12 Random Questions with Banshee’s Hoon Lee

A different type of interview with one of my favorite actors.

Advertisements

Cinemax’s hit series, Banshee, is deep into its fourth season and over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a chance to spin the random question dial with Hoon Lee, who plays the show’s most popular character in Job, the cross-dressing stylistic computer hacking criminal. Job may look like a sidekick to central protagonist Lucas Hood(Antony Starr), but he is a one man wrecking crew. He can break a man down with a wise crack,  hack his computer and dish him a kick to the face or slowly form a death stare.

Instead of engaging Lee in the usual interview where scribes and actors volley routine questions and answers at each other, I went the other direction. I asked him quick random questions. Banshee addicts and normal entertainment junkies can dig these answers.

Buffa:If you weren’t an actor, you’d be….

Hoon Lee: Unemployed.

Buffa: Which is more challenging? Theater or TV/Film?

Lee: Trick question. Completely dependent on the project and the team. Strong material and good people make for short, satisfying days. Weak material and jerks can make an 8 hour day feel like a week in detention.

Buffa: Favorite movie of all time?
Lee: Oh come on!
Buffa: If you can’t get your coffee at _____, you will go insane.
Lee: Partial to Not Just Coffee in Charlotte with a nod to upcoming Hex Coffee. In New York, I like Birch Coffee. In Pittsburgh I liked Zeke’s, Constellation and Espresso a Mano – there was a lot of good coffee in Pittsburgh.
Buffa: Better food, Charlotte or Pittsburgh?
Lee: Charlotte. Good Food on Montford is tough to beat.
Buffa: Favorite episode of Banshee(most proud or likely to watch as a fan)?
Lee: I loved The Truth About Unicorns. It took courage to put that episode out there and let the show be more than it had been. I also really enjoyed the season finale for S1 as it’s one of the few times I got to play with a lot of the rest of the cast.
Buffa: When you are drinking, you are having a ______.
Lee: cookie as well.
Buffa: Best part about playing Job?
Lee: The excitement and support of the fans. They embraced this character in a way I couldn’t have anticipated and it carried me for the entire run of the show. It could have gone a completely different way and made for a rough four seasons.
Buffa: One character on Banshee you won’t want to mess with?
Lee: Hood. Dude fights with everything he’s got.
Buffa: You are on a plane and can go anywhere. Where do you direct the pilot?
Lee: Home.
Buffa: Did you keep anything from the Banshee set? If so, what?
Lee: A few articles of clothing and the back of my set chair. First time I ever had one of those.
Buffa: Star Wars: Fanatic or “what gives”?
Lee: I almost cried when I saw the first trailer.
I’ve talked to Hoon twice now and this different kind of interview is just another reason why the Banshee cast is different from most TV show groups. Every Friday night when the show comes on, they hop on Twitter and interact with fans. I mean, really interact. They care and dedicate themselves to building a bridge between performer and viewer. It’s a real treat. Come back this winter for more random question interviews with celebs, athletes and people down the street. You never know who you may get to know tomorrow. Today, it  was Hoon Lee.
Banshee returns on Cinemax for its fourth and final season in exactly two months. January 29th. You can catch up via Max Go right now. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Banshee’s Adam Targum dishes on the show’s final season

Cinemax’s Banshee returns for its fourth and final season in January. Writer/Executive producer Adam Targum dished on the show’s colorful past and strong sendoff.

“Season 4 is going to be the most memorable, mind blowing experience ever for Banshee fans.”

Gregory Shummon/Cinemax
Gregory Shummon/Cinemax

All good things must come to an end, especially on television. When the master team behind Cinemax’s Banshee wrapped Season 3 and began prepping Season 4 nearly one year ago, a thought started to lurk inside the group that includes creator/writer/executive producer Jonathan Tropper, director/executive producer O.C. Madsen and writer/executive producer Adam Targum. Was it time to end Banshee? When news broke last month to fans on the internet, there was a mini explosion. Why now? Well, I have some answers.

I had the chance to discuss the show, past and present, with Targum over the phone as he uncoiled in Los Angeles mere days after wrapping production on Season 4 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Dan Buffa-Banshee really started something for Cinemax, sort of like a trailblazer for the cable network.

Adam Targum-It really did what it needed to do for Cinemax, putting it on the map as a scripted drama destination. That’s where television is going, away from network television. They can’t compete, because they are programmed for a broad audience. On Cinemax, we program to the audience that understands us. That’s why we are successful. We write and craft the shows that we want to see. 

