Tag: tv show

Cinemax’s hypnotic “The Knick” is educational and unpredictable

When director Steven Soderbergh and Clive Owen went to Cinemax with their 1900’s set television series about imperfect doctors and surgeons saving lives and destroying themselves in New York, people were surprised. Rightfully. Cinemax had a handful of series to its name, including the breakout smash hit, Banshee. For Oscar caliber actors and directors to set up shop there was a huge turning point for the premium cable provider. After years of lurking in the shadows behind its brother affiliate, HBO, shows like The Knick have put Cinemax on the map and for good reason. It’s a brilliant, fresh, and different kind of TV show. As Season 2 debuts this week, let’s talk about the Knick.

If you are bored of the elementary “been there seen that” network television fall schedule, give The Knick a look. Here’s a show that takes you back to the age where technology and equipment didn’t save lives. Doctors, surgeons and nurses did it with their bare hands. This is where the birth of the X-Ray machine is treated like a revolutionary movement and where a device with an ability to suction the fluid out of a body being operated on is treated with a wide gaze of amazement.

The plot of The Knick is simplistic enough to support the amazing history lesson being dished out. Clive Owen’s Dr. Thackery is the most talented and revered blade in the land, the last stop to save a life. His consists of Dr. Gallinger(Eric Johnson) and Dr. Bertie Chickering Jr.(Michael Angarano). The arrival of the brilliant yet unrecognized Dr. Algeron Edwards(Andre Holland) throws a wrench into this team and also helps them evolve as doctors. The bigger problem is Thackery’s substance abuse problem.

There are plenty of players in this show. There’s also the tough yet tender heart of Chris Sullivan’s Cleary, a man who collects bodies yet cares for just a few. There’s Barrow, the boss of the Knick who is up to his knees in gambling debts and has a complexity to his ambition that keeps you watching. There’s Eve Hewson’s Nurse Lucy, a woman torn between her love for Thack and her own well being. This show balances plot threads, historical reveals and the up and down torment of Thackery seamlessly.

Creators Jack Amiel and Michael Begler work with Soderbergh(who directed all 20 episodes) to create a world that feels like it existed in real life and also came to life in somebody’s imagination. It’s cold, wet, blurry, black and blue, and full of lust and ambition.

When he isn’t making breakthroughs in medicine or saving lives in “the theater”, Thackery fancies him some opium, among other drugs. He can relax in a brothel or he can shoot the stuff into his toes before surgeries. Here is the world’s most imperfect man doing God’s work but also tempting fate every time he gets high. Flawed people doing great work while destroying themselves in the process. Instead of worrying about losing a patient on the table, Thackery is afraid of being outdone by rival doctors and losing grasp of his legacy. As Season 1 progressed, Thackery’s condition worsened as he became addicted to cocaine.

It’s a treat to watch an amazing actor of Owen’s depth rip into this role. While he has given high quality performances before, Thack is a role that allows every inch of The Brit’s charisma, ferocity and madness to shine. You feel like you are seeing this actor for the first time come alive in front of you. If there was ever a role to match virtuoso, it’s Owen on The Knick.

The real star of this show may be Soderbergh himself. Along with directing, he creates the beautifully blunt cinematography and edits the series as well. It’s an all hands on deck operation and Soderbergh has found his groove in a place few expected to find him. Ask me and Cinemax fits him more than one would think. It’s edgy without being showy. The Knick has depth without being overly complex. As most cable shows are, The Knick feels like a ten hour film slowly dealt out to viewers. It’s unpredictable and raw.

The Knick, in more ways than one, is the show I have been waiting for. While I liked parts of Greys Anatomy and ER, I had a desire for a real look inside a hospital. A blunt knife instead of a bendable toy. Soderbergh, Amiel and Begler’s show pulls zero punches and doesn’t let their characters off the hook. If you think Owen’s mad hatter gets clean in Season 2, you are wrong. If you think Lucy figures things out over a latte and friends, you are wrong. The Knick takes you back to a day and age where nothing was guaranteed and that includes your 30’s. Diseases won the fights back then and people like Thackery and Edwards could only throw as many punches as they could.


Do yourself a favor. Watch the first season of The Knick and then go walk into a modern hospital. If that isn’t a trip, I don’t know what is.

