Back in the day before Cinemax’s Banshee wasn’t white hot gold and only a glimmer in a Manshee’s eye, I had the chance to speak with its queen, Ivana Milicevic. As I go back through the seasons, I am going to revisit and repost the interviews. This chat with Milicevic was done after Season 2. Check it out and don’t blush too much.
There’s badass females in the land of make believe, and then there is Ivana Milicevic. She is one of the many faces of Banshee, and to me an integral part of the muscular action and story growth on the show. She’s a force to reckon with and that idea doesn’t fade once you talk to her over the phone. She’s strong, proud of her work and ready for more. If Antony Starr is the rock behind the show, Ivana is the heart attached to it. After years of comedies and supporting roles in film, Milicevic broke through with the wildly popular Cinemax series. Last week, I had a chance to talk to her about the success behind the show, what lies ahead and the challenges of making viewers see the story beyond the visual pleasure.
Buffa-Was it hard losing three series regulars in the Season 2 finale?
Ivana-We were really bummed about that. We won’t like to lose any of ours. I literally cried when I watched the finale. The writer’s always said that no one is going to be happy. We have a lot of characters on our show. It’s hard to service them all as deeply we would like. We got to see more of Brock, Rebecca, and Siobhan this season. People don’t realize the amount of time actors put into this process. Everything has an intention behind it. We have a million ideas on how a season will go but there isn’t enough time to shoot it.
Now that the Rabbit is gone, what is Carrie’s biggest issue in Season 3?
I don’t know how I am going to play it because I haven’t ready that much yet. I do know that if you have been running for so long and looking over your shoulder, I am not sure if that just goes away. It could be very different depending on what they write for me, but I wouldn’t say Carrie is all of a sudden calm. If it isn’t post-traumatic stress disorder, then where is the post-traumatic stress? If you have lived in fear for so long, I am not sure you shed it that quickly. At the end of season 2, there’s no point in hiding it anymore.
Greg and Jonathan hand you a laptop and tell you to write first three pages of Season 3. What is Carrie doing?
She’s shopping with Deva and having some kind of a talk with her. Getting to know each other for who they really are and Deva is discovering things about her mother that both disgust and intrigue her. Yet, she still loves her and realizes how interested she is in the similarities she shares with her mother.
My favorite episode of Season 2 was The Truth About Unicorns because it represented a departure from the usual frenzy of the show.
Fans were split down the middle on that one. It was definitely a change of pace. It gave the fans the moment they wanted to see with these two characters. And it was so sad when they pulled up to the house. I think I did one take where Carrie gets out of the truck and just bursts into tears. The idea that he had done this and it happened was so heartbreaking. However, the truth about unicorns is that they don’t exist so it was very sad. That episode also lifted us critically and brought the show respect.
What is your take on Carrie and her decision making process?
Carrie will do whatever she has to do in that moment to protect her kid. She doesn’t worry about herself. Every choice she makes is a lose-lose. Carrie is not a calculating person overall, but she is not made to be untrusted. She is making those calls on the fly in order to save her family.
You work with Antony[Starr] a ton on the show. What can you tell us about him as an actor?
I remember the first time I saw Antony. It was during the first episode we shot, which was Episode 4 of Season 1. I watched the scene and went up to him after and said, “You are TMT. You are dynamite.” It’s really Antony’s choice. He chooses to play the character all vulnerable. He wanted the character to have more depth. The show really rests on his shoulders and he does such a good job for us. I really love acting with him.”
There are a lot of nude scenes on the shows. How do you get comfortable as an actor in those sequences?
I feel like going to the doctor is worst. We are all on the same boat. We work together on it. Does it cross over to developing actually feelings for each other? No. We get comfortable. We giggle through it and do the job. I’m European, so I don’t have any hang-ups on nudity but every character is well rounded on Banshee and they are all fearless. We put the same amount of care we would into a monologue into the sex scenes. The positions we get into and the focus on our face. There is a thing going on in our heads about what is happening and why it is happening. It’s not just throwing it against the wall. If I was going to do the sex scenes, it had to be natural. They aren’t meant to turn you on. They weren’t looking for girls with giant boobs. They weren’t designed to turn you on. Look at Rebecca’s sex scenes with Jason Hood. There is a neurosis and psychological drama that is going on with her that is making her do that. It’s not designed to be sexy. It’s dramatic and traumatic.
While there is a lot of it, I feel like every fight scene has a purpose on the show as well.
A lot goes into the fight scenes as far as what is going on and why this is happening. In episode 2 of Season 2, Carrie snaps and she lost control. She saw red. She could have killed that girl. The fight with Olek was much more emotional. The Olek fight is him telling her she doesn’t deserve to have a family. She has to use her last dying breath to stop him from hurting her family. The prison scene was not her acting on her motherly instinct. She was trying to be cool and then she snapped and went crazy.