Buffa-In the same way that the Wire and Sopranos did for HBO…

Targum-Yes. When Steven Soderbergh was asked why he brought The Knick to Cinemax, he said that any place that will support and put something like Banshee on the air is a place I want to work. 

Buffa-One of the things you do with the show is push the limits of normal storytelling and keeping it fresh. Does Season 4 continue that? 

Targum-I think Season 4 is going to be the best season yet! Season 3, we did our best to create the most action packed, over the top, heart pounding adventure that we possibly could. That was our goal. In the offseason, we realized we were never going to top that and there was no reason to try. In season 4, we took a different approach to the storytelling in trying to maximize these incredible characters. We found the perfect balance between action, character and story. This season is more serialized than ever with each episode fitting very snugly with the narrative. Instead of bringing these different antagonists for Lucas Hood to deal with, we wanted to used the existing characters and turn it all inward. The story lines intersect, thus making a more richer, more thought out story line. 

Buffa-Season 4 is the end. When did you and the rest of the gang know this was it.

Targum-We had a sense that this could be happening really early on. Jonathan, O.C. and I had conversations about what we could do to carry the story forward and while Jonathan was open to a season five, it was very important to him that there was an organic story line and that the characters had a real place to go. He didn’t want to rehash old story lines. We spent several months spitballing the ideas for a Season 5, and at the end of the day, we realized we had done everything we could do with these characters. It was important to honor Jonathan’s original vision in taking these characters as far as we could take them and make sure we were delivering the audience the most fitting conclusion we possibly could.

While it’s bittersweet, this is the perfect time to bring this story to an end. As Jonathan said in that great Grantland piece, there’s nothing more tragic than a show that sticks around too long. We didn’t want people to watch Season 5 and think, “Man, I’ve seen this before. This episode feels like the one from Season 2.” It’s really exciting because of the freedom it gave us in crafting the perfect finale. 

Banshee-2-550x366Buffa-A lot was left on the table at the end of Season 3. Lucas and Kai had that chat that seemed to bury the hatchet between them. People died. Job was kidnapped. What can you tell us about the jumping off point of Season 4? Is there a time jump?

Targum-The best way for me to answer that question is to tell you to watch episode 1 in January of 2016 and see where it goes. Coming out of Season 3, we did lay some significant story pipe to be addressed. We had Lucas walking away from being the sheriff, and it felt different than it did in the past. It felt like it had more finality to it. A truce between Proctor/Hood possibly. Deva’s state of mind. Carrie’s state of mind. Job’s whereabouts? It left a lot of rich opportunities for us to explore. And we address all of those dangling hanging chads when this season starts up. That doesn’t mean people will be happy with the way we address them. That’s the thing about Banshee. Everyone doesn’t like the choices that our characters make. Ultimately, the audience understands why we make them and that is because it is best for the characters. 

The other thing that is really exciting about Season 4 is that within the first five minutes of the first episode, we turn a lot of things on their head. There are surprises and big turns that the audience won’t see coming. That’s the mandate as a whole, and that’s constantly push the envelope of the show. Do things that only Banshee can do. That has to do with how we tell our story. We aren’t precious with our characters, as the first three seasons showed. We do kill characters that audiences love and that’s not to enrage our viewers. Sometimes, we need catalysts that drive our characters in different directions. As I always say to people..in real life people have sex. They kill each other. They are cruel to each other. There is incest and trucks do blow up. As much as our set pieces are heightened at times, the thing that brings it back to reality is that the characters stories are very grounded. These people are struggling with regret, lost love and that makes it relatable. 

Buffa-There has to be consequences for the characters on this show and Siobhan’s death was proof of that.

Targum-It was a very difficult decision for a number of reasons. First, we love Trieste(Kelly Dunn) and she is a very important part of the family. Also, we knew this was the final hope Lucas Hood had at salvation and a chance for love. Ultimately, we decided that Lucas Hood doesn’t deserve to have those things. As painful as it was for me to write it, watch it get shot and see it air, it wasn’t something haphazardly done. This was the best move to drive Hood forward in his narrative. The fact that fans mourned her like she was a real person is a testament to the people who work on this show, most notably Trieste, the writing team and directing team. In season 4, they will see why we made that decision and why it’s best for the show.

Buffa-Each season seems to build on the last. 

Targum-They do. I mean, we wrapped Season 3 in mid September and by the end of September, Jonathan and I were sitting in a restaurant talking about Season 4. We took time in talking about each individual character before we started plotting. We knew when we got into the writer’s room, in November, both of us knew the beginning, middle and end of each of these characters. Season 4, for all intents and purposes, could be an eight hour long movie. 

