Celebrity Drive: Daniel Wu of AMC’s ‘Into the Badlands’


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Quick Stats: Daniel Wu, actor/executive producer, AMC’s “Into the Badlands”
Daily Driver: 2014 Tesla Model S (Daniel’s rating: 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Route 66
Car he learned to drive in: 1986 VW Golf
First car bought: 1991 Toyota pickup

Daniel Wu loves cars. Landing in big-budget movies in Hong Kong  helped get the starring role in AMC’s martial arts action series “Into the Badlands.” That has allowed him to buy his desired cars on two continents.

Wu still has a few cars in Hong Kong, where he still keeps a residence. “I have a lot of cars,” he says. In California, Wu’s daily driver is a 2014 Tesla Model S. He had a Toyota Prius, and the Tesla was his chance to try the technology of a purely electric car, he says.

“I’m just interested in car technology in general, so when they went fully electric, I thought Tesla was the game changer in terms of build quality, the mileage you can get on one charge,” Wu says. “The other cars, like the Leaf was only 80 miles (of range) on it. It was not really practical to me. So I thought Tesla was the luxury end of it and having long range of up to 300 miles on one charge.”

Wu rates the Tesla an 8.5 out of 10. “It handles great. The power’s amazing, the torque is amazing, all those things about the electric car. A couple things I would knock it off for are — if it’s supposed to be a luxury car it should be a little more luxurious on the inside,” he says. “The leather doesn’t feel as luxurious. They can up their game on that, especially for the price point.”

The Tesla is the largest sedan Wu has ever owned. “It’s really big, really wide, it’s like a 7 Series BMW size,” he says. “It doesn’t look that way at first, but when you drive it, it feels really wide.”

2017 Ford Focus RS

Rating: 8

Wu recently bought the Ford Focus RS. “The Ford is more a toy because it’s a little race car. That’s more for satisfying a different side of me,” Wu says. “It’s really set up to be a little race car.”

But Wu says it can be a daily driver as well. “It’s docile when you want it to be, but then it has a Sport mode, a Track mode and a Drift Mode, so when you want to get aggressive, you can get into other things,” he says. “The build quality is great because it’s made in Germany, so the quality is there.”

Wu could’ve chosen a similar ride from one of Ford’s competitors. “But I like it because it’s a sleeper car. It doesn’t really look like a racer car like a Mitsibishi Evo X or a Subaru WRX-STI, but it has the power of both cars. They look like racer boy cars, but this car looks like a regular Ford Focus. It has a body kit on it, but it’s very subtle. I wanted a car that was fast like those other ones, but didn’t look like a racer boy car.”

A Ford Focus RS is shown here

The Ford is Wu’s first American car besides the Tesla. “I’ve only had German cars and maybe a Japanese car here and there in my life,” he says. “It had glowing reviews from “Top Gear” to “Grand Tour” to Motor Trend, who reviewed it gloriously, and it’s the type of car the European market has had for a long time, but the American market never had.”

He says it reminds him of the Mustang’s presence in Europe. “Europeans are buying up Mustangs like crazy because they’d never had access to the Mustang before,” Wu says. “They always had Ford Focus RS’s in Europe, but they never had them in the United States, so the opportunity to have a little nice car that you can take out on the winding roads that was a Ford was interesting to me.”

Wu likes all the bells and whistles on the Focus RS for the near-$40,000 price. “It’s amazing. The torque vectoring differential, AWD, the turbo, the 350 HP, the 350 lb-ft of torque, the Recaro seats, all that stuff is a great value for money,” he says.

What’s lacking for Wu is that it’s interior can be improved on. “It’s fine for what it is, but it’s not a luxurious sports car, if that’s what you’re looking for. But for the price point, you get what you pay for. So what I’m going to use it for is — take it to the track, thrash it around. It’s cheap enough that I don’t have to worry about it too much. If I got a nicer sports car, like a German one, I’d be worried about pushing it on the track,” he says, laughing, referring to his home track of Sonoma Raceway. “It’s the closest one to me in the Bay. I’m probably going to autocross it as well.”

1988 Porsche 911

Rating: 9

The Porsche 911 was his dad’s and he drives it once a week. His dad bought it as a retirement present for himself, but a few years ago he wanted to get rid of it because at 87, he didn’t drive it anymore.

“I said, ‘Dad, you’ve had it for 25 years, don’t get rid of it.’ So I bought it. I bought him a BMW 3 Series and a traded it for him. We just stopped him from driving this year. I love it. It’s a classic car that you can drive on a daily basis because it starts every time. In Hong Kong I have a 1966 Jaguar E Type and that thing you never know if it’s going to start,” Wu says, laughing.

Wu points out the Porsche has no power steering, no airbags, no ABS. “It’s an old school race car. It only has 70,000 miles on it and it’s almost 30 years old now. It was the final year before they switched to the 911s that have all the plastic bumpers and body.”

2014 Range Rover Sport

Rating: 9

The Range Rover is the family car. “My wife rides horses, so we need an SUV to go to the farm and dirt roads and haul the horse trailer,” he says. “We needed one that was practical, but I also wanted one that handled well and drove really well, and it really does drive like a car.”

