Into The Badlands: Orla Brady Discusses Lydia's Devotion And Ambition

There’s an old saying that behind every great man is a great woman. If Baron Quinn qualifies as [...]

(Photo: AMC)

There's an old saying that behind every great man is a great woman. If Baron Quinn qualifies as a great man in the Badlands, then Baroness Lydia is certainly that great woman.

Played by Orla Brady, Lydia may be critical of her husband, but she's also devoted. Together, they've risen to the heights of power in the Badlands, but could the recent changes in the political climate lead to their fall? Or will it be Quinn's pending marriage to the young Jade?

Brady took the time to speak to about Lydia, the shifting political landscape of the Badlands, and where the true power at the Fort rests.

How you would describe Lydia, in your own words?

OB: I would say, here is a woman who is trying to stay visible. She is fading in the eyes of her husband. She is becoming invisible in the eyes of her husband. He is no longer seeing her. As she has, hitherto, defined herself in terms of him. They've been a we for a long time. She has been an ally to and a strong right hand woman to the Baron. They've very much been a team. He is, now, not nearly enough acknowledging that but he is no longer interested in her, and because of that she is becoming invisible. She is a woman who is understanding that everything she based her life on is maybe not the truth. She's having to redefine herself. Either fade away and go into a corner and accept his terms, or come out fighting somehow. She has a choice. She's at a crossroads. She's a woman at a crossroads.

Has Lydia and Quinn's marriage always been as contentious as it seems to be in the series so far? Did they have their own honeymoon period?

OB: No. I don't think so at all. No. I think they were very, very grounded in each other, early on. I think they were very, very much ... What we agreed, the writers and Marton and myself all agreed, that she was very much a woman who encouraged him to take power in the first place. The construct in that particular feudal Barony, if you like - I mean, this doesn't apply to the Widow's - and in that particular one, and it is very much the males who were in charge. The chance for her to seize it herself wasn't there, but they were together as a couple. He was a Regent. She very much said, "You could be Baron. You could do it." She gave him the confidence. She gave him the idea, if you like. He went forward, very much with her behind him, and seized control and ruled effectively, ruthlessly and effectively, but it was very much a team that was ruling.

They've reached a bad path at the moment because what has happened in the story is, he has married somebody. He's had numerous affairs. He has married a new wife a few years ago. That new wife died. We will kind of hear more about that later. Now, he's doing it again. He's marrying somebody who is only 23, who is essentially younger than their own child. She's being cast aside and, understandably, she is unhappy about that. Understandably, there are recriminations between them.

No, I think they were very grounded in each other erotically, intellectually. They were very much a formidable team in the past. I think they were very happy together for many years. There is an incident which is talked about in Episode 3, which is when Ryder is kidnapped by the Nomads when he is about 12, because of the Baron's reaction to it. The Baron won't help. He doesn't want to be seen to be weak. He will not give in. He won't pay the ransom. He won't do anything about it. That is absolutely the beginning of a crack that can't be healed. I don't think Lydia ever forgives him for not going and saving their child. In the end, it's Sunny who saves the boy. That's the beginning of a huge crack. For the last about 12 years, things have gone from bad to worse. It was born from that moment of betrayal, as far as she's concerned.

You mentioned Jade, who Quinn is about to marry. Jade was a Cog in the Baron's house. Growing up there, did Lydia have any sort of affection at all for her, before this marriage was arranged?

OB: What I decided to do and Sarah - who is a wonderful, wonderful actress - what we decided to do was ... It's not there. It's not apparent in the script. We decided that we'd make it that Lydia had taken an interest in this girl. She was an orphan. She was in the kitchen. Its like, "I have brought her into the house." I made her a kind little handmaiden, if you like. She could have just been a kitchen Cog and been out there, kind of sweating around in the kitchen. I brought her into the house. It's kind of ... It's a touch of the Soon-yi, if you know what I mean? Soon-yi, as in Mia Farrow and Soon-yi, this girl she adopted and then subsequently married Woody Allen. You know what I mean?

Yes. I know what you're talking about.

OB: There's a touch of that going on where I think, on top of the betrayal of your husband deciding to marry somebody much younger, it's somebody who I helped, who probably the only reason he fell sort of ... Why his gaze found her is because I have brought her into the house. She's behaving very, very innocently, as if she had no part of it. Of course, I recognize an ambition. It's an ambition that I recognize because I had it, too. What's great is, playing with Sarah is great fun. We always have a lot of fun doing those scenes because we keep saying, "We're really well matched." It's kind of like, they're both of a type. They both really get each other because they're both very ambitious women.

Do you think that Lydia can see a value in the perspective that Jade could offer to the Baron, her having come up as a Cog? Or would Lydia not see a Cog's perspective as being all that valuable to those in power?

