News

Daniel Wu Previews Into the Badlands Season 2 Fights and His Tomb Raider Role

Why he won't do martial arts for the 2018 Lara Croft film and how he made his Badlands fights harder.

by | March 15, 2017 | Comments

Daniel Wu in Into the Badlands (Carlos Serrao/AMC)

Daniel Wu’s association with Rotten Tomatoes goes back to the site’s early days. He traveled to China with site founder Patrick Lee to practice Wushu in the ’90s before the Tomatometer was even a blip on the World Wide Web. Wu remains good friends with Lee and cofounder Steve Wang.

And even though this American-born international action star is now in South Africa shooting Tomb Raider — with Alicia Vikander starring as video-game heroine Lara Croft — Wu made time to chat with us about his role as Sunny in AMC series Into the Badlands.



Season 2 of the series picks up six months after the first. Sunny is now in a slave camp where he meets a new ally Bajie (Nick Frost), and they plan their escape. Not even a pair of stocks can hold Sunny. Expect him to not only break free, but use them as a weapon too.

Calling during a break in Tomb Raider production, Wu talked about the series, the Lara Croft reboot, and the upcoming disaster movie Geostorm, directed by Independence Day producer Dean Devlin.


Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: There’s no faking the stocks, is there? You have to actually put your hands in stocks.

Daniel Wu: Yeah, and actually we had prepared a balsa wood light version of it so it would be easier to fight in. The first move I did, it just completely exploded. We didn’t have time to make another one. We just took the real wood one and I fought with that the whole scene. It was pretty tough.

It probably weighs a good 15 pounds. So it’s not super heavy but it’s enough to throw you off in terms of balance and all that kind of stuff. Eventually I figured out the best strikes you can do with this are big swinging strikes. Obviously with the splits and jumping onto the rack and all that stuff were other ideas.

Interestingly enough, the scene was originally written that the picker in front of me gets killed so they release us from the stocks to go to work and that’s when I start the fight. Master DeeDee (fight choreographer Huan-Chiu Ku) was like, “You know, it might be a more interesting fight if we just keep it on.”

We had a plan for this season for Sunny to fight with much more adversity than last season. Last season he was almost untouchable until he fought the abbot in the last episode. So this season, because he’s been taken away and became a slave, he’s been weakened and been in prison for six months, he needed to have this learning curve to get back to where he was last season. All the first few fights, there’s a bunch of adversity like that that he has to get through. The first one he’s in stocks. The second one he’s chained to Bajie. Normally, he could easily win the fight but with these extra hindrances, it makes it much more difficult for him.



RT: You were mostly with M.K. (Aramis Knight) last season. How different is having Bajie as your partner?

Wu: Oh man, I love it. It’s so awesome because it adds a bit of levity to the show. It was definitely great for my character, Sunny, because it gives me a partner to even have dialogue with. Last season, Sunny was a man of very few words, not because of his situation but mainly because he just didn’t have people to talk to about what he was planning. This season, we can have a dialogue and you can see how Sunny’s mind is working. But you also get this odd couple pairing where they’re almost two opposite ends of the spectrum of people. Sunny comes from a noble warrior class and we’re not quite sure where Bajie’s from, but he’s been a slave. He’s learned to survive outside the badlands but we’re not totally sure what he is.


RT: We know from his movies that Nick is a big movie geek. Is he a big martial arts movie geek?

Wu: He’s more familiar with Western martial arts movies, like the older Van Damme/Seagal/Chuck Norris–type stuff which is still cool. Not so much the Hong Kong–Chinese stuff. We were able to educate him on that as well.

RT: Is there a chance to open up the world of Into the Badlands and explore corners you didn’t get to in the first season?

Wu: You get to see what the world is like in the outlying territories. People are living there. Last season, people were like, “Why don’t you get the f— out of the badlands?” You realize outside of the badlands is actually a much worse place to be. The badlands is more civilized. Last season we filmed in New Orleans, and there’s really not much geographically to look at there. It’s all black and swampy. Moving to Ireland, we’ve got mountains, forests, oceans, all that stuff within 30 minutes of our base. You could get really epic, movie-like shots that we couldn’t really do last year.


Vidan Tran, Daniel Wu, Aaron Gassor in Into the Badlands (Carlos Serrao/AMC)

RT: What other fights should we look for later this season?

