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Aramis Knight gets into shape for 'Into the Badlands'

"Into the Badlands" star Aramis Knight underwent a seven-week bootcamp.

Aramis Knight is only 16 years old, but he's already something of a Hollywood veteran, with plenty of titles — like "Ender's Game" and "The Dark Knight Rises" — behind him. But with AMC's new dystopian martial arts drama "Into the Badlands," he had to pick up a whole new set of skills for the role of the mysterious young M.K.

How did you go about throwing yourself into this world?
There was a lot of preparation that went into this project. They put us through a seven-week martial arts training boot camp to put us into this world and get us in touch with the athletic side of ourselves. I think that seven-week boot camp definitely helped a lot. I don't think I realized it by the end of it, but once we began filming and we were doing martial arts every day and we really were asked to dive into this world, I realized how much it actually helped.

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Was that level of physical training daunting?
Yeah, definitely. I've been in this business for 11 years, so not too many things intimidate me anymore when it comes to working on new projects or auditioning. But with this project, I had no martial arts background at all. I've always been very athletic, though, and very in touch with the physical part of me and I've always been very good at transforming my body for a role, but never to this extent. It definitely was intimidating, definitely daunting, but by the end of the seven weeks I was feeling pretty good and doing things I never thought I'd be able to do.

Like what?
They had me doing back-flips, kicking over my head. I was touching my forehead to my knee when I was stretching. Things like that, that I never thought I'd be able to do because coming in I lacked flexibility a lot.

Since your character goes on something of a training journey, did that make it easier? Like you could be kind of bad early on?
It definitely lessened the pressure, yeah. But I knew I would be working so much that I would have to unleash everything I learned eventually. And also because of M.K.'s dark secret, you have to be able to see a change in his abilities. So I had to sort of figure out how to suppress my abilities but then also let them shine when I do go into that state that is so special.

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That sounds very complicated.
Yes, it was very complicated. It was physically and psychologically taxing, but when you see the show you can definitely appreciate how much work went into it.

How do you describe the journey M.K. goes on?
I definitely think it's a reflection of teenagers today. He very much is a teenager, and M.K. is very different from everybody else on the show because everybody is sort of brainwashed into thinking that killing is a norm and fighting to survive is a norm and the possibility your loved ones dying is something that everybody has to deal with. M.K. is not really used to that since he very much is ignorant to the world of the Badlands and he isn't used to killing and possibly being killed or being hunted. So you definitely see him shake things up. He metaphorically slaps everybody in the face and wakes them up to reality.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick

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