Okay, time for a stupid question. Let’s say you sit down in a chair in the middle of these two actors. Who wins between Rus Blackwell and Antony in real life?
It depends on the day. Rus has some rage in him. Antony does too but you can’t look at what you’ve seen on the screen. You get Rus on a good day and it might be a draw. They are both very passionate men.
Rus, who plays Gordon, killed it in Season 2, right? He was underrated this season.
He’s such a good actor. He’s my rock on the show. That’s the kind of thing that would happen with a character like Gordon where it spirals out of control. Of course this being Banshee, we had to add alcohol, drugs and strippers. Everybody has darkness on this show and Rus was so good this season. Look at Emmett in Episode 7. His monologue and his scenes. He absolutely killed it.
When I first started talking to you on twitter, you mentioned how it was the indie show of television?
It’s our little movie. Greg said that we are basically making a one hour movie every week. We don’t waste time. Some episodes this year were less than an hour and that was just the creators tightening things up. They don’t want it to be an hour long if it isn’t super tight.
The social media connection with Banshee is enormous and unprecedented.
We are so lucky to have fans like you. I talk about it all the time. A genre show like this wouldn’t survive without passionate fans. The people who watch it a lot of times really get the nuances. There are deeper layers to it. Some watch the show subconsciously and don’t get all the little things.”
For the cast and crew, it was just a part of the story though, right?
We were just trying to tell the story. Sometimes people love the show and sometimes they hate it. It’s so easy to write us off as simply action and sex. The show is not for everyone. We aren’t a procedural or a documentary. It’s a pulpy noir comic book. It’s fun. The best thing about our show is that its wish fulfillment. Look at what Emmett did this season. It’s what you wish you would do with a group of Neo Nazi’s.
Banshee has transformed you into this sexually charged female badass. What has that been like?
I used to the comedy girl. Now I’ve done nothing but action for three years. There are times these days where I miss comedy. I bruise a lot but I like the physicality of our show. I wouldn’t have gone so far sexually with the scenes if I didn’t get the action as well. Meaning if I didn’t get to be such a badass and also go to these emotional depths, I wouldn’t have done it. All of it goes hand in hand.
Could you defend yourself on a street?
We learned some fight skills as well. First of all, I am 5 foot 9 and a half so if anybody ever tried anything, one look back from me would take care of that. I could definitely fight for someone I love and hurt them. I felt that before I had any fight training. I mean, I couldn’t fight Ronda Rousey or anything. I couldn’t fight a real fighter. I could defend myself if need be. The way I hold myself is enough. If someone is looking to hurt a woman, they aren’t looking for me. I’m a big sister and I have little brothers, so I already have been there before. Being ferocious probably got me this job but in real life I am pretty calm, cool and collected.
You and the cast seem like a family just from watching the show. Is that true in real life?
Trieste, Lili, Odette, Ryann and I are like sisters. We all want each other to be as beautiful as we can be all the time. We bring that to the show. As a complete cast, we are a family, especially when we are away on location. It’s perfect for the show that we are all together in Charlotte because of the things we have to do. I love everybody on the show. Hoon Lee, Matty Rauch and the rest of the gang. Everybody on our show is really great. We got hired based on who was right for the role and not this name thing or some other agenda. People got to be hired for their talent which relates to our show.
That makes sense because there is a ton of passion on this show and it shows.
You can’t be a makeup artists on the show without having the same amount of passion as the cast. The crew is amazing. During the first season we were doing everything handheld. When we were running, they were running with us with cameras on their backs. I don’t know of another show that is this tiring. I tweeted a picture from the set of me sleeping in between takes. We don’t have the time to do many takes. We have a couple cameras. There’s no sitting around on this show. I spend no time in my trailer. I have a trailer but I don’t see it that much.
Are Lucas and Carrie done now after Season 2 saw Carrie return to her family?
To me, they were always done romantically as far as, they aren’t going to date. They are not going to all of a sudden be together. I will say yes they are done but they still know each other better than anyone else. They have a daughter together. Carrie has never stopped loving him. I think that is too intense due to the bond they have for them to simply go apart. The “will or won’t they” has to be over but you never know with this show. It depends on how it’s played. They write stuff and we fill the rest in. Sure, they may be done, but it’s not like all of that never happened.
In the past week I’ve had the honor of talking to three different members of the Banshee cast and they have all ranged from amazing to spectacular. It’s invigorating to a guy like me, part writer/part hardcore fan of the show, to behold and become a part of promoting. I couldn’t recommend the show any stronger than I could recommend a dose of fresh air from the nearby window. It’s cool, fresh, fun, sexy, badass and most of all, it’s worth your time and then some. Ivana Milicevic is a huge reason the show works. In the beginning, she told me to write about this show. She called it “the indie of TV” and I dug both my feet in and ran with it. She is a wonderful woman who is confident about her craft. Spread this interview around. Talk about the show. Digest the 20 episodes. Become a part of something truly special and that’s Cinemax’s Banshee.