For "Into the Badlands" star and executive producer Daniel Wu and fight director Stephen Fung, getting AMC to greenlight the upcoming martial arts series was easy. The pair told reporters at New York Comic Con Saturday the network called them just hours after their pitch to say they wanted the show. However, getting the martial arts series right was not so simple.
“Into the Badlands” tells the story of deadly, veteran warrior Sunny (Daniel Wu) who rescues a young boy named M.K. (Aramis Knight), leading to a perilous journey through the dangerous Badlands -- a feudal land ruled over by power hungry barons and their armies of Clippers -- to find enlightenment.
"It's very easy to do a watered down version of a martial arts show -- set up a camera rolling, do a few punches and get out," Fung told reporters at Comic Con.
While the series took great pains to get the choereography and authenticity of the "Hong Kong" style martial arts right in the show, Wu told Internatonal Business Times it was also important to preserve the spirituality of the art form.
"I think there is stuff we did want to avoid because I think 'Kung Fu' is very 'fortune cookie' in some ways -- 'take the pebble from my hand' and all," Wu said when asked if "Into the Badlands" drew inspiration from the 1970s series starring David Carradine. "We wanted to have that because I think it's important that in the martial arts we also show the spirituality of martial arts. I love UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] too, but you don't see the art of martial arts there. We wanted to make sure the sprituality side is there, but not in that cheesy 'Kung Fu' way. That's not to knock 'Kung Fu.' It had its moment. That show was like a stepping stone for us."
Wu went on the discuss the spiritual heart of the show.
"The martial arts spirituality is important because you need that balance. With the violence you also need the philosophy of martial arts to balance that out or else it just becomes all about the violence. Later as the story develops you see, with the secret [M.K.] has, more of a spiritual element of the show," Wu said. "We say the story is very loosely based on 'Journey to the West' which is how the Monkey King brought Buddhism from India to China. It's about all these challenges he meets on the way and how they transform him from a rebellious, naughty Monkey King into a Buddha himself. So, that's the real spritual backbone of the show -- you see this character Sunny looking for something greater than he has known."
Fans will have to tune in to the "Into the Badlands" premiere to see how the show brings martial arts to the small screen. The six-episode first season of the AMC series begins airing on Nov. 15.
Watch the trailer for "Into the Badlands" below: