'Into the Badlands' EPs Aim for "Artful" Martial Arts Series

 "These fights are like big dance numbers, and you see the dancers dancing," said co-showrunner Al Gough.
AP Images/Invision

There will be blood, and lots of it, on AMC's newest original series.

This November, the cable network will premiere the new martial arts drama Into the Badlands from writer-showrunners Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville).

Although there have been TV shows with action — and martial arts elements, specifically — before, the duo are hoping to break new ground with the series. "We've always sort of loved martial arts, and we looked around on television and there were no martial arts shows on television," Gough said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour Friday.

"Being on AMC, they elevated the zombie genre to something that was very artful, and that was our ambition for the show," said Millar.

A big part of that was bringing on experts in the field, such as martial arts filmmakers Stephen Fung, who serves as fight director and executive producer, and Daniel Wu (Tai Chi Zero), who executive producers and stars. "Everybody had a job to do," said Gough of the collaboration process.

Wu plays Sunny, a warrior who begins to question his path after meeting a young man (Aramis Knight) with special skills. Marton Csokas and Emily Beecham also star.

All of the actors in the series had to endure five weeks of training before production began. Additionally, the show had a large fight unit that filmed concurrently. "These fights are like big dance numbers and you see the dancers dancing," said Gough. "They have to be showstoppers."

However, the entire team emphasized the important role the fights will play in the storytelling as well. The series is hoping to lure AMC viewers to a martial arts show as much as it will likely lure martial art film fans to the network. "We knew the action had to be kick ass but we also knew we had to have a really compelling story," said Wu.

Added Fung: "All the action derives from the characters."

The executive producers said one of the most difficult things was finding the balance between the drama and the action. "In film, you don’t have to think about the length of a fight sequence. Here you're dealing with the specific length of an episode of television," said Gough, who estimated there will be approximately five minutes of fighting in every episode."It was an interesting math formula to figure out."

Into the Badlands premieres Nov. 15 at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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