Not since Ralph Macchio has a young actor brandishing nothing more than his fists made such an impression. On Into the Badlands, the new series from AMC, newcomer Aramis Knight plays M.K., a mysterious young man whose deadly acumen is desired by every ruler in the series’ post-apocalyptic landscape. In real life, Knight’s in-demand, but for an entirely different set of skills. Here, the 16-year-old actor recalls his long road to landing the part and explains why his role was worth the wait.
Your character, M.K., is basically a one-man killing machine. Did you go into the series knowing martial arts?
Not at all. They basically started from scratch with me! I played basketball my entire life, though, so I’ve always been very athletic and I’ve been very adept to the jumping and running and the explosion of basketball, but the thing that I wasn’t good at was the technique part of martial arts. I realized quickly that it’s more of a dance than it is a fight, so I definitely had to develop a lot of flexibility. By the end of the fighting training camp they put us through, though, I was pretty good.
So you didn’t come into this with a martial arts background. How did you end up landing the role?
It’s a funny story. I was the first actor they ever saw for the role—and the last, but there were about 600 in between. I originally went to read in September of 2014, in the very early stages of the project, and they still weren’t exactly sure what they wanted and I wasn’t exactly sure who the character was. Then they didn’t see me until four months, and 600 guys, later when the casting director called me and asked me to come in again. I was really stoked because this was something I wanted so badly. So, I went back in and auditioned with her, I tested the next day and that night I found out that got it. It was such a quick thing in the end.
That’s a lot of guys to beat out for a role.
When I found out I got the part, I was at my friend’s house, sitting around with like 10 or 12 guys my age and every single one of them had auditioned for the part. We were talking about it like a week before I booked it, we were talking about how much we all wanted it and how amazing the project was.
What was so appealing?
Well, other than the kick-ass martial arts, I would say the mix of action and drama. A martial arts drama on AMC sounds pretty great, and with the people behind the action, you know the action is going to be legit, and with the people behind the drama, you know the drama is going to be awesome.
Your character is pretty mysterious as the show kicks off. What’s in store for him over the course of the season?
The whole theme of the series is a quest for enlightenment, and that is very much what MK is on, a quest to find his mother and to find his home and really to find himself.
Having played a guy who’s essentially a deadly weapon, do you feel any more dangerous than you did before filming?
I have continued taking martial arts classes, so I’ve gotten better actually since I got back from filming in New Orleans. I wonder, if I were in a certain situation and just using my instincts, if my martial arts training would come out. I’m not sure. I might just go wild on someone.