Wu: The third episode, we see this new character named Moon. That fight I really liked a lot. It’s a complicated fight but I like it because it’s a metaphorical fight. It’s actually a fight that’s about a spiritual meaning and not about trying to get somewhere or a plot device. This character challenges Sunny philosophically as well as physically. By the last episode, there’s an amazing fight that is really emotionally charged. You’re going to see something very different than last season where the fights were fights and the drama’s drama. We’ve more integrated the fights into the story better so the fights drive the story along.


RT: Does Tomb Raider have a martial arts component to it?

Wu: No, not at all. That’s why I did it. Prior to Badlands, I had actually not done anything martial arts–related in five years. In my mind, I had kind of retired because of various injuries and all these other things. I also had done a lot of martial arts films in Hong Kong, but I made sure that I was very careful not to be pigeonholed as just a martial arts actor. That’s the same thing I’m doing with my American career as well: Tomb Raider, Geostorm that’s coming out in October also is very different — I play a nerdy engineer. In Tomb Raider, I’m a ship captain who helps Lara out on her journey.

RT: Was he a character in the video games?

Wu: I don’t think so actually.


Daniel Wu in Into the Badlands (Carlos Serrao/AMC)

RT: Even without martial arts, Tomb Raider has big action. How do you find the Hollywood brand of action?

Wu: It’s very different than what we do. Our choreography [on Badlands] is built for a certain shot. Here, it seems like they choreograph a big fight scene and shoot it a whole bunch of different ways and you just keep repeating it over and over and over until they’re done shooting it. For Badlands and the Hong Kong–style action, we start at the beginning of the fight and we work our way all the way through until we’re done at the end. We’re not backtracking. We’re not starting over again. We work in chronological order through the entire fight.

RT: Is there a chance your character could return if Tomb Raider becomes a franchise?

Wu: I think definitely. Spoiler alert: I don’t die. I could definitely return to help Lara in the future.


Alicia Vikander at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 2017 (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

RT: How is Alicia as Lara?

Wu: She is a beast. I fell in love with that robot in Ex Machina. She’s a huge reason why I wanted to do the movie. She is so focused and so serious on this movie and with the action, completely fearless. She’s completely thrown herself into it. I’ve been doing action for a long, long time. For someone who’s very fresh to action movies to just jump in without any fear like that is pretty rare. I really respect her for that.

RT: And what is director Roar Uthaug bringing to Tomb Raider?

Wu: I really liked the movie The Wave he did. It was a really great balance between really human drama and this kind of event movie action. That’s part of the reason I did this movie as well. I thought there was a great opportunity for good storytelling as well as great action. He was the right director for this job I think.


RT: Have you gone back for any additional shooting on Geostorm?

Wu: No, I didn’t need to do that.

RT: Is Geostorm a big disaster movie?

Wu: Worldwide major global disaster. Simply put, we’re in the future. There are these special satellites that control the world’s weather so we don’t have natural disasters anymore. As the story starts, there is a significant weather disaster and they’re wondering why. They realize there’s a glitch in the system, and they send Gerard Butler out into space to investigate, while people on Earth are trying to figure out what’s going on.

Into the Badlands returns Sunday, March 19 on AMC, Geostorm opens October 20 this year, and Tomb Raider is due March 20, 2018


