Interview: Sherman Augustus Talks Into the BadlandsJune 19, 2018
Recently we had the chance to talk with Sherman Augustus, who plays Nathaniel Moon on the hit AMC series Into the Badlands.
So how did you get into the acting business? Was it something you always wanted to do or did you kind of fall into it, like one of those happy accidents?
Sherman: It was something I always wanted to do. The thing of it is, when I was in high school Todd Bridges older brother Jim Bridges went to high school and college with me, and their dad was an agent. Once I decided to retire from football I called my football agent out and said I’m out and I called Jim Bridges Sr. up and said hey Jim, I’m in. I got back to L.A. and started studying for real, I went to Northwestern and they have a great theater department there, but it was hard to juggle student-athlete and run track and play football at the same time. My major at the time was criminology and the workload was just too heavy so I just stayed with football and running track. When I got here to L.A. after retiring from football, I only played four and a half years so you blink and that’s my career but I wanted to see if I could make it and I did, I made it to the NFL. So when I got back here I started studying with all the best acting teachers and coaches, got myself into improv and did all the things I was supposed to do to build myself a career and I’ve just been going ever since. My first acting job was Colors, the Dennis Hopper film. It was my first job, Don Cheadle’s first job, Glenn Plummer’s first job, there was about seven of us, all our first gig. It was pretty cool.
You’ve done theater, film, and television. Do you have a favorite medium to work in or do they all have their own individual charms?
Sherman: When I started out in the business I wanted to do films. I prefer films because they shoot at a slower pace, especially independent films where it’s all about the dialogue and what the subject matter is in the storyline. Because of recent events in the past fifteen to twenty years, all the money is now in television. It used to be you were a TV star then became a movie star and now it’s where you can travel between the two mediums and that’s pretty cool. I still prefer films but the one thing I can say about Into the Badlands is we shoot it like a film, so we’re not worried about ok guys, we have to shoot eight pages today, so you’re rushing through and as an actor, you can’t have a real moment. I’m cool with television, it just depends on what the show is, what the subject matter is, how they’re shooting it and who’s involved.
Ok, so let’s talk Into the Badlands. Your character Nathaniel Moon made his debut last season and is now a regular this season. As an actor, what is it about the character that peaked your interest and got you excited?
Sherman: What got me excited about the whole project was when I received the breakdown of season two, they were definitely bringing that character back. The capacity was going to be seven episodes but seven episodes meant you were going to be a regular, so I knew that. What I didn’t know is they wanted to get that character involved in the first season but they only did six episodes and of course, when I put myself on tape for the show they had made offers to other actors. They offered the part to Wesley Snipes but he was busy so fast forward four weeks later and I got the gig. Everything happened so fast, I got the call at five in the morning and the next day, a Friday, I was on a plane to Dublin. I didn’t read a script until I got on the plane and it was basically everything that I wanted in a show, in a character. The character was so developed, it was like they pitched me a softball and I was like dude, if you can’t hit this out the park then there is something wrong with you. I didn’t have to come up with any backstory, it was all there, it was easy, but the work itself was hard. That Monday morning I was on that bridge, shooting that bridge scene and that’s what introduced me into the Badlands world.
Season three still has the great action but the world building, the mythology and new characters have helped take the show to another level. What is the best part about working on this show?
Sherman: It’s everything, everything, right down to craft services. I always try to picture myself on a show where everything is firing on all cylinders, from transportation, to story to like I said, craft services. On this show, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great actors, like Babou, Lorraine, Daniel, all the regulars, it was just amazing, so I’m very, very happy right now. I have some wonderful moments with certain characters that you wouldn’t get in regular TV shows and I love it, it’s great.
One of the problems with building great characters is that you always want them around and I have a funny feeling that by the time this season is over, a few of the characters on Into the Badlands will no longer be with us.
Sherman: That’s so funny because when we were going into episode eight, Orla and I had a rehearsal meeting with Taco and he said in his accent so yeah guys, it’s going to be a bloodbath in the next eight episodes. So if you can imagine all the actors are talking, saying did you hear, did you hear, because we’re all really digging the scope of the thing, how big and fast it is now, we’re just loving it, and then to hear some of us are going to start getting whacked, we were like oh, are you serious? I was like well you know what guys, I’m safe because I just got here. So I walked around, playing the game, saying oh man, what’s going to happen and I didn’t ask any of the showrunners what was going to happen but slowly but surely you start hearing things, like oh yeah Sherman, I think they’re going to take you out and I’m like ok, cool, I’ll make the best of it, because I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
You mentioned you have a background in martial arts. Did you find you were prepared when it came time to do fight scenes on Into the Badlands?