Blindspot Episode 2: 5 Things We Learned

blindspotEpisode 2 of NBC’s Blindspot brought more clues, a few explosions and a gun battle, culminating in a possible connection between the two lead characters. Let’s recap with 5 things we learned Monday night.

*Kurt Weller and Jane Doe may have know each other as kids. When he was ten years old, Weller’s friend disappeared. Before she was taken, there was a tree accident that left the girl with a scar on the top of her back, a scar that Jane also has. Could this mystery woman be Taylor Shaw, Weller’s friend who vanished? Blood tests come back next week.

*Is Jane a Navy Seal or an assassin? Another memory shows her taking out a priest at a church for a flash drive, something that makes Jane question whether she will like the person she eventually remembers. The weapons training also brings back the mysterious ruggedly handsome man(IMDB with that description, not me) who may be connected to Jane. Maybe the person who sent her on this amnesia driven mission.

*Another clue brings the FBI agents and Jane to a former Army pilot suffering from PTSD and someone who could be operating as a drone pilot with ridiculous levels of government clearance. The team checks him out, spooks him, and his house explodes. After they question his commanding officer, her car explodes. Another explosion rocks the agents outside the fellow army officer who may have turned the pilot in when he went off the edge. This sets them on a chase for him and the girl he kidnapped.

*The tattoos may seem like dead ends at first, but there is a connection between the army officer, Musgrave, they question and the fact that Weller may know her from his childhood. Are they leading the agents away from something bigger or direct clues to something she may not even be able to fathom?

*The end finds Jane grabbed in her apartment by the rugged bearded guy who keeps following her around. Who is he and what did he do to her? More importantly, did she tell him to do it?

That’s the clue in the finale. The man telling Jane she had this all set up, leading me to question whether we can really trust her in the end. Weller and her will go down a romantic plot angle that may doom the show, but I think in the end, she will be as mysterious and deadly as any suspect they chase. I don’t trust the wickedly beautiful and deadly Jaimie Alexander. Do you? Are you tuning in next week for another dose of Blindspot? I am. This rabbit hole is getting more interesting every commercial break.

Jonathan Tropper: The mind behind Cinemax’s Banshee

troppIn March, I talked to writer/creator/executive producer Jonathan Tropper about Cinemax’s Banshee. Here is the conversation as Season 4 preps for launch.

Banshee’s third season finale brought fans to their knees again with the death of another central character in Gordon Hopewell(played so well by Rus Blackwell), the capture of a fan favorite in Job(Hoon Lee) and ended with Proctor(Ulrich Thomsen) and Hood(Antony Starr) chatting no longer like rivals but possible partners in crime. Another hour that reminded us that the show is never letting up or slowing down. Co-creator and executive producer Jonathan Tropper spoke with me over the phone about the finale, unveiling Hood’s background, and how Season 4 will be completely different than what you expect it to be. Another chat between two guys who love Banshee.

Dan Buffa-How does the weekly anticipation for a new episode feel on the creator’s end?

Jonathan Tropper-Once it’s done shooting and on TV, it’s a piece of a cake for me. I’m halfway through season 4’s script. Season 3 can take care of itself at this point.

DB-Being the co-creator of these rich characters, how hard is it to ultimately plot their demise, like we saw with long time residents, Siobhan Kelly, and in the finale, Gordon Hopewell? 

When we aired episode 5(Tribal, where Trieste Kelley Dunn’s Siobhan is killed off), even though I planned it and looked over the script while seeing the early cuts, I haven’t let myself really watch the end of the episode until after it aired. It was upsetting. I love Trieste and the character. You love to keep everyone around. However, we made a commitment when we started the show that there has to be really severe consequences for what Lucas and Carrie have done. We don’t want to be the show where things get hairy for a little while and then everything is put behind them. Lucas has done some bad shit and so has Carrie. You don’t get to escape. The consequences don’t stop coming. 

DB-A lot of shows are complacent and resist making these dramatic changes to the show. Banshee goes full speed ahead. You are fearless.

JT-Our attitude always was, “We were damn lucky to get on the air and we were lucky to find our viewership, but the goal really is we treat each season like a brand new show. We try very hard to not make the same story twice or the exact same 10 episodes we just made without flushing stuff about the show that people really like. 

DB-One of the the highlights for me of “All of Us Pay Eventually” was diving back into Lucas’ past and connecting the dots between his army activities and his specialized skill set exploits? How long has this history dose been in the works?