Tag Cloud

Star Trek Teen Netflix asian-american toy story Ellie Kemper FOX video on demand laika SDCC IFC Cannes Musical theme song mockumentary CNN best Starz medical drama Amazon Studios TV renewals RT21 golden globes Amazon Heroines Avengers news Drama Marvel Television independent Nominations TNT TBS History MCU zombies Elton John LGBTQ PBS Sundance TV Spring TV serial killer Television Critics Association joker Tomatazos casting 24 frames National Geographic Fantasy HBO universal monsters Disney Plus Thanksgiving Brie Larson dogs animated parents Polls and Games Creative Arts Emmys Black History Month Comics on TV SXSW what to watch comics directors Hulu Britbox NYCC true crime Pop TV Rom-Com GLAAD justice league nbcuniversal crime drama scary movies superhero Pirates stand-up comedy GIFs X-Men 2015 singing competition Animation Interview boxoffice adventure SundanceTV Horror Epix Emmy Nominations breaking bad Esquire miniseries Freeform sag awards Marvel spain Quiz blockbuster AMC indie 007 cancelled TV series Apple TV Plus YA Music talk show sports TV Land MTV Countdown Peacock Super Bowl Mary Tyler Moore blaxploitation crossover children's TV Funimation comic President Red Carpet Universal latino doctor who die hard Trivia 72 Emmy Awards chucky Comedy Central political drama docudrama Arrowverse DC Comics biography cults series Acorn TV Disney streaming service Extras Food Network disaster 2016 Superheroe Biopics sequel films screenings dceu reboot police drama Netflix Christmas movies video south america Tubi VH1 Disney Channel book Syfy spinoff Marathons dark Best and Worst Grammys foreign ABC New York Comic Con 2019 TCA Awards concert Toys canceled hollywood spanish language TV ratings natural history spy thriller unscripted Lifetime fast and furious ESPN Action A&E elevated horror Endgame Podcast YouTube Cartoon Network Hear Us Out BAFTA Sundance Valentine's Day renewed TV shows jamie lee curtis WarnerMedia 2020 Adult Swim comiccon FX on Hulu Crackle sequels classics Tarantino ITV DC Universe obituary streaming discovery aliens Oscars hispanic Holidays Winners transformers Winter TV teaser Walt Disney Pictures Warner Bros. Family rotten Spectrum Originals dragons cancelled television Summer Binge Guide 2017 HBO Go documentary Kids & Family Vudu Stephen King Turner Pop Sneak Peek Rock GoT Box Office Holiday A24 television IFC Films Pride Month Crunchyroll worst Tumblr BBC BBC One Marvel Studios Election Turner Classic Movies VICE Travel Channel Women's History Month stoner free movies politics movie spider-man Awards Tour The Walking Dead vampires OneApp Amazon Prime Character Guide psycho TruTV composers FX stop motion binge MSNBC TCA Winter 2020 richard e. Grant mutant First Look Lucasfilm LGBT Academy Awards strong female leads psychological thriller Reality Fall TV Calendar Writers Guild of America Lifetime Christmas movies See It Skip It batman Mudbound reviews Apple quibi cats HBO Max Film zombie science fiction christmas movies Reality Competition Trailer revenge game show CW Seed travel 4/20 Fox News witnail BET Black Mirror The CW Captain marvel cinemax CBS All Access critics Lionsgate satire Mystery space VOD nature BBC America BET Awards WGN Bravo Certified Fresh Ovation Infographic diversity criterion cartoon Opinion DirecTV cops TLC Hallmark Year in Review Showtime Apple TV+ cancelled TV shows war Ghostbusters rotten movies we love crime thriller Country romantic comedy screen actors guild Mary Poppins Returns technology PaleyFest Disney a nightmare on elm street DGA kids The Arrangement anthology Comedy TCA 2017 harry potter YouTube Premium Watching Series Premiere Dates Paramount Logo halloween YouTube Red Pixar Cosplay documentaries Baby Yoda Anna Paquin movies Christmas child's play RT History Nickelodeon Western Star Wars franchise all-time thriller Masterpiece Spike Sony Pictures 71st Emmy Awards Amazon Prime Video Set visit 20th Century Fox Disney+ Disney Plus OWN cars Musicals Columbia Pictures supernatural adaptation werewolf 45 Pet Sematary mission: impossible slashers Mary poppins First Reviews versus Awards name the review Sundance Now comedies Photos finale Paramount Network Video Games DC streaming service American Society of Cinematographers ABC Family anime Rocky ghosts Superheroes USA USA Network El Rey FXX dramedy Comic Book robots PlayStation TIFF sitcom dc Sci-Fi E! Song of Ice and Fire Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt hist award winner Chernobyl cancelled tv talk Shondaland Rocketman TCM Dark Horse Comics cooking facebook APB green book Chilling Adventures of Sabrina game of thrones Television Academy zero dark thirty 2018 festivals Mindy Kaling period drama E3 NBC The Witch romance TCA crime historical drama Nat Geo Discovery Channel Trophy Talk Emmys Martial Arts Classic Film Film Festival CMT indiana jones San Diego Comic-Con canceled TV shows The Purge emmy awards CBS Shudder twilight Hallmark Christmas movies social media 21st Century Fox Schedule based on movie