1280x720-nccBuffa-How important is Antony Starr to the production? He seems to eat, sleep and bleed Lucas Hood.

Targum-He truly is, but we have a lot of people like that on this show. There’s no question. Ant is the #1. He’s never about vanity. He doesn’t care how he looks on screen. It’s always about “what would Lucas Hood do?” Antony has incredible story instinct and in Season 4, he took a very hands on approach with us in making sure that the narrative was as tightly woven as we needed it to be. I will say though, that Ivana and Ulrich are also big parts of that process. Ulrich will not just give us notes on his scenes but on the episodes as a whole. We have a cast that really cares about the show.

There are new faces this season in Eliza Dushku, Ana Aayora, Jennifer Landon and Fred Weller. They immediately fit the bit and were committed to the project. There’s not a weak link this season. Having such versatile actors allows us to push the envelope even further. That made it especially hard to wrap up, knowing this kind of group may not come together again. 

Buffa-The move from Charlotte, North Carolina to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania must of been a little rough.

Targum-It was a culture shock in a lot of different ways. In the end, we found a good balance of the old and the new. There are things that will look different, and we explain very effectively why they do. It will look like a fresh show, but also feel like Banshee. In a pragmatic sense, we had to build new sets and bring in 75% of a brand new crew. What we found was that the new Pittsburgh crew came in with a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of the crew were fans of the show and went out of their way to get hired onto the set.

I walked around on set, feeling this energy from these 200 people who were fans of the show now working to make it new. When we wrapped the show and speeches were being made, there were a lot of tears and melancholy but also a huge sense of pride in what we had made. We screened the first episode and they were blown away, saying that this was the Banshee they always wanted to make.

Buffa-For most of these actors, it’s like burying a character you’ve grown attached to. 

Targum-It’s immersive. We all live away from home for months shooting this show and there are a lot of long stressful days. I joined the series in Season 3, and Jonathan and Greg immediately gave me the opportunity to put my voice on the show. In Season 4, O.C. and I were running the day to day operations, working with Jonathan, and it helped take the show to another level. Season 4 is where Banshee matures. It feels like a more sophisticated show. And that’s a testament to everyone who works on the show. From the craft services to the #1 person on the call sheet. It’s truly magical. I wish January was tomorrow.

Buffa-It just gives me more time to tell people to watch the show.

Targum-Banshee is a word of mouth show. People walk up to me and have no idea what it is and I tell them it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen on TV and they say whatever. When they come back and say, “oh my god that’s unlike anything I’ve seen on television today,” I say, now you know, so go tell a friend.

Buffa-I recently told someone they should go make friends with a neighbor they don’t like if that neighbor has Cinemax. 

Targum-(laughs)Yes. The truth of the matter is that Cinemax is very affordable. Anytime people tell they don’t have it or can’t afford it, I tell them call your cable provider because the extra 6 or 7 extra dollars is well worth it. Especially now with Cinemax putting an emphasis on scripted drama. They are becoming a top notch destination for top rate drama.

Buffa-One of the things I am most looking forward to is more of the Bunker brothers, played by Tom Pelphrey and Chris Coy. The end of Season 3 really started something there.

Targum-Yes it did. Pelphrey has brought an incredible amount of heart and humanity to Kurt Bunker, the neo Nazi, which I will say is not an easy thing to do. When we came up with characters for season 3, what an interesting notion to have a reformed hate mongering neo nazi who has given up the hate and ideology but still has the exterior signs on his body. What better place for him to come to than Banshee. Tom is unique talent, and has so much range and soul. That’s where we came up with the idea of his brother, played by Coy.

I’ve known Chris for 6 or 7 years. I cast him in a small film called Rogue River, a little horror film we shot in Oregon in -12 degree weather. Chris refused to get warm throughout the shoot because he knew the character didn’t need to get warm.  I knew he was the real deal right there. He’s a true method actor who immerses himself in the role. We really advance that story line of the two brothers in this Neo-Nazi brotherhood. We explore the backstory of these two brothers. How Kurt was recruited by the brotherhood and how he brought his brother Calvin into it later on, leaving him with tremendous guilt. We throw real conflict between these two and from beginning to end, it’s explosive.

Buffa-I can’t stop thinking about Pelphrey’s scene in the finale in the basement with Brock Lotus(Matt Servitto). That’s my favorite scene from Banshee, all time.

