Actor, martial artist and former professional football player Sherman Augustus stars as Nathaniel Moon on AMC’s hit show Into the Badlands. Comix Asylum recently had the chance to talk to Sherman about his character, Into the Badlands, the show’s famous action sequences and being snubbed by the Emmys.
SB: What can fans expect from Into the Badlands when it returns?
SA: First off no one is safe. There’s going to be a blood bath in the last eight. When we were breaking for Christmas, (Executive Producer) Paco let us know so we didn’t know who was going to die or not. It’s going to be very interesting and you can look forward to some unlikely alliances. These unlikely alliances come about because of Pilgrim and the Black Lotus and there’s also another dangerous element that comes along. He’s one of Pilgrim’s Acolytes and is a pretty formidable foe. A lot of us aren’t going to make it and we’ll all have to band together to take on this new outside force. And then there’s a set up for Season 4. We were wondering what they were going to do with this season since they broke up the 16 episodes. We thought they were going bring it back as Season 4 and when we go back it would be Season 5. But they’re calling it Season 3b. I think the fans are really going to like it. There’s going to be another interesting factor but I can’t say what it is. I want to so bad but it’s going to happen in Season 4 and they’re going to disclose that in episode 16. Everybody’s minds will be blown. I wish I could be in the room when everybody sees that because there’s going to be some brain matter on the floor I can guarantee that.
SB: One of the interesting things this season is the shifting alliances between a lot of the players. Other than Baron Chau, there really isn’t a big bad that everyone is out to defeat. However, as you’ve mentioned, the Black Lotus are now on the scene and Pilgrim is this shady character that you’re never sure which side he’s on. It adds a layer of intrigue, much like life where your friend one minute can be an enemy the next.
SA: Exactly. There’s going to be some interesting things happening with the Widow that’s going to make us all question whether we’re doing the right thing. Nathaniel is very honorable so he’s going to follow the plan but he’s looking out for himself and has Lydia’s back. In the next eight you’ll see that he trusts her now. He sees her vision, what she’s doing and he’s totally down for that. I think it’s interesting because for me as an actor we get our scripts two or three days before the next block. We do two shows at once and nobody knows which direction their character is going to go. This was cool for me because I like to make everything as organic as possible. When I started getting new information that I could add to my backstory it made everything more interesting. There’s another side to Nathaniel that everyone is going to see. It’s a softer side. Remember that he had a family and a child – man…well I can say it – Henry makes his way to the sanctuary so Moon is going to get to hang out with little Henry for an episode or two (laughs).
SB: Nathaniel’s backstory is being fleshed out a little this season. We’re aware of his connection with Sunny but his feelings for Lydia came about as a bit of a surprise. What are your thoughts on your character’s arc so far?
SA: I love where they are going. This is one of the most developed characters that I’ve ever played in my 32 years as an actor. He was so well rounded and developed and I love the fact that more and more information is coming to me. I had to build the whole thing of Moon being a cog, clipper and then a regent. Nathaniel wasn’t forced into anything and that’s why he has this whole thing about being honorable and keeping his word. What I put in my head is that he enlisted because he got three square meals a day, was really good at it and was really honorable. He loves the whole machine of being in the military and being part of a group. It’s kind of like how I felt playing football because you’re a part of something. You’re part of a team and although you may not get along with your teammates off the field you do on it. That’s how I see it with Nathaniel. His honor button is always on. I love the backstory between him and Lydia. He tried to get her to leave when he split all those years ago but she stayed with Quinn. Orla and I are friends and worked together on American Odyssey. We didn’t share any scenes on Odyssey but our friendship made the connection between our two characters on Badlands even more real. Everyone on this show cares for each other and we trust each other. We know how to push each other and are always supportive so that dynamic adds more elements to Moon’s backstory and how I approach the character.
SB: Okay, we have to talk about your final action sequence in Leopard Catches Cloud. That was an epic scene and one that sort of leaves Nathaniel’s fate in doubt. What was it like filming that scene?
