'Into the Badlands' with actress Orla Brady

Orla Brady in Into the Badlands. (Photo: Alan Clarke/AMC)
Orla Brady in Into the Badlands. (Photo: Alan Clarke/AMC)

Season Three of the high octane martial arts drama Into the Badlands is premiering on SundanceTV on Mondays. As we enter the closing chapters, Fiona Walsh spoke to actress Orla Brady about what to expect in the final episodes.

Cape Town - Into the Badlands first hit screens worldwide in 2015, with a genre-bending mix of kung-fu and sci-fi. Set in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by feudal barons, its polished production values and high stakes storylines delivered over six million US viewers on its opening.

Three successful seasons later the series wraps, with the final action-packed episodes airing on SundanceTV (DStv 108) every Monday until the double bill finale on 13 May. As the saga comes to a close, long buried secrets are revealed, new alliances are forged and an epic battle to end all battles plays out. 

Speaking on the phone from her home outside LA, actress Orla Brady reveals what first attracted her to the role she plays in the series, opium baron Quinn’s first wife Lydia, sent into exile by her husband in favour of his younger new partner.

"At the very beginning of the show this was a woman who was becoming invisible to her husband – he was about to take a second wife, she was losing her status and her power. But she decided to fight it, she didn’t just go and knit in a corner. She came out fighting and that really drew me to the character initially."

Executive producer Miles Millar has said the stakes are fully loaded as we head into these final episodes, should audiences brace themselves? "Obviously this is a martial arts series, so of course you can expect to see some spectacular fights and the war to end all wars! But the martial arts genre is also about finding yourself and about personal morality and Lydia is attempting to behave and respond authentically to what’s happening around her."

When the new series opens Lydia is marooned in a Badlands refugee camp, doing her best to help others. "People’s true mettle really shows in season three; whether they behave honourably or with self-interest," Brady says. But when Lydia is presented with the opportunity to reclaim some of her former power, it’s one she can’t resist. "Now she’s no longer living vicariously through her husband and her son."

There are big themes playing out in the closing season; salvation, family, what kind of world to leave for the next generation. Will viewers see them all resolved by the final episode? "It’s more that you’re going to see a moral journey and a chance for some characters to find redemption and happiness, including Lydia," she says, careful not to reveal any spoilers.

Brady began her career on stage in Dublin and London before moving to the United States to focus on film and TV, with leading roles in a range of series including the BBC’s Mistresses, Shark for Fox and Nip/Tuck for FX. Does she miss live performance? "I miss theatre very much, but at a certain point of my life I got a lot of stage fright and so I shy away from it now. Plus I live on the West Coast of America and offers of theatre work tend to come up in Ireland or the UK, which would mean spending very long periods of time away from home. But I miss it terribly, there’s nothing like the connection with the audience you get in the theatre."

Her husband, photographer Nick Brandt, has spent a lot of time in Africa and the couple got married in Kenya in 2002; has she ever been to South Africa? "Once! I spent a few months shooting the first season of Strike Back for Sky TV in Joburg, under the jacaranda blooms, freezing to death in the early mornings, then getting too hot during the day. But I loved it. I sadly never made it to Cape Town though. Maybe I’ll get an invitation to shoot there – spoken like a true actor, always talking about work!" she laughs.

Dean-Charles Chapman as Castor, Babou Ceesay as Pi

(NEW SEASON: Dean-Charles Chapman as Castor, Babou Ceesay as Pilgrim, and Ella-Rae Smith as Nix in 'Into the Badlands'. Photo: Aidan Monaghan/AMC)

Season 3 of Into the Badlands premieres every Monday in April at 21:00 on SundanceTV, DStv channel 108, with new episodes weekly until the double bill finale on 13 May.