Targum-That scene Jonathan had written as an audition scene for Kurt Bunker. It grew and finessed so it could fit into the story line. Jonathan wrote this monologue that really embodied what we were looking for in Bunker and Pelphrey did it and was incredible. As we were moving forward in Season 3, that scene came up and it was a perfect moment for us to put it out there. During his three minute monologue in episode 305(Tribal), Tom showed such range that we decided to take that other scene and adapt it. We shot that pretty late. Tom, wrapping the belt around his hand, which was something he did on his own, blew us away in that first take with his level of emotion and intensity. Matt Servitto came over to me afterwards and said in the beginning of the scene he wasn’t acting but simply trying to calm Tom down. It was such a powerful performance. I remember watching the crew react to the scene and seeing how visceral it was, knowing it was going to be one of our best scenes. We only did 3 or 4 takes because it was so intense. 

What’s most important about that scene is the relationship being built between Bunker and Brock. It’s Brock becoming a father figure for Kurt, who never had a real father. 

Buffa-I remember telling someone these are the scenes that separate Banshee from other shows and people’s perception of the show from the outside. 

Targum-I’m happy to hear that because I will tell you, there is a lot more of those type of scenes in Season 4. It was very important to the entire team that we found more of those moments where the actors could dive deep into these characters. This season, there is a scene around 8 minutes long that is one of the most powerful scenes we have shot. It will be a show stopper in Season 4 because when you have characters opening themselves up, it gives viewers a window into who they really are that a fist fight or gun fight can’t really do. That’s a testament to the work Greg, Jonathan, David, and O.C. did in Season 1. Since then, it’s evolved. In Season 4, we found the perfect balance in putting the viewers in these characters minds. 

In the end, Jonathan, O.C. and I make television that we want to watch. That’s what separates it from the rest.

Buffa-You can tell when there’s passion and when there’s just effort.

Targum-You can. It shows. I was a fan of the show before I came on. The people who worked on the crew this season were big fans. When we handed out scripts, we had to use extra security. You don’t want to spoil the surprise. It is fun to see the fans speculate online and while 99 percent of it isn’t true, it’s always nice to know we are going to surprise the audience because they have a different expectation. 

Buffa-The last thing I wanted to ask about was Lucas and Carrie, the lost soul couple at the heart of the show. One thing on people’s minds is the idea of them coming back together in this final season. What do you have in store for them this time around?

Targum-Anything is possible.They are always going to be at the forefront of the fiber of Banshee. Their complicated relationship and past was such an intricate part of the pilot that it will always play a part in the story. They share a daughter together in Deva. We spent a lot of time servicing those two characters. They love and care about each other deeply, but the external world doesn’t care about that. We do spend quite a bit of time this season exploring their relationship and come to a definitive conclusion on what happens between them.

Buffa-Shooting Banshee has to be a roller coaster in itself. What are your best memories from making Banshee? Any definitive moments?

Targum-So many of them. The making of episode 305, Tribal, last season was the most intense experience of my career. We spent 8 or 9 days inside the Cadi shooting that episode with O.C. Madsen and a good part of our cast. There were 3,000 squibs and thousands more. We were all there, in it, and covered in debris. It was hot and muggy. No air conditioning. It was oppressive. Those hardships are up on the screen and I couldn’t have been any prouder of that episode. It has signature character moments. It’s the end of Siobhan. The moment where Brock stands up to Lucas. We made Chayton into this monster.

Season 4 was special because I got to spend so much time collaborating with O.C., who is a true visionary. He was there from day 1 and brought a different level of character to the show. Jonathan Tropper, who has become a close friend, directed an episode in Season 4. It was satisfying seeing him translate his words to the screen and make all the decisions.  It was also incredibly hard this last week. The last week of production was challenging for us. We had to say goodbye to the actors. Every time we did, the crew would gather around, and we were all so connected. It was a special moment, and on Friday night, we wrapped the final part. Lots of hugs. Tears. Throughout, it was an overwhelming sense of pride. 

It was important for us to honor the audience. When they walk away from season 4, they feel like we did them justice and we did the show justice. I’d love for them to feel a little sad because there will be no more new episodes, but I think they will be satisfied with what we have done.

Buffa-So now, you guys go into post-production?

Targum-From the moment we start shooting, the post-production team and editors start on the assembly. Half of the episodes have already gone through director cuts, producer cuts and gotten notes from the network. Sound is mixed. Things are cut together. Now the intense post-production begins. We also shot origins this year, and they focused heavily on Sugar Bates, played by Frankie Faison. Matty Rauch(aka Clay Burton), got to write and direct some of the origins. He gives 100% and it was gratifying to give him the room to explore the other creative needs he has. 

Buffa-If you had to pump fans up with one line about Season 4, what would it be?

