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New TV Series Into the Badlands Starring Wushu Actor Daniel Wu

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The new American TV series Into the Badlands is set to premiere on Saturday, November 15th, 2015, on AMC.  The format of the series has been described as a “genre-bending martial arts series very loosely based on the Chinese tale Journey to the West”, according to the official website of the series (http://www.amc.com/shows/into-the-badlands), and will star Daniel Wu in a lead role as Sunny.  The premise of the series consists of “a land controlled by feudal barons”, and “tells the story of a great warrior and a young boy who embark on a journey across a dangerous land to find enlightenment.”  The series will be directed by David Dobkin and also be produced by Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, who produced such films as Pulp Fiction.

The real question is how this new TV series can create opportunities for Wushu exposure and representation, and also how it will portray Asian Americans in dramatic roles.  Daniel Wu has a background in Wushu, and is an alumni of the University of Oregon, having founded of the University of Oregon Wushu Club.  Wu also has an extensive background in acting as a martial arts actor in the past decade, and has worked with Jackie Chan numerous times in such movies as Around the World in 80 Days, New Police Story (新警察故事; xīnjǐngchágùshi), and CZ12 (十二生肖;shí’èrshēngxiào, Twelve Animals of the Chinese zodiac).  On being one of the first few Asian Americans in a lead role of either a TV series OR film, Wu said in “[AMC] was adamant that the lead was an Asian, [that] there was an Asian American to play this role.”  This seems to be in the vein of Bruce Lee, who tried to work on a proposed TV Series called The Warrior, which never came to see the light of day, arguably due to the lack of Asian American representation in Hollywood, and a resultant lack of business investors willing to allow such representation at the time.  Check out Daniel Wu’s personal background here:

Based on what has been revealed of the series so far, part of the premise appears to have an absence of guns, which gives way to hand-to-hand combat situations and clashes with cold weapons, and can help to justify such a style of fighting from a storytelling standpoint.  This can open up more opportunities for martial arts action with clear Wushu influences.  For now, we will have to wait and see what direction this TV series will go.  Wushu fans, be sure to tune in and see for yourself!  For a preview of what the action in the series will look like, check out this video clip: 

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Matt began practicing Wushu at the age of 7 under US Wushu Academy, and is a coach of the UMBC Wushu Club. He has held positions in national, international, and local modern Wushu competitions, and is currently training in Sanshou/Sanda and traditional Chen Style Taijiquan. He is a three-time consecutive US Wushu Team member and most recently Pan American Champion, and is continually trying to improve himself both as a competitive athlete and as a real martial artist. If you have any questions you would like to ask Matt, please email him at matthewlee@jiayoowushu.com.