Laura Sirikul of Nerds Of Colour had the opportunity to have a one on one interview with AMC’s Into The Badlands star Daniel Wu, who started his acting career in Asia, before becoming a star in the US. And as the show gets into its 2nd season, its audience base continues to grow. Anyways, here is a few excerpts from the one on one interview between Daniel Wu and Nerds of Color writer Laura Sirikul. (Via Nerds of Color)
LAURA: So, the series is getting a lot of comparisons with another controversial “martial arts” show that was released on the same weekend as season two of your show. Into the Badlands was deemed the cure to your Iron Fist blues and the show that Iron Fist should have been. With the controversy over the Asian American Iron Fist campaign and critics panning Iron Fist for the lack of martial arts, what are your thoughts regarding these issues?
DANIEL: I think if you’re going to sell a show as a martial arts show and you don’t have martial arts in it or the martial arts sucks, then that’s obviously a problem. When we created this show, Badlands, our main point was to try to bring Hong Kong level martial arts action to American television. That was our goal. That was our main goal. Everything else was trying to make a good show — secondary to that main goal. Of course, we want to have a good show so you have to have a good story, good characters, and all that kind of stuff. But, that’s what we were selling and that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what we did sell in the first season. I think, you know, again with this Marvel property, I don’t know because I haven’t seen it yet. But again, if you’re going to be selling martial arts, you guys should know how to fight well. If they don’t fight well, then that’s a big problem.
In terms of the whitewashing issue, I don’t know if it’s a whitewashing issue because their character was already white to begin with. And, then you talk about cultural appropriation, I think Asian Americans need to chill out a little bit, because that’s like saying “white people can’t rap,” right? That’s like saying “Asian people can’t play American football” or Jeremy Lin shouldn’t be playing basketball. It’s ridiculous to say that white people can’t do martial arts. That’s cultural appropriation. I don’t buy that. That’s not fair. I mean, Bruce Lee, the King of Martial Arts, was key to bringing martial arts to America, not just Asian America. He taught white people. He taught black people. He taught all kinds of people. That’s my philosophy. Martial arts is an equalizer. It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from. If you feel like you’re weak, you can become strong. Martial arts can give that to you. It’s not about your race at all, in any way…
Into the Badlands has proven that a series can break away from the Asian martial arts trope with its character development. The character is not defined by their skill and instead is allowed to grow. What elements do you feel that Into the Badlands was able to accomplish with that?
I think what is interesting is that we don’t talk about race in the show at all, but it’s a very diverse show. There’s black, white, Latino, and other Asians, but we don’t talk about race. It’s about their abilities. It’s about what these people are doing. It’s about their stories. So, we don’t make it an issue about race. That’s what I like about it. I don’t know if I could do a show about Asian American issues. That’s kind of boring to me. Having grown up in America as an Asian American and then lived in Asia for twenty years, then come back. I’m not interested in Asian American whining. You know, “we’re not represented enough.” It’s like, go do it. That’s the kind of person I am. I don’t sit around and complain and wish I had better opportunities. I make the opportunities happen for me. I think that’s what we need to do as Asian Americans now. There are no boundaries, especially now with the digital era. If you want to make film and put it on YouTube, you can. Look at all these people who are YouTube stars right now. They’re Asian American. They’re doing it. They found a way to make it work for them. I give all those people a lot of credit for it.
I’m very proud that we’re diverse without having talked about “diversity.” Like, these characters, Sunny and Veil — that relationship — a black woman and an Asian man. You’ve never seen that on anything in the world ever actually before. I think it’s very cool that we’re just people in love. We’re not a black person or Asian person. We’re just people in love. We’re trying to have this baby. It’s very cool. I’m proud of that. We’re being diverse without raising a diversity flag, because that’s not what the show is about. Again, what we’re trying to do is make a good show and if it happens to be diverse. Those are great bonuses to jump along with, but that shouldn’t be the catalyst for the show. That shouldn’t be what makes the show run.
To read the full interview, please click on: One-on-One with Into the Badlands’ Daniel Wu
Images via Nerds of Color