SA: It was crazy. I read a lot of comments on line and people felt that Nathaniel was giving up. When I sat down with Paco and we talked about that scene it was about holding the line. He could have kept fighting but it was about holding the line until Gaius, Tilda and the Widow got into the sanctuary and took out Chau. That was one of the coldest days ever! I mean I played in some football games where it was cold. Period. I went to school in the mid-west at North Western because if my career was to go any further I was going to have to play in this weather. That day in Ballycorus in Dublin, Ireland…it’s a rock quarry…I’ve seen grown men cry because of the cold. I almost started crying it was so cold. No matter how much you stretched to stay warm it wasn’t happening. We had to rehearse that scene with the horses and I was riding my horse, Phoenix for months. Phoenix was great until they did the practical stuff. The flames going through the air were digital but they do practical stuff all the time. So when the trees were on fire and the fireballs were going Phoenix looked at me and said, “Dude this is not in my contract” and he went nuclear. It was probably the longest 25 seconds of my life. I can’t hold onto those reigns with the prosthetic hand very well and I was like, “Dude, this is it. I’m out of here. Plus, if I hit the ground and fall in that water, it’s going to be so cold. Oh my God.” But we got through it and it was just a great day. It reminds me of the Battle of the Bastards and all of our stunt performers are the best in the business. No matter how cold it was you didn’t want to let anyone down. They were out there feeling the same weather and those ladies and gentlemen are just professionals and in the mix. If they could do it I could do it so let me get down. I think it took us ten days to shoot that sequence. We shot the end first and then went back and did the beginning. I loved it. It was a really great scene. I can put that on my reel and it can go down in history as something I did.
SB: It translated on screen and really was the defining moment for your character up until now. He began as an adversary of Sunny and has grown into a well-rounded character with some nuances and considering what he’s been through he still has the capacity for love and tenderness in his relationship with Lydia.
SA: Yeah before we went into fight camp last August I had a conversation with our show runners, Al (Gough) and Miles (Millar) and I did not want him to come back angry at Bajie and Sunny. As an actor that stifles your creativity so I was hoping that the writers came up with another twist which they did. LaToya Morgan, one of our writers and producers on the show really cranked out some good stuff for all of us. Each one of us had something to do whenever she wrote a particular episode and I really feel grateful that I’m on a show that allows us to make suggestions on scripts where our characters are concerned. I didn’t want to come back and just be mad at Sunny or Bajie and they threw me a curve ball. I really like the development of my character and in the next eight I get to hit every emotion under the sun. Everybody thinks it’s just a martial arts show but we’ve got great actors. We’re all competing against each other and it’s like being in a great acting class. The next eight are so pivotal for all of us and we all get the chance to step it up acting wise. I can’t wait and I wish the next eight were on right now. We will definitely win some awards next season for the next eight. For sure.
SB: You’ve had a few memorable fight sequences this season, particularly the one against the Widow in the season opener. How much preparation goes into a typical fight scene?
SA: Master Dee Dee is not one to rehearse so we know that whatever is in the script we aren’t going to do. We show up and rehearse whatever he’s come up with. We’re lucky if we get 25 minutes and then we’re shooting it. You want to step up to the plate and do your best work because everyone is a great martial artist on our show even those that have never done martial arts. You learn your sequences and they shoot it in pieces. We’ll do a couple of beats, cut, get that squared away, then do a couple of more beats and then a wide master. Sometimes they’ll let us rest and let our stunt doubles do the wide master or a drone shot. Then we’ll come in and do everything else – the medium shot, the close ups and everyone has to bring it. You’re probably going to ask me about my favorite fight scene this season.
SB: I wasn’t but if you’d like to share please go ahead.
SA: I don’t have one for myself. I like all my fight scenes but I kind of lean towards the one with Aramis because I was not using a weapon. My background is taekwondo and kuk sool so all of the wushu is totally new for me. I was always going try to learn some kung fu. There is kuk sool and kuk sool won. Kuk sool is similar to kung fu but still has a lot of Taekwondo elements to it. Learning the whole thing with the wushu was totally different and the fight scenes are throwbacks to other great movies. Our show is basically a Kurosawa/Sergio Leone film and is a western, which is really cool. I dig that fight scene a lot but overall the Widow/Sunny fight and the bridge sequence in Season 2, Episode 3 stand out. But Sunny’s with the sniper is definitely my favorite. They rocked that! Also Lewis (Tan) and Dean Chapman and Dean isn’t even a martial artist! He’s a dancer and I remember when he showed up at fight camp and told me that he’d never done this. I said, “Dude you mean you never tossed around a sword once on Game of Thrones?” and he said no. I was there that day because we have a gym at the production office and one of the main stages was across from the gym. I saw them doing the wide master and I was blown away. Those guys get all that shit! I mean it was awesome. My jaw was on the ground. Those two are my favorite although I kinda dig the Widow when she goes to talk to Pilgrim for the first time and Lewis and his guys break into the museum and try to kill everybody. That was choreographed beautifully.
