Into the Badlands: Orla Brady on Lydia’s Path to Self-Discovery

Aidan Monaghan/AMC
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

Sharpen your katanas and kunai knives, because Into the Badlands is back. AMC’s martial arts epic is returning this Sunday to bring viewers back into the dangerous world of the Badlands, where only the toughest survive.

Season 3 will bring a new danger to the series, as long-time villain Quinn (Marton Csokas) was finally brought down, thanks to a heartbreaking sacrifice by Veil (Madeleine Mantock). Now with Quinn out of the way the Widow (Emily Beecham) is ready to complete her goal of taking over the Badlands, with one or two obstacles to contend with first.

One of her surprising allies this season will be Lydia (Orla Brady), officially a widow of her own now that Quinn is truly gone. When Season 3 begins, Lydia is forging her own path helping others at a refugee camp alongside Tilda (Ally Ioannides), but it’s not long before new opportunities find her.

We had the chance to speak exclusively with Brady about Lydia’s journey so far on Into The Badlands, including what she wants now that her family is gone and her cautious alliance with the Widow. Our interview also touched on the unique way Into the Badlands empowers its female characters.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed

The TV Junkies: Heading into Season 3, Lydia has started her life post-Quinn. What does Lydia want for herself now that her need for revenge is gone?

Orla Brady: You know, that’s such a good question, because I remember when I heard that Quinn was dying, I thought, ‘okay, this will be interesting,’ because she had to find herself in relation to Quinn. She was very, very in that place where it was all about her love and her hate, and her reaction to him. That was what Lydia was about. I thought what would be interesting to do with the character would be, I think, for her to come to the point where she wants to understand who she is. She wants to no longer live her life vicariously, and she wants to understand what she has never done in her life: Who am I? What do I want in life? How do I live an authentic life of my own rather than constantly being in reaction to a husband, a father, a son?

I think she takes that decision by the end of Season 2 and begins to live as we join her at the beginning of Season 3. She has taken a step towards her own authenticity, if you like. She has decided to go back to the Totemists, but not reluctantly, like the first year where it was the only place she could go. It’s more that she decides to step back and accept that her lot in life is no longer powerful or prestigious or wealthy. She decides to go back and take care of other people; it becomes a refugee camp in the war. It’s quite a change from the beginning for Lydia because she was very about herself when we joined her in Season 1 and now she has become about helping others and is happier for it, which is a truth in life anyway.

TTVJ: I’ve considered Lydia to be a true survivor of the series, since she doesn’t have all those martial arts skills to fall back on. What would you say are some of her greatest strengths toward helping her survive in the Badlands?

OB: It was her wits, her ability to strategize. Remember, she was a young woman when her and Quinn married and she was very much behind his success. I think one of the gripes that she had with Quinn is that he’d forgotten all that. She strategized, she was very much part of the Quinn/Lydia team that gave him his success and then he threw her over for a 23 year-old [laughs]. So, yes, she lives on her wits, she’s been very good at that, traditionally. She does have some skills–not martial arts skills, not those beautiful skills you see from somebody like Daniel Wu, but she can fight, and she does fight–it becomes necessary here and there in the season–so you will see her as she gets her knife out, and use it!

TTVJ: Season 2 was the first time Lydia got a chance to fight, so will we see even more of that in Season 3, then?

OB: We will get to see more of that. I mean, not tons, because I do say I’m not one of the main fighters. In Season 1, there was a group of characters that didn’t fight at all. We were never on fight units, and it was very distinct between the fighters and the non-fighters. But I think most of us now have some fights, not to the same degree, but yes, you will see a few fights. Defensive ones, you know, not ones that she’s kind of going and looking for, but if she’s threatened she would defend herself and she does.

TTVJ: It’s like you said, Lydia’s main strength is her knowledge and her ability to strategize herself out of a situation. It’s one of the things I love about that character.

OB: Yeah, especially when people are gung-ho for a fight, you need to be able to temper that. You need to pick the right fight and sometimes you need to keep your powder dry. I think she’s enough of a stakes person, if you like, to understand those moments and when they’re appropriate and when they’re not. You don’t know this yet, but The Widow proposes an alliance in this season and Lydia goes for it. That role is very much part of their relationship: The Widow wants to go to war all the time and Lydia is the one who goes, ‘well, maybe we should kind of pull back on this.’ She becomes a counsel to her, if you like. They form a sort of lovely bond, I think, at a certain point in the season.

Aidan Monaghan/AMC
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

TTVJ: A huge part of why we’re fans of Into the Badlands is because of these amazing female characters who have so much strength and agency in their stories. What has it been like for you as an actor to see the show grow in that way over the last three seasons?

OB: I think it’s high time. Why are shows still male-dominated? I don’t get it, I think it’s way overdue that we have characters who are strong. Ruth Bader Ginsburg said this thing about the imbalance of male to female on the Supreme Court in the United States. Somebody asked her what number of women would you be happy with on the Supreme Court? And she said ‘nine.’ When they said, ‘nine? What, you won’t be happy until it’s all women?’ she said, ‘there’s been nine men and nobody’s talking about that. Why shouldn’t there be nine women?’

I think we’re behind the curve–not us, not the show–I just think, ‘of course there should be.’ it’s high time, and I’m very happy the show is doing that.

TTVJ: It’s really what we love about the show. We picked up on it around Season 2, completely binged Season 1, and it’s been kind of a revelation seeing all these amazing female characters, especially in this post-apocalyptic world setting.

OB: There are lovely developments this year. You see a lot more from Tilda, she really kind of comes into her own because she has fallen out with the Widow and is trying to forge her own life. She has a lovely relationship, a lovely woman that comes into her life. Myself and the Widow form a cautious alliance that I think becomes admiration. I think you’ll be happy. I hope so, anyway.

TTVJ: When we meet Lydia and Tilda this season they’re working together at the refugee camp. Will we see their relationship grow at all?

OB: Yes, I think what happens is… well, Al Gough recently at WonderCon described Lydia as the cool aunt when you’ve fallen out with your mother [laughs]. And I thought, you know, I wouldn’t have said those words, but I thought, yes, he’s actually got it right in a sense. Tilda is very young and she does fall out with the Widow. She comes to me and we do work together and we loved playing it, of course. Really did. It’s the daughter she never had, you know. She had a son. Obviously he didn’t work out that well, he went against Lydia and that wasn’t a good moment, so Tilda coming into her life is the daughter she never had. I think she has great affection for her and very much tries to guide her and see that she’s OK. That was lovely, a beautiful thing to play.

TTVJ: Now that Quinn is gone there is a new threat to the Badlands. How will that new threat affect Lydia going into Season 3?

OB: Lydia sees right through them. She knows exactly what they are. She’s been around for a while, seen it all and, as she says to them, you know, ‘I can spot a huckster when I see one.’ She knows that these are people like a lot of these religious-inspired violent people. She can see when somebody is “talking to God” and the right cause and, you know, ‘we’re doing this for all the right reasons and for God.’ She could just say, ‘you’re doing exactly what everyone else is doing. It’s a power grab.’ She sees that they’re hucksters. She also acknowledges that that can be very dangerous. If people raise that kind of ugly passion–I mean, in America, we had an election a little over a year ago and we can see the sort of righteous indignation that can be very ugly and very selfish. She sees that’s what they are. But it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t acknowledge how dangerous it is. People can convinced by very bad, very selfish arguments, and it can become a dangerous sport. She knows that she’s dealing with something that needs fighting, that needs dealing with.

 

What do you think of Lydia’s journey so far? Will you be watching the premiere? Sound off in the comments below.

Into the Badlands Season 3 premieres Sunday, April 22 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.