Atlanta native Ally Ioannides plays Tilda in AMC's 'Into the Badlands'

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Atlanta native and teen Ally Ioannides has always liked martial arts films. She never imagined actually performing jumps and leaps and kicks in front of the camera.

But when she was cast to play Tilda on AMC's new drama "Into the Badlands," she got to channel her inner Bruce Lee. The show placed the actors in a seven-week martial arts camp to learn the basics.

"The trainers had worked on movies like 'The Matrix' and 'Kill Bill' ," Ioannides said. "It was just such a dream. Our world is rooted in martial arts. This built camaraderie."

Ioannides' Tilda will be seen for the first time this Sunday during episode two helping out MK (Aramis Knight), the teen heartthrob who had just escaped lead Baron Quinn (Marton Csokas, who looks suspiciously like Russell Crowe) with help from Quinn's main henchman Sunny (Daniel Wu). Tilda, trained by the rival Widow as part of her "butterfly" crew, is nobody to be trifled with.

Ioannides said she knows relatively little back story about her character beyond the fact she's an orphan the Widow picked up and trained to kill. "Serving the widow is her entire life," she said, similar to the way the evil baron Quinn oversees Sunny, the lead character in the show.

The Widow treats Tilda with more care than Quinn does with Sunny. And Quinn is more ethically and morally challenged as well. Still, both leaders are equally power hungry.

The "Into the Badlands" world appears to be a strange post-apocalyptic "Mad Max"-type world set in the American South where guns are outlawed and martial arts became the primary form of defense. (Yes, this is a fantasy world indeed.) Quinn, the baron, uses the honey-flavored accent of a slave owner circa 1860. Ioannides doesn't use any special accent at all, speaking like it's America 2015.

AMC promoted the new series heavily and gave it a choice spot this past Sunday after "The Walking Dead," the most popular series among 18 to 49 year olds and shot mostly in the Senoia area. "Into the Badlands" drew a healthy 6.4 million overnight viewers, holding about half the "Dead" fans.

Half is not great but if "Into the Badlands" can keep a decent percentage of those initial viewers over the long term, AMC would certainly deem it a hit. (UPDATE: Counting DVR usage over three more days, viewership was boosted to 8.2 million. It was the third largest cable series launch of all time for 18 to 49 year olds and 25 to 54 year olds using Live + 3 date, behind only "Better Call Saul" and "Fear the Walking Dead," also AMC launches.)

Ioannides said the training helped build her endurance and stamina, as well as her martial arts skills. She was already fairly flexible and able to pick up choreography. But she had to learn to be precise and strong with her punches and kicks. She also had to appear proficient throwing stars in the shape of butterflies.

"I'm pretty good at making it look like I'm throwing them accurately," she said. "CG makes it look like it goes really far. In reality, it goes maybe 20 feet." She also has a stunt double who makes her look even better.

Overall, shooting these first six episodes, she said, "was way tougher than I imagined. It was really rigorous."

Ioannides' own Southern roots are not too deep. She spent the first eight years of her life in Atlanta, through second grade, attending Buckhead's Pace Academy before moving to Utah. "I still have a lot of family there," she said.

Her acting resume is relatively light. This is her first TV regular role. She appeared in several episodes as a recurring character on NBC's final season of "Parenthood," playing autistic teen Max's first crush.

TV PREVIEW

"Into the Badlands," 10 p.m., Sundays, AMC

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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