Targum-Whatever expectations you have, we are going to exceed them. We are going to shock, surprise and take the fans on an emotional roller coaster ride. I truly believe this will be the most memorable and mind blowing season yet. We are going out with a bang!

In the make believe business, everybody is a creator. The producer creates the possibility. The writer creates the reality and world the characters live in. The director frames those characters in that world. The actors make them come alive. Adam Targum’s effect on Banshee in Season 3 was seen in nearly every episode, whether it was the Burton-Nola fight or the Tribal shootout. He’s got a wicked mind that extends to an original form of violence, action and power as well. The whiff you got of his talents in Season 3 comes full circle in Season 4, along with Madsen, Tropper and the cast.

Instead of crying about the inevitable end, think of the way a show like Banshee, which blows originality out of the water on a weekly basis, will go out. Think of the spectacle. Forget Game of Thrones. Winter is coming folks. It’s name is Banshee and it arrives in January. Consider this the official tease.

Banshee’s final season trailer: And hell burned with him

The final season of Banshee promises mayhem of the physical and mental kind. Get ready!!!

Gregory Shummon/Cinemax
Gregory Shummon/Cinemax

January 29th, 2016. The final season of Cinemax’s wonderfully pulp smash hit, Banshee, fires up its fourth and final season. Like a steak getting thrown on a grill, this final season has many flavors that the creators and cast hope to contain before the episodes unfold. For now, all fans can do is sit at their computer screen and watch this brand new trailer(which debuted at New York’s Comic Con this past week) about 57 times and smolder in anticipation. The best shows leave just enough juice dripping next to their audiences outstretched hands. Here’s what I got from the 72 second clip.

*Job’s captor has been found, captured and punched. The clip opens with Lucas, Carrie, and Sugar overlooking Stowe’s techie dude who drugged and snatched the lovable Job at the end of Season 3’s climatic shootout. Will he tell them where Job is? Does he even know? Is Dalton involved? Does anyone know where Jimmy Hoffa is while we are on the subject? I kid, I kid. The location of Hoon Lee’s irreplaceable(yeah you can replace Spider Man and Batman 30 times but you CAN NOT replace Job) hacker is the centerpiece of Season 4’s beginning.

“Let’s finish it.” A sense of finality overwhelms this trailer and truly informs the viewer these worlds are colliding fast and ending with brute force.

*Carrie’s loading up with guns. Why not? She wants to know where Job is and for good reason. Ever since he judged her outfit that first night in the club before the jewel heist, he has been family to our beloved safecracker. Job got Ana a new life and a way out way back when before Lucas(or Gary?) got out of prison and brought hell with him. She lost Gordon at the end of Season 3 and is pissed. She still has her kids, but I feel like this Carrie has more edge and spice to her than ever. And Ivana Milicevic is a badass. She needs to be in more movies. In black leather. Kicking, punching and shooting devilish stares at people. The world may spin properly.

*Hey, Lucas has hair! What the heck? Who hid the razor!?! I actually like the new look on our rugged sinner with a heart of gold, Mr. Hood. Lawmen have to look tidy and sharp, and Lucas is a badge no more. Why is Lucas Hood so invigorating to watch? Well, Antony Starr spends 365 days a year figuring out new ways to be awesome at this role that millions adore and the work shows in every scene. The way he looks at the camera in front of the police photo booth. The way he can stare at someone and seem to be mentally kicking their butt. Our scrappy Rocky with a chip on his shoulder won’t stop fighting until he feels like everyone in his life is safe. In Banshee, that’s scheduled for sometime in 2025. Good luck, Lucas. It’s a good thing we like watching him take a punch. He doesn’t know how to quit wrecking lives and the audience doesn’t know how to stop watching him do it. Wish the marriage could go on but the world isn’t supposed to be perfect so….

“I won’t give it(Banshee) up without a fight.” The soulful and much needed presence of Matt Servitto’s Brock Lotus seems to be talking to Lucas here about a final plea to defend his town, Banshee. There seems to be a mysterious character in a hoodie that shows up to make Brock’s life a living hell here. The crutch of the show’s immorality and violence is Brock and his desire to not just partake in the madness but try to understand it. The way he asked Lucas in New Orleans about WHY they do what they do and go after the revenge. The bridge between justice and revenge…how small or long is it? At the heart of that question is Servitto’s cop who desperately clings to the goodness left in him.

*Hello Eliza Dushku. She enters the picture as Special Agent Veronica Dawson. She specializes in violent crimes, which means she showed up to Banshee 30 hours late. She is going to be a thorn in Brock, Lucas, Kai Proctor and pretty much anyone who harms another this season. I haven’t seen enough of this talented actress lately but I am glad she is in town bleeding and fighting with the rest. It isn’t like she is beautiful or anything to boot.