Wu notes there’s been a lot of improvement from the older Range Rover Sport. “I got it the first year this new body style came out and because the platform is based off the Range Rover and not the Discovery, it’s got a better chassis, it handles really well, it’s supercharged, it has tons of power and it’s big enough and the luxurious side of it is great,” he says. “The leather, the build quality on it is amazing.”

A 2014 Range Rover Sport is shown here

Car he learned to drive in

Wu grew up in Northern California, where he learned to drive his sister’s manual 1986 VW Golf, first going to a nearby BART station. “There’s these big parking lots in the suburbs where people park and they’d take (rapid transit) into the city, so my dad took me there to learn and I learned stick first,” he says.

Wu got more time with his first car, a 1984 BMW 318i. “I got it when I was 15 and a half, before I was 16 when I had my permit. My parents wanted me to get a Volvo 240 because it was safe and I convinced them to get the BMW because it was cheaper second-hand than the Volvo. I went to a school that was 15 miles away from home, so my parents were tired of driving me to school every morning,” he says, laughing. “Once I was able to drive, they were like, ‘Yeah, go drive yourself to school.’”

Three months after he got his license, Wu crashed the BMW. “It was wet, I was coming home from school, I made a turn on a slick road and I slipped into a ditch,” he recalls. “The rear tire went into a ditch and it pulled it into the wall that was right next to it and slammed the back corner.”

He was able to fix and kept it until halfway through college. Wu built furniture for people while a student at the University of Oregon and needed a pickup truck. “I got a Toyota pickup so I could haul the furniture that I was building,” he says. “I was snowboarding a lot, so it was perfect for that. They used to call them Tacoma SR5, but when I had it, I think it was a 1991, it was just a Toyota pickup truck 4×4.”

Being in Oregon at the time there was loads of trails he took the truck to. “I beat the crap out of it. I went off-roading in it. I just thrashed it, because I could,” he says, with a laugh.

Favorite road trip

In the summer of 2002, Wu rented a convertible with a best friend from high school to drive Route 66. “Our rule was the entire time we could not put the top up, we had to keep it down unless it rained. So we came back really dark from that. Driving through Arizona and New Mexico with the top down, it was pretty brutal. “

It had always been a dream of his to do this road trip. “It’s like the American dream, Route 66 is such a classic route. We stayed in really dumpy crappy motels the whole way,” Wu says. “It was something we had been talking about since high school that we wanted to do and we didn’t do it in college.”

Wu was in Hong Kong and had just finished a movie, while his friend had 10 days off in between jobs, so they took the whole time they had together to drive Route 66. They started the road trip in Oakland and went as far as Colorado and then turned back going through the Southwest, which included Vegas, New Mexico, Arizona and Los Angeles.

He wanted to do it the way many great road trips are done. “We didn’t even really plan it out, we just rented the car and started driving,” he says.

The road trips was eye-opening for Wu. “It was interesting that two Chinese guys driving through southern America, it was kind of scary at some point because you’re either Latino or you’re white down there and there’s no other races,” he laughs. “I’d grown up all my life in California and I’ve only been really on the West coast and East coast and I’ve never really been to the middle of the country. Like driving through some parts of Colorado is also weird, we’d go through towns and people would be looking at us.”

For Wu, growing up in a diverse community like the Bay Area, even going to college was his first experience on what it was like in the rest of the country. “When I first went to Oregon, the first time I saw a truck with a gun rack with a gun in it, I was like, ‘What? This is real? People actually drive around with guns?’” he says with a laugh.

AMC’s “Badlands” and Warner Bros.’ “GeoStorm” Oct. 20

Wu stars in AMC’s martial arts drama “Badlands” which is available on Netflix, and returns on AMC Sundays at 10 p.m. in 2018 for an expanded Season 3, with 16 episodes.

“The highlight of the show is the incredible action that we do, it’s Hong Kong-style martial arts on American television and the biggest comments are that people are blown away by the action. They’ve never seen this kind of action on TV before,” Wu says.

Wu does 90 percent of his own stunts on the show. “I do all the fighting, I’m not allowed to do the dangerous stuff like jumping off buildings. The network doesn’t allow that, but I do all the fighting,” he says.

The show was shot the first season in New Orleans, but by Season 2, they moved it to Ireland. “We were very limited in New Orleans because everywhere you look is just swamp, swamp and more swamp, and this is a show that takes place 200 something years in the future in a post apocalyptic derelict, rundown America. When we went to Ireland, we were able to make the show much more epic, much more cinematic. So it looks like a very big movie, but it’s actually a TV show. It’s a pretty fun show. It’s really fun, it’s bloody and gory,” he says, laughing.

Wu is stars in the Warner Bros. suspense thriller “Geostorm” in theaters today. He’s also in the new “Tomb Raider” movie out March 2018.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Fans can meet Wu at the SEMA Show this year in Las Vegas and see his love for cars up close. Wu built a Datsun 510 he calls “the Tanto,” with Sergio Edell and Troy Ermish. The car will be at in the Toyo Treadpass area and entered in the Battle of the Builders competition.


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