JT-It’s interesting. We definitely try to create the sense of these characters’ past with the Welcome to Banshee website, anywhere from 15 years ago to 10 years ago. The idea is that you have come into the end of a very long story. Both (David, co-creator)Schlickler and I along with Greg Yaitanes are big Star Wars fans, so you are coming in at Episode 4. We didn’t have it all so carefully worked when we did our first season, because you never expect to get the chance. Once we got on the air, we realized we can go back and flesh out his past. A big idea when we were coming into Season 2 was “What if Lucas Hood wasn’t the first time he became someone else?” That’s when it occurred to us that he may have had another life before he even met Carrie.

DB-Lucas is pretty good at shedding identities and moving forward, unlike his adversaries Kai and Chayton, who know exactly who they are. 

JT-At 18, he’s in the army. Then he is in covert ops. He’s never actually been a real adult. Now, at the age of 40, he doesn’t have any idea who he is, which makes him a very complicated character. 

DB-That makes it great TV. Who wants a regular guy at the center of this kind of show.

JT-His tortured soul is spilling out over the entire town and torturing everyone else. 

DB-When I think of Lucas Hood, I remember this great line from a Showtime series called Brotherhood, where a man compared his gangster brother to a tornado because of the damage he inflicts on those around him.

JT-That’s a great line. Like Brock says, everything he touches turns to blood. 

DB-Being the creator and co-producer of the show, does every script that we see on screen have your fingerprints, in some way, on it?

JT-I plan the whole season with the writers. We outline all the episodes together. After the writer do a draft, I read it and note it. Adam Targum reads it first and it comes to me. I make a final pass and tend to rewrite certain dialogue. Being a bit of a control freak, I have a very specific way I hear these characters in my head. The writers obviously write a lot of great stuff that stays in there. Then there are certain instances where I know Job wouldn’t say something in this particular way, so I end up putting my spin on it. The final script goes past my desk, which is common for all shows.

DB-The characters are your babies, so there is a sense of ownership there, so it’s only right to step in when needed.

JT-Sometimes it may not even be fair, and it just sounds wrong to me. It doesn’t mean it would sound on TV, but you lose a certain objectivity at some point. You have to make sure it all sounds the way you created it in the beginning. My job is keeping it consistent.

DB-The finale serves up a dual sided revenge/rescue action extravaganza with Hood/Hopefull raiding Camp Genoa and Proctor taking down Frazier with Hector. How exciting is it to create and write action scenes for the stunt crew to bring to life?

JT-We love doing it. We sit in the writers room and imagine how it’s going to play out. We write them out scene by scene. Then we find the location and then we rewrite it to fit the location. When Marcus and his team get there, they are very creative and while respecting the story points, they present certain sequences and very often they add a lot to it. 

DB-Banshee’s action is second to none sir. I know you’ve said that you take a lot of inspiration from the old school action films that play in the middle of the night on cable, and I recognize a lot of that.

JT-We are just really determined. Any time we pay tribute to something, we’ll pay tribute to it, but we are really determined to not be derivative except in the best possible way. We want to pay tribute to everything from 80’s action to Tarantino, but at the same time we want it be unique to us. 

DB-The clash between Carrie and Stowe brought back memories of the Olek battle. A constant on Banshee are these signature all out brawls that feature men and women beating the crap out of each other. You don’t see that anyone else on TV.

JT-We don’t even think about it. We make our female characters every bit as dangerous as our male characters, so there really is no reason they shouldn’t fight each other. They are just as deadly. 

DB-That’s another way Banshee raises the bar. I watch way too much TV and most of the shows stay grounded and don’t explore anything that involves a certain risk. 

JT-Greg and I came from other gigs, so the philosophy that came about was, “We’d rather fail spectacularly than have a dull success.” I’d rather shoot for it and fail than play it safe and have a Season 3 that feels just like Season 2. 

DB-There are elements from other shows, but with Banshee, it’s that “HOLY SHIT” factor that keeps getting pushed up. 

JT-We don’t necessarily try to top ourselves. We just don’t want to get complacent.

DB-The abduction/extraction of Job at the end sets up a room full of possibilities for Season 4 but it puts our favorite wise cracking computer hacker in a horrible position. Captured and nowhere near a computer.