*What’s happening with the Proctor clan tripod? What are Matthew Rauch’s Clay Burton and Lili Simmons’ Rebecca Bowman doing behind Proctor’s back that makes her worry? Are they dealing drugs behind his back? Is there is a breakdown in the deal with the Armenians? As always, strange dealings there.

*I don’t care if they left Season 3 sitting next to each other on a piece of lumber without the need to punch each other. Lucas and Kai are going to clash. The three seasons have danced around them like a devil around a fire and they will lock horns. Lucas just doesn’t have to worry about the badge getting in the way but, as we see him being hauled in by Brock, maybe he finds himself back in a cage for the first time since he left prison. Agent Dawson is right. There is more criminal than cop in Lucas and that is why she should be worried about him the most.

It’s always the evil side of humans that sneaks up on people. Especially between men and women. What an interesting dance of feels. Everybody has a choice to be good or bad, but the cruelness of humans always cuts deeper at first sight. Write that down, Agent Dawson.

“Power comes from being willing to do whatever it takes.” You are right Mr. Chris Coy, coming back at Kurt Bunker’s evil brother who left a smoky stamp on the deputy’s chest at the end of season 3. He may be a bad man, but he knows what it takes to stand on top. You have to refuse to see the harm you are doing because you believe that it is the right path to ride out.

What else?

*Proctor talking to Carrie for the first time, reminding her that kids’ futures are at stake.

*Carrie rocking a torch. Yeah, there’s nothing Milicevic(get her name right or she’ll knock you out) can’t do.

*Burton breaks out the chainsaw because…well, Burton likes chainsaws. Not sure why it took the bosses three years to make Matty Rauch a regular. He’s a much needed batch of mystery! For anyone who may get the opportunity to talk to Rauch in real life, he’s a prince!

“So what happens now? 

“Revenge.”

The best dishes on television are indeed served cold my friends. Creator Jonathan Tropper, producer/director O.C. Madsen and producer/writer Adam Targum aren’t going to let us off easily. Whatever happens to Job, Brock or Carrie, Lucas and company will avenge it. The signature concoction of Banshee is imperfect people waging war against others and within themselves. He can do a lot of bad things and make a terrible decision every episode, but at the heart of Lucas Hood’s madness is a guy wanting to protect what he loves, no matter what. His final fight with his enemies and himself will be one for the record books. On January 29th, it all starts. I’d start preparing now.

Watch the trailer for yourself.

Thanks for reading.

-DLB

Ivana Milicevic: My first Banshee interview

Meet the badass lady of Banshee, Ivana Milicevic.

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.

 

Banshee’s Fourth Season to be its last

After three amazing seasons and a fourth coming up, Cinemax’s Banshee will close its doors.

The time has come, Banshee addicts. The gritty landscape that has paved the way for the most entertaining and fulfilling show in the past three years could be closing its doors. According to TVLine.com, the Cinemax gem will end its run with 2016’s fourth season. Sadness doesn’t begin to explain the way I feel right now. Punching something sounds better. Maybe a punching bag perhaps. Something to ease the pain.

Excuse me while I step out of proud professional writer mode and into a passionate fan’s skin. This is sad on so many levels but the signs were there earlier this year as I interviewed the producers, writers and directors. Writer/producer Jonathan Tropper hinted at it in our chat. Former showrunner/producer/director Greg Yaitanes and director/producer Loni Peristere all referenced making every episode as great as the last one as if the swan song was one punch, bullet hole or explosion away.

The best shows don’t save the goods for last. They make sure every single moment is worth keeping people home on a Friday night. That’s right. Thank God It’s Friday became Thank God it’s Banshee Day…..

Banshee was the first show I loved that also gave me a real reason to not go out on Friday night. While everybody else partied, I stayed at home and reveled in the land of flawed men, tough women and bad decisions.

Who needed a shot of whiskey when characters like ex-con turned sheriff turned doom maker Lucas Hood(Antony Starr) drank enough for six death row prison guards? Who needed action outside your house when Hood got into more fights in one episode than a Goon did in an entire hockey season? Banshee is cinematic television, churning out movie styled hours of couch fantasy binge blasting than 98 percent of other premium cable networks.

Instead of taking a season off after critics respected the second season, Banshee cut the deepest with its third round. It added mph to its fastball instead of throwing softer. Beloved characters fell, unpredictable learned a new name and vengeance grew a pair of legs inside a few bodies that fateful night back in March.