SB: It’s almost like another character on the show when you think of the fight choreography. I had the fortune of speaking with Lewis a couple of months ago and we were talking about how it’s almost like you guys are doing a dance.
SA: It is and fortunately we have great dance partners. When you look at what the ladies have to do on the show and they do it in heels! What did Ginger Rogers say? “I can do the same thing Fred Astaire can do but I have to do it backwards and in heels.” I got to tell you that Emily (Beecham) is no joke! We razz each other all the time about it but she takes it serious. When she doesn’t get anything right she does it until she does and I’m the same way. It has to flow and have this ‘je ne sais quoi’ to it. I remember when the pilot episode aired and I was kinda frosty about it because I didn’t know anything about it. They’re doing a martial arts show and I’m not on it. Are you kidding me? (laughs) My mother had called me and asked if I’d seen Into the Badlands and I said, “No, I’m not watching that show mom! I’m not on it!” (laughs) So I watched the rebroadcast of the pilot later that night and I said, “Dude, you’re getting on that show.” Then on Season 2, Episode 3 they introduced the character. They were going to introduce the character in the first season but they didn’t have enough episodes. I don’t know if you know this but they did offer the role to Wesley Snipes.
SB: I did not know that!
SA: Yeah. I put myself on tape and didn’t hear anything for four weeks. First off I had been auditioning hardcore for four weeks because I had just come off of Westworld and Colony and I was really busy. A friend of mine, Tim Cogshell who is director put me on tape and whenever he does I book the job. So I didn’t hear anything for four weeks and I was hanging out at Tim’s drinking the Irish water – we were drinking Jameson – and at 4:30 that morning I get a call from Susan Holmes telling me that they needed me on a plane to Ireland at 4:30 that day for Into the Badlands. I was like, “What? Are you serous?” She was but I couldn’t make it that day but was on the plane the next day. I read the script on the plane, knew that they threw me a softball and that I had to knock it out of the park as an actor. That character was just so developed. I landed on Saturday afternoon, did hair and make up, had Sunday off, was doing the bridge scene on Monday and the rest is history.
SB: I noticed on Orla Brady’s Twitter feed that Into the Badlands was shut out of the Emmy nominations. Considering the show’s incredible fight sequences, awesome stunt work and overall look what are your thoughts on the Emmy snub?
SA: O.K. so I got in trouble two weeks ago because I went hard on Twitter. I think they were calling Daniel the real Donald Trump and I was the real Kanye or something like that because we kind of went there (laughs). It wasn’t because of us. I have to go back to our stunt performers, Andy Cheng, Master Dee Dee and Stephen Fung and all those incredible performers in the Hong Kong team. To not get recognized is a shame but I’m not going to be mad at anybody. I appreciate other people’s work on other shows and who knows, maybe because we shoot in Ireland we are out of the eye of everyone. But people know about the show particularly our hardcore fans so it’s not like it goes unnoticed. For me in particular I was upset by the simple fact that Giovanni Lipari, our costume designer did not get a nod for the second time. The show has stepped up its game and is so big and vast now. They’ve built up this world and it’s going to get bigger and bigger. For that to not be recognized and for our director Paco, our DP’s, Giovanni, the Hong Kong team and our incredible stunt team to not be nominated was kind of a shock and a shame because they all worked so hard. But I must say we’ve talked to each other within the last couple of weeks and it’s just going to amp us up when we go back to work. We’re going to change the game. We have something to prove. We’re not bitter or mad at anybody that got nominated. God bless them and good for them but we’re not going to continue to get shut out. I used to have a coach that used to tell me all the time that when you’ve caused a fumble and we score but nobody pats you on the ass that it’s O.K. because you know what you did. An Emmy is a byproduct of good work so as long as our fans are happy we are good. We just have to keep pushing, turning in good stuff and I can’t wait for the next eight.