JT-The biggest problem is the guy they need to help find Job is in fact Job. He has always been the brains of the operation. How do you even begin to find him without his resources? I don’t really want to get into Season 4 because what we have planned is so surprising but this doesn’t play out like you would expect.

DB-The last scene of the episode didn’t full lay out but hinted at a possible Proctor-Hood alliance? Is that a wrong way to look at that conversation? Two men who may be more useful to each other than they are sparring against each other?

JT-Certainly now that Hood isn’t the sheriff, He and Proctor wouldn’t be enemies so we will definitely see that relationship head in a different direction. 

DB-Banshee doesn’t work like most shows, where there is a true good guy and bad guy. There are shades of gray involved so a possible Hood-Proctor alliance shouldn’t surprise the hardcore fans of the show.

JT-We’ve always been careful that our villains are never fully villains and our heroes are never fully heroes. Everyone has a certain level of humanity to them and sympathetic in their own way. No one is really good or bad. They are alpha males pursuing their own agendas. Hood and Proctor’s relationship will continue to evolve and change. 

Watching Antony Starr work is a weekly pleasure. How happy are you with the actor’s portrayal of your central character?

JT-It’s fantastic. The truth is when we wrote Lucas Hood four years ago, he was imagined as a different character than the way Antony plays him. He was imagined as a lot more verbose, smart ass, overtalking things and being this brash conversationalist. Then Antony came in and brought this gravity to it and this twinkle in his eye to where he gets it but he doesn’t have to talk about it as much. We then started writing more towards the way Antony played him. He’s become a very different character than we first envisioned but it’s hard to to remember that even because by the first three episodes, we were already writing him differently due to the way Ant brought him to life. Now I can’t imagine him any other way. 

DB-It’s amazing work. Starr does a lot without saying much. Most actors need that dialogue to properly build a character.

JT-Ant created such a sense of burden in the way Lucas handles everything and the weight that Lucas carries the guilt and the pain. When he did that, it changed the way we wrote the character and the show itself. He raised the stakes, like this wasn’t just an action show, it’s a guy who in tremendous pain and that angst ended up spreading out to the whole world of Banshee. That all came from the way Antony built the character. 

DB-You see that back in the first season with the pilot. That internal struggle of Lucas.

JT-We were always a character driven show. We try to not let that get lost in the action. That’s how we sold it originally to HBO before Cinemax had original programming. We told them it was a character driven show with a slightly preposterous premise. When we went to Cinemax, we amped up the action but we always try to be a character driven show.  

Banshee addicts, you can trust Tropper with your Friday nights and know that the show will never get lazy and always push the envelope. With these creators, you have a group that is determined to blow you away every single week. They go big or they go home. Tropper and Yaitanes are fanboys of old school cinematic action just like it’s audience, so it creates a trust between makers and receivers that something special is coming every week. As the real Lucas Hood said back in the pilot, “You can always reheat a steak but it’s never quite the same.” In a way, that’s Banshee. Always evolving but keeping the soul intact, thanks to creators like Jonathan Tropper.

Season 4 premieres in January, 2016. The entire third season of Banshee is available on Cinemax On Demand or Max Go.

(Photo Credit-Gregory Shummon/Cinemax)

Revisiting Banshee Baddies: Geno Segers

The weekly revisiting of Banshee interviews continues with Geno Segers, who created the fearsome Chayton Littlestone. 

In the land of film and television, a world of make believe, Geno Segers is the complete package. He has the size, voice and the charisma of a man who knows what he wants and how he wants it. That road led him to Cinemax’s hit show, Banshee, where he has turned a tough looking guy in Chayton Littlestone into a character with substance and many layers of intrigue.

It turns out that forces of nature can be gentlemanly and revealing as well. I had the chance to speak with Segers this week about Chayton’s motivations, the reaction to killing a beloved character on screen and Friday’s huge showdown in New Orleans. This isn’t 60 minutes, folks. Just a couple of dudes talking about Banshee.

Dan Buffa-Friday looks like it’s going to be an exciting night for Fanshees.

Geno Segers-A lot of people are anticipating this meeting of the minds so to speak.

DB-When it comes to you and Antony Starr(who plays Lucas Hood on the show), it’s more like meeting of the fists. When you two see each other on set, do you sigh and think to yourself, “Oh boy”. I mean, there’s a lot of physicality between you two.