The reason the departure cuts extra deep has nothing to do with the best stunts on television, the most passionate sex scenes ever filmed and the most brutally menacing people you’ll find on any plasma screen. The actors, such as Ivana Milicevic and Hoon Lee, interacted with the viewers every Friday night. They logged in on Twitter and traded with people watching their creations do the most outrageous of things. It doesn’t get any better than Milicevic describing her parents reaction to the violence and sex on the show. Lee and Starr trading hits created great humor while the one and the only Matt Servitto brought the wittiest drops of flavor on a weekly basis.

The personal touch provided by these people started something. Look around. Showtime’s Ray Donovan is doing cast twitter work. Other shows are catching on. Banshee started something and it all began with Yaitanes years ago. Thanks Greg for starting a fire that won’t be put out for years. One day I will watch with my son and tell him why characters like The Albino and Rabbit aren’t just bad guys. They are men with a different purpose.

More so than any show on television(I watch a lot of TV), Banshee didn’t drew a single line between good and bad people. They drew about 49 lines and they shifted every week. You could call Ulrich Thomson’s Kai Proctor a bad man until you saw how he treated his mother. You could call Geno Segers’ Chayton a monster before you saw his upbringing. You could be scared out of your shoes by Matthew Rauch’s Clay Burton but once you know his backstory, it fit like a glove. Lili Simmons’ beautiful yet deadly Rebecca Bowman coming onto her uncle could be a little off putting at first, but after you took a look around the set, it kind of fit. You could call Kurt Bunker a tattooed beast until you saw Tom Pelphrey deliver the speech of the year at the end of the finale in March. I’ll miss these misfit square pegs forever trying to fit into round holes.

I’ll miss Starr’s badlands version of a Bruce Willis anti-hero the most. Starr combined shades Colin Farrell, Sylvester Stallone, Willis and a dose of Steve McQueen to create this good man stuck in a violent body twisting a piece of aluminum foil that was the good life. From the moment he stepped outside that prison gate in the pilot, viewers fell hard for this ex-con gone wrong and more wrong. He was human but a fighter to the core. A thief turned hardened prison turned tortured lover turned wrongful lawman turned crimefighter.

Hood saw his world fall apart in Season 3 and by the end, was ready to walk down a road possibly with a man who he had sworn to kill hours earlier. That’s Banshee. Once you think you know what’s going on and your hands drop, the writers slug you with an uppercut you never saw coming. That’s great television. It endures and never leaves your mind days later.

I suggest watching or revisiting the first three seasons. If you don’t have Cinemax, make a friend or neighbor that does and buy them beer to watch their cable. Show some self respect and take a trip through this unusual town. The women may cut you with their good looks but they will knock you out with their actions. Just wait for a bloodied Rebecca to step over a man she just killed and say, “I have all the thunder I need.” The men won’t allow you to look away for too long either. They are battleships on dry land.

As Banshee’s fourth season wraps up this summer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and its final eight hour set launches into action early next year, I will sit back and remember the great times I’ve had with this show, behind the scenes and in front of the tube. I’ll remember being humbled by its creators and blown away by its actors. I’ll remember feeling alive after every episode.

Friday nights after March, 2016, will never the same again. We have eight months to prepare for that feeling. I suggest buying a punching bag immediately.

Banshee: The Boldest TV Show You Haven’t Seen Yet

Find the time and give this show a set of eyes and ears because it’s primal rage entertainment and truly badass. Banshee season 2 premieres on January 10th. This is my third write up on it.  Read up.  This is my 300th post on WordPress, and it couldn’t come about a better subject.   I posted this piece a week ago on Film-Addict and it’s already got over 500 hits.  If you need a show to watch this month, check out Banshee.  Here it is.

imageedit_1_9718949627

I was a fan of Banshee long before it graced large billboards in California and New York and before it crawled up on people’s top 10 list of TV shows of 2013.  When it premiered in January, no one had any clue what to think would come of this collaboration from the minds behind True Blood and House.

A year later, more than a handful of people know that Executive Producer Alan Ball and Creator/Executive Producer/Director Greg Yaitanes have crafted a genuine thrill ride of a television series, and one that could run for a long time on Cinemax if they know what good television is.

From the minute I watched the first episode of this wildly addictive show, I knew something special was brewing and that the entire world (not just entertainment fans) needed to be told about it. This is my third Banshee spotlight piece.  There is a pretty clear fascination going on here.  Let me break it down for you why it is so good and why you should donate 10 hours to its story right away.