Sherman: Once you get your black belt, I got my black belt, I’m a second dan and I was working on my third dan in Taekwondo and Kutsu, I was told that once you get your black belt that’s where the hard work starts and this is so true. You work hard for six or seven years to achieve what you want, get that black belt and more, and then you tend to taper off a bit. I made sure I didn’t, that I kept my flexibility and did all the right things but to tell you the truth, I never picked up a sword. That was all new to me so I was a little off balance with that whole thing. Now fast forward to this season and getting the hand cut off and I knew they were going to give me some sort of prosthetic hand. I thought they were going to give me one of those Darth Vader rotating hands but I got what I got. I practiced vigorously, doing my modeling and everything with my right hand and I got an email from Daniel Wu, two weeks before we reported to fight camp, he said hey man, see you in two weeks and oh yeah, you are practicing with your left? That added a whole new element so I had to re-learn a bunch of stuff, get my balance right, that whole thing. It got easier and easier but still, I’m practicing today, going to practice tonight, but I practice with that sword all the time, I really do.
Your character Nathaniel Moon is really driven by his honor but he is no fool as far as keeping his eye on the big picture. What have you enjoyed about his story arc so far?
Sherman: We get two scripts at the same time as we shoot two shows at the same time, which is a little different, but I leave myself open to receive new information because we all knew he was one of the deadliest clippers but didn’t have the Regent background. One of the things I love the most about this show is it constantly makes me think and I have to surprise myself every show and I just have to be accessible enough to receive new information and work that into my backstory. As far as the loyalty is concerned, and the love for Lydia, basically the way I looked at it and ran it around in my head is when he does go back to so-called society, he’s giving it one more shot. If he does fall on the battlefield as The Widow’s Regent, at least he gains his honor back, he’s not a disgraced Ronin anymore, that was how I prepared, that’s what I was thinking.
I love your scenes with Orla Brady, they’ve been wonderful. Did you two have chemistry right away or was it something you had to work on?
Sherman: I’ve always been an Orla Brady fan, she was on Dr. Who and I’m a gigantic Dr. Who fan so anytime she would be in a film I would watch it because I think she’s just a fabulous actor and her work ethic is incredible. We did a show called American Odyssey together, I had no scenes with her but I remember Jay O. Sanders introducing us at lunch one day and I was oh my god, giddy like a little schoolboy because I just love Orla Brady. Fast forward to Into the Badlands and I heard she was in the show and I thought cool, maybe I’ll get some scenes with her. My character has been able to interact with each and every actor on the show and I love it, but as far as Orla is concerned she’s a star. She is just so giving and we would get together and massage a scene until we get it right, because things are always changing and we are always adding stuff to it and taking things away, if it makes sense. The show is so driven by women so what I do, I always want to win a scene, when I have scenes with Orla and Emily and Lorraine and Ally, I kind of let them take the scene over. It makes me react more, acting is reacting and working with Orla, she just gives to you so you can react and I think that’s the best, she’s awesome.
I really enjoyed the first fight scene of the season between Nathaniel Moon and The Widow when you were going up that tower. Can you take me through that scene and what you had to do to prepare for it?
Sherman: It’s so funny because we were so tired of that damn place. It took about eleven days to shoot that scene because the weather came in and they were using the cranes and it took our stunt doubles day after day to do that. As far as our fight scenes on the ground and all of that stuff, the average fight scene takes four to eight days, because you’ll go away and do something else and then come back and finish it up. We don’t do fight choreography the day before or two weeks before, no. We show up, are told to do this and this and this, cameras are going to be there, ok, let’s shoot. That’s how it goes man, that’s how it goes.
Ok, so what can we expect from Nathaniel Moon in the second half of this season?
Sherman: In the second half of the season he and Lydia do devise a plan and they are just trying to go with the flow because there are these threats, two in fact. We have the Pilgrim threat, the acolytes, all those folks, then we have the Black Lotus as well. So what happens is folks have to align themselves with each other in order to take on the bigger threat and the fight sequences get bigger and bloodier as we go along. The relationship between Lydia and myself, we’re just loving each other to death and it works because the way the show is geared towards the narrative. What’s going to happen if Moon dies or what’s going to happen if Lydia dies, so there are all these things going on. In the second half of the season, some of the actors are going to be dropping like flies, that’s all I can say. It all drives the narrative for season four because in season four there’s going to be an even bigger threat that comes in. The rumor is, we go back to Dublin the same time next year, shoot there for three months then pack everything up and move to Madrid because of the deserts so there’s going to be that whole element. Basically, the first eight episodes of this season are a little tease…the next eight they really put the pedal to the metal, it’s crazy.
So besides Into the Badlands, do you have any other projects coming up?
Sherman: Not yet. Basically, because of the success of the show, I’m able to get in rooms with some particular projects that we have, myself and my business partners, and that looks really promising. The only thing I can do now is produce some of the shows because I’m a regular on this show, I’m committed, but I can do some recurring stuff and we have some really good projects that you would definitely be a fan of, everyone is really excited about it. Other than that, I’m riding the success of this show, it’s a dream job. I’ve got to tell you, what makes it extra special is that fact that no matter what the conditions are, you see all those folks on the crew working hard and it inspires you to work that much harder. The people are so talented and work so hard, I’m so glad I landed a gig on this show.
I want to thank Sherman for taking the time to talk with us