Brady: I do. I do. I was waiting all last year! The thing about it is, I was promised fighting this year, and it’s not as elaborate as I would love because it’s not beautiful, swanky martial arts, like the stuff Daniel gets to do or like Emily gets to do as The Widow. However, it’s very raw.

I don’t know, have you ever been in that situation where someone comes up, and you find yourself reacting, and you think, “oh, I can do that”? Or was that just in Ireland? [Laughs]. So yeah, so I get two fights, both with weapons and both having to be coordinated with a stunt team. Good fun.

What kind of weapons do you use?

We did knives, but it was a little bit Jackie Chan, and it was a little bit… well, she doesn’t know she’s a fighter, so she’s not ready to fight. She doesn’t have anything. But some nomads come in, and she just grabs a steak knife from the table, then another knife from somewhere else, then a stool, then a…. I can’t remember what the last thing was. The last thing must’ve been a knife as well from another table. So she just uses what is at hand.

At the end of the first season, you were sort of on your knees giving up the old life. Where is your character when season two begins?

Well yes, and when we join her at the beginning of episode one — sorry, she’s not even in episode one. We join her again in episode two of this season, and she’s there with him—with the Totemists, who are a peaceful people—and it’s all kind of… this is what she’s taking on, her true nature comes through the moment there’s a bit of danger. I think she’s a scamper, and again, I think some people have a nature that you can try to take on and I think she tries very hard. She doesn’t agree with it fundamentally, so she comes out fighting instead.

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It must be nice for you to be shooting in Ireland.

Oh my god, it’s amazing. It was the best surprise I’ve had all year because for ages, we were going to New Zealand. We were all set to go, you know, spend weekends looking at Hobbit themed parks and going to beaches and that sort of thing. And then they turned around and found all the scenery they needed here, found the tax break, and I got to come home. It’s amazing. It’s very cool. It’s very cool.

What do you find to be the biggest challenges of taking this role back on?

Listen. I just—I loved this season. The challenge, if you’d like, was doing stunts, but it turns out I am [laughs] a pacifist. A few years ago I had to do something where I played FBI and we had to do gun training. I got all the shots straight into the thing. I’m a natural-born assassin. I’m the same with the stunts. I can’t imagine hitting or hurting somebody, but man, I can do it. I mean, when we were doing this scene I loved it!

Daniel Wu talked with us about the different ways the fans are taking to Into The Badlands. Some people who might not be martial arts fans are finding your character or The Widow to be their favorite characters. What feedback have you heard from fans that speaks to the diverse elements of the show?

The gist I got from being at Comic-Con was just the fact that people seem to latch on to different stories. What amazed me was that some of the younger women were very interested in Lydia’s story, and I found that little bit curious because I assumed we follow our peers in stories. We want to tell our stories and have other people to tell our stories.

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This character is so put down during the course of season one. It’s a thing that’s of interest to me. If a woman is entirely thrown away by her husband—if she is rejected and let go by a society that favors, I don’t know, youth, attractiveness—what does she do? What does a woman like that do who’s lost everything? Does she sort of lie down and, you know, take up knitting or whatever, or does she come back fighting? And Lydia is a fighter, she’s just not going anywhere. I love that about her.

She’s just determined not to be an invisible woman. And I think that’s a good story to explore dramatically, especially in post-election times where, you know, given the viewpoint of certain candidates—I know, many of us are struggling to recover from that. We can’t go back to that idea of a woman. We can’t, and so, Lydia’s my little hope that we might tell the story of a resurgent woman. You know? Maybe that’s reading too much into it? I don’t know. I love her for that.