This article contains spoilers for Into the Badlands season 2.
For two seasons, Daniel Wu’s Sunny carried the weight of the Badlands on his tattooed back. When we first come across Wu on the set of Into The Badlands season 3, he emerges out of a smoke machine-induced haze, bearing the load of a backpack with a fake baby strapped in. Between takes, Wu is thankful to put the child down and rest his shoulders. His new wardrobe makes for some taxing scenes to shoot, but bringing baby Henry along has allowed Wu to explore new layers of Sunny. Plus, fighting with a baby on your back is anything but child’s play.
With Veil making the sacrifice to protect Henry in the season two finale, the stakes have never been higher for Sunny as the single father now has to navigate a civil war while protecting his young son. In our interview with Wu, the actor dishes on how he found a new side to Sunny, carrying the guilt and sadness of Veil’s death, and how the show can top its standout fight scenes in season three.
How does having this child around affect Sunny? What does it bring out of him?
I think it’s interesting because you see this really violent side of Sunny but at the same time, this really caring, fatherly side of him, which is a really interesting paradox. In one of the first fight scenes six months has passed, and he’s hidden away and there’s a bounty on him so people come to get him. It’s like, “you’re fucking with my kid now, you fucking with my family.” Now things are different. The way he fights is a little more brutal. Before it was more balletic and beautiful when now he’s like you fuck with me, I fuck with you. But then he’s got this baby with him and so, immediately after that fight, he’s bloodied, he picks up the baby, he’s trying to soothe his baby.
It’s a really interesting image that you see because there’s this mass of violence that just happened but then there’s this really caring side of him. You see that flip happen constantly throughout the whole season because he’s always aware of the baby but at the same time he’s trying to save the baby, there’s all sorts of stuff going on with MK and them as well.
And so he’s dealing with two things at one time and it’s difficult but it adds a whole new side to Sunny. What’s interesting about these three different seasons that they’ve been each dealing with a different kind of thing that Sunny’s been worrying about. The underlying things are still there, which is can he escape his past? Can he wash those tattoos off his back? All that’s there. Now you’re seeing the repercussions of all that because now he’s got a baby to deal with, it’s not just him. The stakes are much higher.
Is he carrying the guilt of what happened in the finale?
Yeah, for sure. He’s carrying that depression of that guilt throughout the season. And then we find out that something’s wrong with Henry and he has to save Henry, the baby.
Henry’s got an issue, he’s got to deal with that as well. There’s that, there’s a civil war going on with Chau and Widow, and then there’s this new nemesis, the Pilgrim who comes in and they’re dealing with that force. But at the same time he’s dealing with this immediate issue of his son having his problem. Yeah, there’s grand ideas and then there’s really intimate ideas all wrapped up in one thing. It’s what’s fun about this show.
Before you were talking about some of the new cast members, who stands out to you and who’s going to have a big arc in this season?
Babou Ceesay is a powerful actor, a really powerful actor. Him and Lorraine Toussaint, they’re the new nemesis, the new bad guys for the season. We’re not quite sure what they are. But they bring a lot of gravity to their roles. Babou’s never done action before and he’s actually a pretty great fighter as well, so that’s cool. This guy is bringing this army of people and we have no idea where they came from, what are they about, so we’re trying to deal with that. They’re great, they bring so much to the show as well. It’s a cool replacement bad guy, it’s different but also very cool.
You guys have clearly some of the best fight scenes in television, how do you top that in the third season?
It’s constantly thinking of using different locations to our advantage, using different weapons, changing it up, changing styles, and not necessarily being stuck in one style all the time. Sometimes we do a lot of wire work, sometimes it’s totally grounded, sometimes there’s a bit of grappling and jiu jitsu, sometimes it’s a weapon, sometimes it’s not.
It’s also the environment, where we’re shooting, when we choose locations we try to be interesting and add to the fight instead of just being a background. One thing is integrating that into becoming a character within the fight, the location itself.
How important is keeping that same fight crew?
Super important. Our Hong Kong crew, Master Didi, Steven Fung, Andy Chang, all those guys are combined together 90 years of experience, it’s really great to have them around and especially since for television we’re shooting at such a high pace.
There’s really no time to think. Al Gough calls it “we’re making jazz” because they just look at the location, figure it out, have some ideas, and then on the day we start building the fight and it’s not story boarded. Maybe it is in Didi’s mind, but it’s not story boarded for anyone else to seem, so it’s always a constant surprise as to what’s going to happen, even with us, the people fighting in it.
I think it’s harder for the actors who don’t have martial arts experience but for me I really like it that way because I don’t like to over-rehearse something. It’s just like lines, if you over-rehearse the scene a hundred times it starts to get flatter and flatter and flatter.
The same thing with the fighting, if you over-rehearse it then you start to anticipate a punch, you block too early, you do all that stuff. There’s this danger where you’re not really sure of the choreography, that block is going to be blocking that sort or whatever. It shows in your face, it shows in your body language and I think that makes the fights more exciting, more real.