GS-Antony and I are really good friends actually. I used to live in New Zealand. I was a rugby player for several years and he grew up there. We more than likely ran into each other a few times. He was an up and coming actor and I was coming out of rugby and doing security along with other small businesses. It’s not a big place, but we would run into each other several times without really knowing it.

DB-So you are saying we have an origin story of Chayton and Lucas set up here.

GS-That’s an origin in reality. A Geno and Antony story.

DB-Let’s get the big elephant out of the room. How much hate did you receive when Chayton killed off the beloved Siobhan Kelly?

GS-Honestly, it was quite an interesting week. There was a lot of hate for Chayton, as you can imagine. I expected it and I looked forward to it. I learned very quickly that people viewed it differently. Some people sided with Chayton. Being a Fanshee myself, I didn’t side with Chayton. I wanted to see him die a miserable death. The line got crossed only once, and this guy said something to me about wanting the actor who played Chayton to die. Come on man. I’m just doing what the writers want me to do. Some people enjoy the freedom they have to speak bluntly over Twitter and social media whereas they couldn’t say it in person. When I see people in public, it’s all about love. It’s praise. The comments are so far one way and then so far the other way. My grandmother always told me, “Don’t drink anybody’s kool aide. If the kool aid is not sweet enough, you add a little sugar. If it’s too sweet, you add a little water. If you add something to someone else’s kool aid, it’s not their kool aid anymore. It’s your kool aid.” Compare that to the comments. If someone says somebody really nice about me, I add a little water. If someone says something really negative, I add some water. I must have done a really good job if that guy wanted me to die. I read the comments but I don’t embody them or take them personally.

DB-Everybody loves a good bad guy. Good guys need a great bad guy to make the show work. This season, Chayton has become that big bad. When I talked to Loni Peristere(Director and Executive Producer) before the season, he talked about making Chayton something more. Season 3 has seen that transformation come full circle, and also seen Chayton tumble down the rabbit hole of violence.

GS-Yeah, Chayton takes a turn for the worse when his brother, Tommy, dies. That really showed that he was human and vengeful. He wants it in such a way that he is willing to do anything to get it but he also isn’t stupid. He doesn’t want to get caught and go to jail. As he explained to Aimee in the woods, he isn’t to let them put him into another cage and nobody(including someone as close as Aimee once was) will get in his way. He’s a mad dog and he’s agitated.

DB-In the second season, we didn’t see that mad dog. Chayton let Siobhan live after the car accident. That was a different guy. A guy who could kill but still had the chain on him. When Tommy was killed, the chain got broke and it can’t be reattached.  

GS-Chayton was an honorable warrior. No women and no kids. Loni asked me if I had done any homework on Chayton in the middle of Season 2 and 3, and I had. I kept a journal as Chayton for months prior to going back to set. The journal covered Chayton’s trip from New Orleans back to Banshee. As I wrote in this journal as Chayton, I realized he was taking fights along the way back. As he realized that in taking all these fights, there was always going to be someone standing in front of him willing to die. He can’t kill all the white men. Eventually, someone is going to kill him. Every warrior knows his death is coming and they seek a warrior’s death. Chayton realizes he can’t take the land back. He is outnumbered, so the objective has changed when he returns to Banshee. Taking whatever he can and that means taking it the same way this country was taken in the beginning and that is with the gun. That was the assault on Colonel Stowe’s transport. He was training his people to take back what they could and how that would change things immediately. That said, he still refuses to use a gun. He wants to remain pure and use a bow and arrow. Then, the tire comes off the road when his brother dies, who he was desperately trying to protect. Chayton knew that his days were numbered, so he had to leave it to someone. When Tommy died, everything crumbled.

DB-Chayton turned into a lone wolf so to speak.

GS-Absolutely. The only person Chayton trusted was Tommy, so all bets are off. He’s willing to do anything to stay free. (In episode 307, You Can’t Hide From The Dead), he pitchforked a guy for no reason. He then pitchforked the lady who helped him. Ultimately, Chayton is on a path of destruction and reached the point of no return. He’s going back to New Orleans to seek refuge.

DB-One of the things I’ve started to think about this season is Chayton underestimating Hood in thinking he is just a sheriff and not seeing a guy who is deadly as him.

