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SYFY WIRE Into the Badlands

Exclusive: Into the Badlands' Lorraine Toussaint on Cressida's power in 'Requiem for the Fallen'

By Carly Lane
Into the Badlands 308, Cressida

It's hard to believe it, but Into the Badlands is coming to a close. After three seasons, AMC's martial arts fantasy drama is wrapping up with its last set of episodes, and as all of our favorite characters maneuver toward the final showdown, we prepare to say goodbye. We've already said farewell to a couple people along the way (RIP, Lydia), and it's anyone's guess who is going to survive at the very end of it all.

One relative newcomer to the show this season has been the mystifying and powerful prophetess Cressida (played with undeniable presence by Lorraine Toussaint), who has been behind some of the witchiest moments on Badlands thus far. It was her vision in tonight's episode, "Requiem for the Fallen," that hinted at a potential apocalypse on the horizon.

SYFY FANGRRLS had the opportunity to chat with Toussaint ahead of tonight's episode, where she spoke about her love for the role, Cressida's complex relationship with Pilgrim, and getting to kick ass on-screen.

Cressida has always been a character cloaked in mystery. What was your first impression of her when you were cast, and which aspects of her personality did you want to come across in your portrayal of her on Badlands?

When I spoke with Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar] originally, they were just in the process of beginning to write Cressida. Cressida was an idea. And if I remember correctly — it's been a while — that he didn't have Cressida [envisioned] on the screen yet. The idea of Cressida was part of this outer world group coming in and taking over the Badlands, who were somewhat nomadic in nature, and with extraordinary and unusual powers, abilities, that the Badlands had not yet seen.

So I knew that she was going to be complex. She was going to be the woman behind the man. They were going to be well met and somewhat mated. And that that was interesting enough for me to sign on, given that it was also going to be a somewhat adventurous year in Ireland with an international production company, and participants — and you're acting in the rock star show of martial arts every week, which I happen to love. I'm a bit of a geek that way. There were enough elements for me to sign on, absolutely.

Into the Badlands 302, Pilgrim and Cressida
Cressida’s relationship with Pilgrim has always felt very complex, but we’ve seen it take a lot of interesting turns over the course of the season. How do you think she views him as a person, and how much of her faith resides in him as a ruler of the Badlands versus her own strategy getting him to that point?

Well, she really does see him as the Messiah. And so, when one plays the zealot, which I've never played before, which was interesting to me ... her belief is everything. Her belief is her life. She is her belief. She is the purist. I often look for a character's redemption. If there's anything redeeming about Cressida, it's that she is a believer. And Azra is everything to her, and it's very real. And [Pilgrim] is the chosen of Azra.

So when that gets jeopardized externally and internally, it's very, very difficult for her. You're going to watch her be pulled a bit in one direction and another, as we move towards the end. I may secretly feel that Cressida is one of my favorites that I've played, as quiet as that may be kept. This show is such a very particular niche that it probably isn't going to be seen by everyone. But I love Cressida. I think I love Cressida maybe more than I've loved any character I've done in the last 10 years.

We’ve seen Cressida wield her ability in several different ways, from revealing the existence of the Widow’s baby to bringing the red rain. Just how powerful is she, and how much of a threat does she pose heading into the finale?

I think we never really see the full extent of her power, but we do see quite a bit more of it as we're moving to the end. When I signed on, I remember speaking specifically to Al that I wanted to make sure that what she brought to the table was somewhat different than any of the other characters.

It's almost as though she were almost a partly different species. She's tapped into something that no one else in this series has quite tapped into and wields power from the source that is specifically hers, and even, as you will see, fights very differently. I felt they honored that so beautifully and elevated that idea into something that was so fun to play.

Into the Badlands 314, Cressida
We haven’t gotten the chance to see Cressida do much fighting in terms of martial arts action, but last week versus Lydia, when her eyes turned red, there was a really impressive fight between them in the brig. What sort of ability was Cressida challenging there, and what was it like to film that sequence?

I walked onto set and I said to the fight master, "Look, I don't want her to fight the same way other people fight. I want to make sure that she's wearing her weapon. Her weapon is internal." I watched the fight master become very intrigued with that idea, right on the spot. I think it was Episode 2 or 3 where Cressida first used her cloak as a weapon. And I loved that idea that she can weaponize what she's wearing, who she is. She almost doesn't need a knife or a sword or other things to fight. That the threat that is in the potential of her power that maybe we have not even seen yet, seen her fully exhibit. And physically, doing that fight was really fun.

If the series had gone on further, for another year, we might have explored [her ability]. For this run, things are escalating at such a level, there's no time. We're all moving into survival mode. And so there won't be much explanation as to the source of her power, but I think we will just be surprised by its emerging.

This week, Kannin suggests that Cressida can’t recognize the path Pilgrim is leading them all down, in spite of her abilities, and then she has her vision. Has her love for Pilgrim blinded her to his shortcomings, or has she already begun to sense that he might have a doomed future?

Love always blinds us. Cressida in many ways is a simply wired creature. She is wired to devotion, she is wired to devotion to Pilgrim. She lives for Pilgrim. All her eggs are in that Pilgrim basket. And so I think she will die — figuratively, if not literally — trying to guide him back to the path that she is convinced that he should be on, that he was destined for.

Her devotion is so complete that if there were anything that were the tragedy of Cressida, it is the level of her devotion to Pilgrim, a blind devotion to him. And when that is questioned, when that is shaken, I don't know if Cressida knows who she is without Pilgrim. And I would say vice versa. These two characters are linked in a way that I believe if one were to die, I would question how the other would survive.

Check out a sneak peek of the Into the Badlands series finale, "Seven Strikes as One," below, airing Monday, May 6, at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.