OB: Actually, you're going to get an answer to that in the next episode or two. I can't remember what the scene's called, but there is a perspective that Jade will bring to.

I think at the beginning, what Lydia wants to hold on to more than anything else is a position of closest confidant. It's like, "If I can't be wife, I can be prime minister, as it were. As long as I hold on to that status, then fine. If he wants to have this young wife, that's fine." She means what she says in episode one where she says, "I could have his heart, but as far as I'm concerned, anything after that, that's fine by me." She does want to hold off that it's very important to her to hold onto that. If she doesn't have that, then she doesn't have anything. She has nothing without that status. What we're beginning to see is that that status is being challenged by a young woman who is much stronger than she imagined. She's not a little mouse. She's a very ambitious girl. Lydia is having to take that into account. Having said that, she understands there's a fresh perspective, given that she comes from the Cogs.

In Episode 3, we see Lydia finally come to the realization that Quin might be right, that Ryder may not be the best choice to become the next Baron. When she comes to that realization, does it come more from a place of concern for Ryder, or concern for the Fort, and the Baron's territory, and what she and Quinn have built together?

OB: No, it's absolutely concern for the boy. He's been huffing and blowing for years about, "I'm going to do this, and I'm going to do that." The very first thing he does, where Quinn says, "Okay. You've discovered something. Off you go, then and deal with this." Of course, he's nearly killed. The only reason he is not killed is because Sunny is there to save him. He obviously nearly dies. He's in great danger. That's the very first thing he does. It's absolutely care for him and again, Lydia very often speaks the truth in this series. When she says, "I prefer you hate me than I stand over your grave," she does ... In fact, I think probably he's the only thing that she's got left in the world that she can call her own and that she loves, is that boy. The recognition of his failure to be Baron material doesn't lessen the love. It's a disappointment, but it doesn't lessen the love she has for him. I think she will sacrifice, even, her position and his affections to keep him safe and alive, to not lose him.

Last week, I spoke to Emily Beecham about the Widow. She said that the Widow is someone who wants equality in the Badlands and for women to have an equal voice to men in the Badlands. Do you think that's something that Lydia could sympathize with? Or is she more content with things as they are now, given her relationship with Quinn?

OB: Here's the thing, I think that we're joining this story at a turning point for many characters. I think there is a self-realization that has happened in the Widow's case. A wonderful self-realization, and a bid for freedom that that story is telling, the Widow's story. It hasn't happened to Lydia, but she's already finding it disturbing that the Widow is doing this. You know, sometimes you can find yourself vehemently against something. A classic example is the person who vehemently is anti-gay. They hate gays. "They're disgusting. Blah, blah, blah." It turns out that really underneath it all, that they're repressed gay people themselves. It's something similar to that.

There is something in her that understands that she could have done this herself. She had enough in her to maybe have power in her own right, rather than having it vicariously through her husband all these years. I think the Widow doing this is very upsetting. I think it's beginning to give her an idea, which may play out in the future if we were to go a second series, we'd get a chance to play out that story. I think when Quin, in episode one, he says something about the Widow along the lines of, to Ryder, "I hope it doesn't give your mother any ideas." I think he knows his wife well. I think that there is something in Lydia that is thinking, "This woman took over. She just actually killed her abusive husband and took over and what does that mean ..." It could only make you lie in bed and wonder at night, what would the world look like if I suddenly decide that yes, I'm entitled to that, too, rather than assuming that I'm not entitled to it? What would entitlement look like in my life? You know what I'm saying?

Yes. In fact, you may have just answered my last question, which is, do you think that Lydia could ever look at herself and think, "Well, I could do what the Widow did. I could become Baron, with or without the murder part. I could take up and lead this territory myself."

OB: Here's the thing, I think she hasn't had that thought yet. I think, as the story goes, we may see that thought begin to form. Sometimes there's a very torturous journey to reach your confidence. I think many of us can relate to this, is that if you're lucky enough to be born into the kind of family or the kind of cast or the kind of people who have an enormous sense of entitlement, many of us have to work really, really hard through our feelings of not being worthy, at all, of anything or much, and get to a point - after endeavor, after work, after years sometimes - of getting to a point where you think, "I could do this, too. It's not just for other people. Maybe I have a right to this, too. Maybe I could do that and maybe I could do it well." I think we will see her start to go on that journey.

Everyone in this tale, if you like, is starting a journey at crossroads. They're at some point where they need to either stay still and die, or they need to step out on that first couple steps of their journey. With Lydia, I think what I was interested in, at first, was she does rise to the challenge. She doesn't just go away and get discarded, which is what the Baron intends. "I'm not interested in you anymore. You are no longer attractive to me. Go away in the corner, become an old woman, knit or something like that." I think she's saying, "No. I won't do that. I don't know what I will do, but I'm not going to do that." We've yet to see what her solution to all this is.

Into the Badlands airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.