GS-The thought of Chayton being snuck up on was a moot point between myself and Antony. We talk about these moments that Hood and Chayton are face to face. The banter and the communication that only a warrior or assassin would know. Chayton feels very close to Hood in a way, because he knows him. At the same time, he doesn’t really know him. There’s something very familiar about this guy to Chayton. It’s a question that is going on in his mind. He can’t put the pieces together. You’ll find in episode 8(All The Wisdom I Have Left) that a lot of this comes to light for Chayton. His eyes are opened in a different way. There are two realizations for Chayton. It’s not just a fight this week. It’s a fight and a conversation at the same time. Things are starting to unravel for him, so the “Aha” moment is coming for Chayton because he only believed Hood was a sheriff with really good training. That realization is made and then it is reformed later in the episode.

DB-There are a lot of similarities between Chayton and Hood. Both men are relentless in what they do and aren’t going back to prison and fearless in their life. They are both “Armies of One”, as stated in Season 2.

GS-Exactly. Let’s face it. A Banshee sheriff would NOT go to New Orleans to chase someone. He would not go across state lines or out of the county to chase someone. That realization is made by Chayton. He used to leave Banshee and go to New Orleans without hesitation and now this guy is coming on the reservation and coming down to New Orleans after him. There’s a point where the light comes on and then it comes on again. It gets real bright.

DB-Let’s go back to that Kinaho raid on the Cadi. What kind of shooting schedule was that? One night? Several nights?

GS-It was a long time. It was more than a week. If you look at the interior shots and the exterior shots, it was a long time. They weren’t shooting the interior and exterior shot at the same time. They did the interior first and then the exterior.

DB-My favorite part wasn’t even the action part of the episode. It was the quieter moments like the conversations between you and Antony. Two guys taunting each other. I’m a Dark Knight guy, so those scenes had the Batman/Joker faceoff written all over them. Those were as good as the bullets flying in.

GS-My favorite part was Hood and Proctor putting down their fists for a moment because they need each other. Proctor staying and helping Hood defend the Cadi until he could get himself together. Proctor has developed a softer side and is trying to be more than he currently is. However, his niece Rebecca is getting him into quite a conundrum. It’s going to come to a head real soon.

DB-The best thing about Banshee is the bad guys are not merely villains but wholly developed characters instead. You don’t see that on other television shows.

GS-All you have to do is look at the protagonist of the show. Hood is not a good guy. Who is a good guy and who is a bad guy? I call them pro-antagonists and anti-protagonists. Chayton is an anti-protagonist because he is a bad guy with a good moral compass (or at least he used to be). He had a plan and beliefs but now he is a mad dog and no one is going to side with a mad dog.

DB-In season 3, one of the true good guys, Brock, is switching over to the bad ways of Lucas.

GS-The last real pure Christian in the Banshee police department was (Emmett) Yawners (played by Demetrius Grosse). When Yawners went rogue, he was the last moral compass for Brock. Yawners was telling Brock that he doesn’t need to go see his ex-wife and that he isn’t married to her anymore. Emmett told Brock to leave her alone and manage it in a Christian way. When Emmett was gone, Brock’s moral compass wasn’t there and he goes back to his ex-wife. Brock wanted to go after Hondo because of Emmett’s death and now he wants to go after Chayton for Siobhan’s murder.

DB-One of the few regrets with the show is not seeing Chayton and Emmett square off.

GS-Chayton realistically would not have wanted to fight Emmett. He wanted to wake up the sleeping giant in Emmett. He felt like Emmett was someone that should have been on his side. You have to think about the charisma of someone like Chayton. Someone who will help you see the flaw in yourself and build you back up in his own righteousness. Chayton wanted to wake up Emmett and convince him to pull that badge off. Telling him they raped your people and kidnapped your ancestors. They chained you up for centuries. He wants to wake the giant up. Fighting Emmett was not in Chayton’s motivation. Chayton’s last words to Emmett were “These belong to you” in tossing him the handcuffs. He was still trying to wake him up.

DB-This Friday, it is fight club in New Orleans. What can you tell fans, other than hang on and brace yourselves?

GS-It is going to be concentrated. It’s going to be visceral and grimy. You won’t be disappointed.

DB-The fight scenes on Banshee are amazing.  How much prep goes into a fight like the one on Friday.

