Nick Frost had never heard of Into the Badlands before his agent told him that the AMC martial arts drama was interested in him joining the cast. And he admits that even after binge-watching the first season and quite enjoying the show, he still didn’t want to sign on for its second season.
“The thing about signing on to do American episodic TV is that you have to sign on for so long, and you’re eventually shooting somewhere in the States for five months a year,” Frost told Inverse last week. “I have a five-year-old son, so that was kind of unappealing to me. But then gradually you find out they’re going to shoot in Ireland and it’s only ten episodes. And everything I would have said no to, they took away. And they were keen for me to have a voice comedically on set, so that made it appealing.”
The 44-year-old actor/comedian, best known for his work with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, ultimately signed on to play a character named Bajie, a street-wise brawler who partners up with star Daniel Wu’s Sunny in a quest to get back to the titular badlands. The territory, ruled by brutal feudal barons, is rife with danger, which puts to good use the legendary kung fu skills that Wu has perfected and performed over the last two decades.
Frost, as expected, didn’t come in with quite as much training — he took martial arts for a few years in his 30s and learned to dance for Cuban Fury — and opted to keep it that way.
“The cast had four or five weeks of training; I was shooting in London, and then I literally went straight on vacation, and I got back and I literally did 90 minutes of training,” He said. “And then the training camp was wrapped, and we started to shoot the next couple of days.”
Sure, it was a little rushed, but he didn’t exactly sweat the disparity, either.
“There’s not much difference between fight choreography and dance choreography, other than the fact that you potentially get to punch someone at the end of one of those things,” he joked. “But I wanted to be able to do what Bajie did and vice versa, so I think the high kicking and wire work and spinning heel kicks were kind of out. Bajie is a street brawler, a barroom brawler, a wrestler. He’s dirty, a big puncher.”
Though the show is set half a millennium in the future, between the dire political situations and economic stratification in both the United States and Britain — and the rapid encroachment of global warming — it feels uncomfortably contemporary. “I have a joke with someone that I think Badlands is set in 2020, the way things are going now,” Frost said, laughing, but not entirely unserious with the observation.
Though the martial arts onscreen is a new experience for the actor, Frost does have some experience with apocalyptic scenarios, having starred in Shaun of the Dead, a movie that, perhaps unexpectedly, reflected reality.
“Shaun of the Dead, part of that was based on the out that me and Simon [Pegg] had, should the zombie apocalypse happen. Believe it or not, I do oddly have an out,” he revealed. “There’s a little place where I sometimes go and walk the dog, where I think I could probably hide a tent. There’s a river there; I could fish. My son’s mother, her family has a house on a very small island on the Baltic Sea, so I think that would also be a boat home.”
Upon Donald Trump’s election in November, Frost told his ex-wife to take $10,000 out of the bank, to ensure they have cash if and when the banks collapse. She wasn’t quite paranoid enough to make the large withdrawal, and Frost was half-joking, but he really does worry about the fate of Britain post-Brexit.
“There’s a division in our society, as there is in yours at this point,” he said, referring to the United States. “That said, I think if you could re-run the referendum tomorrow, the result would be a lot different. People were told lies, that’s just the bottom line. They believed it and they didn’t know what they were voting for, and they went for it. But we live in a democracy, so sadly, it has to happen. Unlike your country, we can’t impeach Brexit. It is what it is, but I think it’s an absolute disaster.”
Given the strife that plagues both countries, though, Frost says he prefers to stay at home, which makes the fact that Into the Badlands shoots in Ireland even more clutch.
“We don’t have two submachine guns for every citizen here in the UK,” he observed. “But that said, hammers and knives do just as good a job. When you’re really passionate about doing the end of the world right, it doesn’t matter what you use.”
Into the Badlands airs Sunday nights on AMC at 10 p.m. EST.