A certain much-hyped martial arts drama is turning out to be a huge disappointment, but the good news for fans of the genre is that, in a serendipitous bit of timing, AMC's ass-kicking kung fu thrill ride Into the Badlands starts its second season the same weekend.
Into the Badlands returns on Sunday to continue the saga of Sunny (Daniel Wu) and M.K. (Aramis Knight) on their quest for the mythical city of Azra while also trying to get home to their family (Sunny) and learning how to control the mysterious superpower inside of them (M.K.), and while also avoiding capture by the Barons who control the Badlands, a post-apocalyptic, possibly alternate-universe America where feudal rule has taken hold and guns no longer exist.
Sunny starts the season in a prison, where he meets Baije, a roguish new character played by sidekick extraordinaire Nick Frost, best known from the "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzzand The World's End.
"He's kind of despicable. He's a gentleman," Frost tells TVGuide.com of the character. "He's very charismatic. He's a bit of a drug dealer. I think if you were in prison and you needed to get a shank or a map, he'd be the one to get you it. You could introduce him to your parents, but you'd also maybe not want to. He's a bit naughty. I think he maybe has chlamydia. He's a bit of a Lando. I'm not sure you could trust him, but you could also trust him with your life."
Frost was brought in to add a bit of comedy to the show, since he has a bit of experience with injecting humor into genre entertainment. Season 1's biggest flaw was that it took itself too seriously, and Frost adds a new, funnier dimension to the proceedings.
"What I loved about watching Season 1 and then shooting Season 2 is seeing what Baije brings out in Sunny, because Sunny's the hero of this thing," he says. "So to see him now add a comedic dimension to his character" -- by being the straight man to Baije's antics -- "I think it makes him more of a fully fleshed-out character. Which is a treat for me to help bring out."
Frost was initially hesitant to take the role, but says that the show's producers "essentially took every barrier away for me to say no until I had to say yes." He didn't want to leave his 5-year-old son for nine months out of the year to go do a show in Louisiana, but production moved to Ireland for Season 2. And they told him that comedically, he could pretty much do whatever he wanted, including make suggestions about what he thinks would be funnier.
One of they choices they made is that Baije speaks with an English accent like Frost. Most of the cast consists of British and Irish actors doing American accents, but Frost uses his natural voice. Since he was brought in to be Nick Frost, this makes sense. Frost argues that it would take the viewer out more if he was doing an accent.
"I wouldn't want it to be, 'Here's Nick Frost doing a sh---- Boston accent,'" he says.
Besides, he says, "Not every voice you hear in America is American."
This one random guy with a British accent adds to the mysterious sense of geographic displacement that's part of the show, as does the move to Ireland. Production was headquartered at a hotel and golf complex just south of Dublin that was constructed but never finished. It had fallen into disrepair, which is what you want for a post-apocalyptic setting.
"As a set, it was absolutely perfect because it was humanity overgrown, and that was exactly what we needed," says Frost.
"And outside of Dublin, you can be up in the mountains or on the beach and there's waterfalls and forests," he adds. "Every kind of geographical set we would ever need is there or could be built there."
Season 2 of Into the Badlands expands on Season 1 in every way, from characters and performance to world-building and mythology, and continues to deliver the dazzling marital arts action that's its bread and butter.
Into the Badlands premieres Sunday at 10/9c on AMC.