GS-It’s all choreographed in a dojo. We make it fit on the set. For the most part, it’s all timed out in the number of moves and the time it takes for the fight to go. How much time is the footage going to take? Some fights are 80 to 90 different moves. You throw a punch and I duck, that’s one move. I throw a punch and it hits you in the stomach, that’s two moves. You kick me and I catch it, and that’s a third move. So on and so forth. We are talking about 75 moves. You redo 10-15 moves per piece. It’s very specific and the actors have to learn all the moves as well as the stunts. Any close up shot has to be the actor. A wide shot is a place where you can use a double. When the camera is right there, it’s hard to get the stunt guy in there. There’s a lot of work in these scenes.

DB-There’s a dedication on the set to Banshee that you don’t hear about elsewhere. You don’t see it in films and shows. They skim over a lot of stuff. The Banshee crew goes at it full tilt. Loni told me that Greg Yaitanes(Showrunner, Director) once said, “there is no such thing as a small stunt”.

GS-They don’t mess around. They want it a certain way and they know what they want. I used to have to this saying when I go on set, “Hey guys, we are shooting for perfection. If we fall short, we’ll have something great.” That is the mantra for Banshee fight scenes or even the opening. They want it all to be perfect.

DB-There’s an adrenaline that comes with this show when Friday night comes along. I almost have to move around the room or hit a punching bag to level myself out. Fans feel strongly about this show and it grows every week.

GS-No one is immune to being killed on Banshee and that plays into that. The Walking Dead set that precedence. Game of Thrones does that. The kid who played the king that everybody hated on Game of Thrones got a death threat. Man, I look forward to someone issuing me a death threat. I’ll call you out quick. We live in a world where the performer is not allowed to say something, like we should take the high road. Why should I be above anything? If you feel comfortable sounding off on me, why can’t I sound off on you?

When I interview an actor, director or creator, I want to give my readers a unique look into their persona. Tell them something different. What I found out about Geno confirmed what I suspected. He is the real deal. Geno Segers is more than meets the eye. When he first walked into the world of Banshee before that first collision with Hood in Season 2, Fanshees saw a simple tough bad guy. Since that entrance, Segers has carved a multi-dimensional character out of Chayton from that initial makeup. He took a bad guy and made him into someone real, vulnerable and suspect to change. On Friday, fans find out what Chayton is really made of. If they have been paying attention at all this season, they’ll know Segers is a lot more than just a presence and a voice. He’s a force to reckon with.

(Photo Credit-Gregory Shummon/Cinemax)

Edward Burns’ “Public Morals” is a kick

38664Edward Burns has been trying to make this story for years. A long time. The writer/director/star of TNT’s Public Morals told the tale in his book, Independent Ed. He’d been wanting(needing is more like it) to make this cop show that he could dedicate to his dad, a law enforcer when Ed was a kid. The Irish American cop/gangster film that the audiences hadn’t gotten a taste of yet. He tried with three different scripts. Stoolie, On the Job, and No Sleep Til Brooklyn. The money and studio never came around and the creative control didn’t arrive until Steven Spielberg met Burns and they became friends. TNT came calling and gave Burns full control. Here’s your canvas and brushes, go ahead and paint your dream show. Burns took the tools and ran. The result didn’t disappoint.

Public Morals is an old school kick in the head. An ode to hard drinking wise guys, cops and the women of the late 1960’s who tried to make them slow down on a night here and there. Burns is Terry Muldoon, the leader of a group of cops that act “as landlord” to keep the local hoods, rackets, gaming, and all low level activity on an even keel. They are the ones who bend but don’t break when it comes to their own moral code. The group includes seasoned actors like Michael Rapaport(back where he belongs after that Justified debacle), Austin Stowell, Wass Stevens(who looks cut directly from that era), and Patrick Murney’s Petey Mac. Their territory and jobs are threatened when Rusty Patton(Neal McDonough) comes back onto the scene, murders a gangster and sets off a turf war.

That’s all you need to know about the plot. Bullets are fired. Punches are thrown. Tons of threats are made and a ridiculous amount of booze is consumed. The Public Morals cast make Mad Men look like early evening hustlers when it comes to whiskey, beer and every other fluid that can be set on fire. Come for the dialogue, which hops out of this actor’s mouth like a jazz number and always lands smooth.