This show doesn’t need awards to vindicate its greatness.  This isn’t 30 Rock or The Good Wife.  It breeds fanaticism and a devout cult following of fans straight from its skill at hooking viewers to a network without a big television series background and a story that is easy to digest yet impossible to ignore.  There isn’t another show on TV that I have spent re watching this past summer, fall and winter more than Banshee.  It isn’t a series that weighs you down with plot twists and a long list of complicated characters.  It is smooth digestible chaos.

You have a man who gets out of prison, goes to this small town in Pennsylvania because something or someone is there that he wants.   Without it, he is incomplete.  Through a series of events, this man becomes the sheriff of this small town, Banshee.  His name is Lucas Hood.   He finds a woman from his past living under disguise there.  He quickly pisses off local Amish gangsters and lures in mysterious beautiful women to his bed.   He befriends a local bartender who used to box and has a few secrets of his own.  He has a long trusted sidekick telling him to get out of dodge. Lucas isn’t’t going anywhere and we are thankful for that.

If people made sane logical decisions on Banshee, the entertainment value would drop in a heartbeat.   In Yaitanes and writer Jonathon Trooper’s world, there are tons of secrets and mystery but that just makes for years of energetically deep storytelling.  Their writing fuels the actors and actresses who bring this hypnotic blend of crazy to life.

Antony Starr’s soulful and brutal Lucas is the rock at the center of the show and the previously unknown New Zealand actor surprises you with his depth and emotional storage of feeling and resolve.   Ivana Milecevic’s(learn that name and scream it) dual faces of sexy ex con Ana and the new wife and mother Ana show Ivana’s ability to be a romantic and a physical force to reckon with.  Need proof, watch the video below of her epic fight with Christos Vasilopoulos’s Olek from Season 1.

Ulrich Thomsen’s Kai Procter, a man who looks like a villain on the surface but carries as much pain around as anyone.  Hoon Lee’s comedic and assured work as Job, the brain behind Lucas’ madness.  Frankie Faisen’s Sugar, the old puncher feeling new blood stream through his veins with Lucas in town.  Trieste Kelly Dunn’s fierce cop, seeing her past and future collide with deadly force.  Demetrius Grosse’s larger than life officer sharing some hidden abilities and power of his own.  Rus Blackwell’s conflicted lawyer, trying to maintain his marriage, his thirst for justice and his sanity at the same time with new revelations walking through his door.

Lili Simmons’ Rebecca, torn between her past and her uncertain future as an Amish lady with a wild side.  Ryann Shane’s young woman, unaware that her father could be this sheriff who keeps showing up in her life.  Matt Servitto’s seasoned lawman dealing with this guy who is causing a tornado of change in an already unstable town.  Matthew Rauch’s deadly henchman for Procter.  I could go on but some things are better left discovering.   Let’s just say the incoming presence of Lucas throws the entire town for a loop, in good, bad and ugly ways.

The characters on Banshee are comic book fueled creations with a real heart and soul that don’t fall on the clean cut sides of good or bad.  There is only one man who could create this kind of madness and that man is Yaitanes, who has directed a handful of the episodes, executive produced the show and put his neck on the line for the show.  Trooper’s dialogue and stories hit you over the head like a blunt instrument.

11BANSHEE_SPAN-articleLarge

The people on this show are a special breed of deadly and we are privy to their actions on a weekly basis.  Banshee is entertainment at its finest.   Full of bad intentions and an ambition to top one ridiculously over the top scene with something even more outrageous.  Banshee doesn’t need your sympathy but demands your attention.

Now is the time to jump in.  Catch up before the second season begins.  Grab a blanket, a bottle of whiskey, a knife and cozy up on the couch for a night full of anti-heroic actions, visceral action, red hot sex, violent tendencies and a cinematic blend of television that is so rare these days.  You are either in or you are out.  Put down the smart phone, kindle, book and tell the spouse to shoot up.

Pay attention to this show.  There is a quiet emotional storm of drama streaming right beneath the bloody action and nudity.  There is more than meets the eye at all times.

The second season of Banshee starts on January 10th, 2014.  I own the Blu Ray/DVD and would invite anyone to come watch it with me.  The first season is on demand via U-Verse and Charter.  It’s available via Max Go.  Go to a friend’s house and watch it.  Politely ask a stranger if they can lend you their television for the evening.  Find the time and give this show a set of eyes and ears because it’s primal rage entertainment and truly badass.

imageedit_5_2717401627

 

-Dan Buffa is the co-creator, administrator and writer for the movie website, film-addict.com. He also writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports and also writes for his personal blog, http://www.doseofbuffa.com.   He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease.  When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City.  Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at buffa82@gmail.com.