Authenticity is what Burns gets right with Morals. Everything is done right. The cars, bow hats, suits, walks, talks, weapons, and the overall swagger. Nothing is phony or done halfway. With a period piece to work in these modern superhero powered entertainment times, the little shows like Public Morals have to either transport us, thrill us or present some once in a lifetime acting. While the acting is solid and the story is familiar yet ripe for the senses, the authenticity of the dialogue and the look of the show elevate the proceedings.

You can tell Burns has been wanting to make this show for a long time. The tale came right from the man’s bones. It’s apparent from the first shot that this is no cash and grab job. Burns has never done that in his career so why start with his own show. He works when he feels there is a story to tell and because the man loves to direct movies. Morals feels like a small screen film being diced up into ten chapters and dealt out weekly.

It never hurts to have seasoned performers like Brian Dennehy, Robert Knepper, and Timothy Hutton sharing a piece of this gritty cake. Public Morals also employs a great selection of tunes to either lighten the mood or grind it to a halt when the action takes over. Burns doesn’t waste a single minute of his weekly dose of 51 minutes of crime here. Every moment feels thought out and invested. Take a look for yourself.

When you are caught up with all four episodes on demand, check out Burns’ book where he breaks down the backstory and buildup to Public Morals. It’s a special read from a special brand of storyteller. Burns is a renegade and always has been. Public Morals is his baby and it always leave me wanting a bigger taste of the action.

Man From U.N.C.L.E is cool summer jazz

Writer/director Guy Ritchie’s abilities have ripened well with age. While Snatch remains his masterpiece, his latest adventure, the “adapted” Man From UNCLE, shows how consistent he has gotten and how finely he has crafted his movie making ways. The film lays into you like a cool jazz tune. You may not think it was made for you, but you will smile and enjoy it.

Before I tell you the particulars, let’s take a brief moment to discuss the plot. Napoleon Solo(Henry Cavill, sleek, suave and muscled) is the CIA’s best agent/spy and he must join forces with a stern Russian KGB tank(Armie Hammer, not sucking for once) in order to track down some hot dame’s uncle, who supposedly knows the wherabouts to some nuclear warheads. Enough with the dull stuff. What worked?

The cast is aces. Cavill proves here he is more than a superhero, putting the “S” in suave. From the moment we see this handsome devil in a suit walking towards customs with a “I’m cool and you are not” glare, this much is known. When Cavill retires the cape, he will have his hands full with work. Maybe play someone called 007. Who knows? His future is bright and Solo proves he has some range to play with.

This is the first time I liked Hammer in anything, who up until this flick was only suited to play a piece of cardboard that moved and talked. Lone Ranger? Vomit. J. Edgar? Lost. Here, playing a fighting machine yet vulnerable man with a few secrets of his own, Hammer gets to unleash a little personality and displays a pretty decent Russian tongue. He shouldn’t join a Moscow steam room anytime soon, but he acquits himself well here. In other words, he didn’t stink up the joint.

The beautiful woman who makes the men run in circles here is Alicia Vikander, and if you weren’t paying attention earlier this year, she was the sophisticated robot in Ex Machina. Here, she toys with Hammer’s Prom King sledge hammer and trades barbs with Cavill’s slick agent like she’s been playing in the British Embassy cool school for years. If you didn’t know her name before this film, you will now. She joins Rogue Nation’s Rebecca Ferguson in the “pay attention to me now” train of thought.

The soundtrack is money here, perfectly placing in blues, jazz and hipster knee rattling tracks that never let the action overwhelm or the pace slow down too fast. You may want to get a hold of Daniel Pemberton’s wise guy score that never stops beating your ears up with easy joy.

Ritchie and Lionel Wigram’s script has enough historical reference(Russians, Americans, Nuclear warheads, the 1960’s) to mix in with its wild banging martini of an action flick that clears credibility by a few nose hairs.

The action is ripped from a comic book but has just enough realism to keep you from rolling your eyes. If James Bond had a sense of humor, he’d live in this world. And yes, you are not mistaken…that is Hugh Grant acting again and doing it quite well here as the one of the top suits playing these men of action like he has a remote control in his hand.

Ritchie doesn’t break any new ground here, but he crafted a fine action adventure with a tongue in cheek attitude about it. It’s like he mixed a few spices together that hadn’t been put together before and most of it tasted good. If you don’t take it too seriously or expect to be blown away, Man from U.N.C.L.E. may just put a smile on your face.

I know I’ll be in line for a sequel if these make believe jokers work together again.